Houses of the Oireachtas

All parliamentary debates are now being published on our new website. The publication of debates on this website will cease in December 2018.

Go to oireachtas.ie

 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 326-344
 Header Item Commercial Rates
 Header Item Housing Policy
 Header Item Local Elections
 Header Item Local Authority Housing Provision
 Header Item Fire Stations Provision
 Header Item State Properties
 Header Item Social Insurance
 Header Item School Meals Programme
 Header Item Maternity Benefit
 Header Item Community Employment Schemes Eligibility
 Header Item Free Travel Scheme Eligibility
 Header Item Rent Supplement Scheme Data
 Header Item JobPath Data
 Header Item Community Employment Schemes Eligibility
 Header Item Data Protection

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 946 No. 2

First Page Previous Page Page of 109 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 326-344

Commercial Rates

 326. Deputy Brendan Griffin Information on Brendan Griffin Zoom on Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if he will consider introducing a reduction in commercial rates as an incentive for new businesses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18209/17]

Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney Local authorities are under a statutory obligation to levy rates on any property used for commercial purposes in accordance with the details entered in the valuation lists prepared by the independent Commissioner of Valuation pursuant to the Valuation Acts 2001 to 2015. The levying and collection of rates are matters for each individual local authority.  The annual rate on valuation (ARV), which is applied to the valuation of each property determined by the Valuation Office, to obtain the amount payable in rates, is decided by the elected members of each local authority in the annual budget and its determination is a reserved function.

Commercial rates form an important element of the funding of all local authorities. However, the legislative basis for the levying of rates is spread over a number of enactments, some dating back to the 19th century. Many of the provisions are outdated and not suitable for business trends in the modern era. I have asked my Department to develop proposals for a consolidated Rates Bill to modernise and consolidate the legislation in this area. Among the measures being considered for inclusion in the General Scheme of the Bill are provisions to allow a local authority to introduce rates alleviation schemes to support specific national and local policy objectives.

My Department's work on the General Scheme of the Bill is at an advanced stage and, subject to Government approval, I hope to be able to submit proposals to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government for pre-legislative scrutiny shortly.

Housing Policy

 327. Deputy Noel Rock Information on Noel Rock Zoom on Noel Rock asked the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the challenges which are standing in the way of increasing the housing supply at a faster than normal rate in view of the extent of the housing crisis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18219/17]

Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney I refer to the reply to Question No. 339 of 4 April, 2017.

  In addition, building on the early actions taken to make affordable housing more viable through revised apartment guidelines, reforming the development contribution regime, and streamlining the planning regime for large-scale housing developments, several initiatives such as the €226 million funding of enabling infrastructure to open up major housing sites are already underway to make residential property delivery viable, at a far greater scale, and at more generally affordable prices and rents.                  

  I believe that, through the range of actions currently being progressed through Rebuilding Ireland to increase the supply of homes across all tenures, the Government has created the conditions required for the restoration of a more sustainable and normally functioning housing market, capable of providing homes at affordable price points to buy or rent, where and when they are required.

Local Elections

 328. Deputy Dara Calleary Information on Dara Calleary Zoom on Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if a review of local electoral area boundaries will take place ahead of the local elections scheduled for 2019; and if so, the proposed timeline for same. [18225/17]

Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney The most recent review of local electoral areas was carried out from November 2012 to May 2013 by a Local Electoral Area Boundary Committee established under the Local Government Act 1991.  Unlike the position for Dáil and European Parliament constituencies, there is no constitutional or legislative requirement for the revision of local electoral areas.

The Programme for a Partnership Government sets out a number of requirements in relation to local government reform, involving a report to Government and the Oireachtas by mid-2017 on potential measures to boost local government leadership and accountability, including a commitment to consider reducing the size of local electoral areas.

Depending on the outcome of consideration of the mid-2017 report, any review of local electoral area boundaries would be undertaken in good time before the 2019 local elections.

  Questions Nos. 329 to 331, inclusive, answered with Question No. 323.

Local Authority Housing Provision

 332. Deputy Pat Casey Information on Pat Casey Zoom on Pat Casey asked the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the ratio of residential to commercial to mixed use developments as per lodged valid commencement notices since 1 March 2014, by local authority, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18245/17]

 333. Deputy Pat Casey Information on Pat Casey Zoom on Pat Casey asked the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the number of valid commencement notices lodged with the building control management software which relate to fast-tracked planning by local authority, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18246/17]

Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government (Deputy Damien English): Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English I propose to take Questions Nos. 332 and 333 together.

  The purpose of the Building Control Management System (BCMS) is an IT enabler, set up to facilitate building control authorities, building owners, builders and construction professionals in discharging their separate responsibilities under the Building Control Act 1990.  The system provides a common platform for clear and consistent administration of building control matters across the local authority sector.

  My Department is not involved in the day to day operation of this system.  However, it collates and publishes a range of housing and planning statistics, including information on Commencement Notices, which are available on the Department's website at http://www.housing.gov.ie/housing/statistics/house-building-and-private-rented/construction-activity-starts.

  In addition, Building Control Authorities are required to keep certain information pertaining to building works that come under the Building Control Regulations 1997-2015 on a statutory register, including particulars in relation to Commencement Notices and Declarations of Intention to Opt Out of Statutory Certification.  BCMS is centrally hosted by the Local Government Management Agency (LGMA) on behalf of the 31 Local Authorities and has enabled this information to be hosted on a central nationwide register, readily available and updated quarterly at https://www.localgov.ie/en/link-type/bcms.

Fire Stations Provision

 334. Deputy Brendan Griffin Information on Brendan Griffin Zoom on Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if the extension of a fire station at Bypass Road, Killarney, County Kerry, will be prioritised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18320/17]

Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney In February 2016, my Department announced a five-year Fire Services Capital Programme with an allocation of €40 million, based on the current annual €8 million allocation, to be used for the purchase of fire appliances and specialist equipment, building or upgrading of prioritised Fire Stations, an upgrade of the Communications and Mobilisation system and improvements to Training Centres.

An upgrade of Killarney fire station is provided for in the current five-year programme. Updated project documentation, including a capital appraisal and detailed cost plan, was received in my Department in March 2017, indicating a total project cost of €498,500. My Department has approved the Council to proceed to tender for the proposed works.

The projects in the capital programme are reassessed on an annual basis and priority may be adjusted to bring forward projects offering best value-for-money and to take account of the state of readiness of the projects.

State Properties

 335. Deputy John Deasy Information on John Deasy Zoom on John Deasy asked the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the amount spent across his Department over the past five years on maintaining vacant or unused State-owned properties, including security arrangements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18726/17]

Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney My Department has spent no money maintaining vacant or unused properties over the last five years.  In general, accommodation for my Department is provided by the OPW and when my Department vacates a property or it becomes unused, full responsibility for its maintenance and security reverts to the OPW.

Social Insurance

 336. Deputy Jackie Cahill Information on Jackie Cahill Zoom on Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if he will, in the case of permanently disabled persons who employ full-time or part-time carers, make them exempt from PRSI and employer contributions without any disadvantage to the rights of the employee or loss of benefits to the employee; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17654/17]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar Where a carer is employed directly by a person requiring care services then PRSI contributions (employer and employee) are payable, at the appropriate PRSI Class - Class A. Such employees are treated in exactly the same way as other employees. This ensures that people employed as carers (and employees paying Class A generally) have access to short-term social insurance benefits, such as jobseekers or illness benefits in the event that they become unemployed or ill, as well as ensuring that they can establish entitlement to longer term benefits such as the contributory state pension.

Exempting such employments from a PRSI liability while at the same time granting PRSI contributions and associated rights to benefits and pensions (as if the contributions had been paid) would represent a major departure for the social insurance system. It would, in particular, run counter to the long-standing principle of access to benefits and pensions on foot of payment of contributions while in employment. There are no plans to introduce changes in the current arrangements for specific groups of employees.

Carers who work on a self-employed basis and contract their services to clients may, if they satisfy the necessary conditions of self-employment, be subject to the self-employed rate of PRSI of Class S rather than the employee rate of Class A. Class S contributors pay a lower rate and have access to the contributory State pension widow’s, widower’s or surviving civil partner’s pension (contributory), guardian’s payment (contributory), maternity benefit and adoptive benefit and, since September 2016, the newly introduced paternity benefit. Access to the treatment benefit scheme which includes free eye and dental exams, and contributions towards the cost of hearings aids, was extended to Class S contributors in March 2017 and access to the Invalidity Pension scheme is being extended in December 2017.

School Meals Programme

 337. Deputy Carol Nolan Information on Carol Nolan Zoom on Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the estimated cost of increasing the school meals programme by 5%, 10%, 15%, 20%, 30% and 40% respectively; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17766/17]

 390. Deputy Noel Rock Information on Noel Rock Zoom on Noel Rock asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the way non-DEIS schools are selected to participate in the school meals programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18220/17]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I propose to take Questions Nos. 337 and 390 together.

The school meals programme provides funding towards the provision of food to some 1,460 schools and organisations benefiting over 200,000 children at a total cost of some €47.7 million in 2017. The funding for the scheme was increased this year, as part of Budget 2017, by an additional €5.7 million (almost 14% over the previous year’s allocation) which will benefit over 50,000 children. For the current academic year, 2016/ 2017, some €44 million has been allocated to schools under the scheme.

Based on the 2017 budgetary allocation of €47.7 million, the additional annual costs of expanding the school meals programme by 5%, 10%, 15%, 20%, 30% and 40% are €2.4 million, €4.8 million, €7.2 million, €9.5 million, €14.3 million and €19.1 million respectively. Changes to increase the funding of any scheme administered by my Department would have to be considered in a budgetary context.

In recent years priority for new applications for funding had been given to schools which are part of the DEIS programme. From September 2016 additional funding is being provided to DEIS schools already participating in the scheme to provide breakfast and lunch to the majority of pupils. A further 21 DEIS schools have joined the scheme this academic year.

Budget 2017 funding also provides for the inclusion in the scheme, from September 2017, of up to 245 new schools and 47,000 children. This includes support to schools being brought into DEIS for the first time and the extension of the scheme to breakfast clubs in non-DEIS schools, which is the first time in many years that increased funding for school meals is available to non-DEIS schools.

My Department has liaised with the Department of Education and Skills, following the application of that Department’s new DEIS identification model to all schools, and selected schools for invitation to participate in the school meals scheme. These schools have been contacted by my Department inviting them to participate in the schools meals scheme from September.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Maternity Benefit

 338. Deputy Tony McLoughlin Information on Tony McLoughlin Zoom on Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if financial assistance is in place for families of premature babies in relation to maternity and paternity benefits; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18182/17]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The maternity and paternity benefit schemes both provide financial assistance to parents of newly born babies, including those born prematurely. The personal rate of payment is €235 per week. Additional allowances may be paid for adult and child dependants.

  Maternity benefit is a 26 week payment for employed and self-employed pregnant women who satisfy certain PRSI contribution conditions. A woman’s pregnancy must be confirmed by a doctor/medical practitioner after the 24th week of pregnancy in order to qualify for payment. In the event of a premature birth, still birth or miscarriage occurring after the 24th week of pregnancy, the mother is still entitled to 26 weeks maternity benefit provided she satisfies the PRSI conditions. Once confirmation of a premature birth is received the maternity benefit will then be backdated and payment commences from the date of the birth.

Paternity benefit is a 2 week payment for employed and self-employed people who satisfy certain PRSI contribution conditions.  In the event of a premature birth, a stillbirth or miscarriage occurring any time after the 24th week of pregnancy, paternity benefit is payable. In such cases, paternity benefit can be backdated with payment commencing from the date of the premature birth. However, it should be noted that the parent may choose to take the paternity leave at any stage within 26 weeks of the birth of their baby.

  I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Community Employment Schemes Eligibility

 339. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the reason a person (details supplied) who is registered with Seetec is not allowed to apply for a community employment scheme; if the position will be changed to allow the person to do so. [17462/17]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The aim of the JobPath service, which is provided for jobseekers only, is to assist them in finding sustainable full time paid employment. Each person referred to the JobPath service is allocated a personal adviser who provides intensive individual support and assistance. When a jobseeker with JobPath finds employment, they will be supported by the JobPath Company for at least the first 13 weeks and up to a year until they are settled in the job.

This is in contrast to the Community Employment schemes that provide part-time employment and training opportunities in local communities as a stepping stone back to employment for people on a range of Social Welfare payments including those on long term unemployment payments. I should emphasise that Community Employment does not, nor is intended to, provide full-time sustainable employment.

Jobseekers can only participate with one activation scheme or service at a time; this is to allow the scheme and service providers time to work with the participants to achieve the best outcome for the person and also to ensure that the best use is made of the available places. However, people who on the date of their referral to JobPath have a written offer with a start date within four weeks for CE will be facilitated to take up their placement. All decisions regarding referrals to activation supports are taken by officials of my Department, the JobPath companies have no role regarding Community Employment Schemes.

The person concerned agreed a Personal Progression Plan with his personal adviser on the 18th of January 2017 and is currently engaged with the service.

The referral period for the JobPath service is typically for a year. At the end of the 52 weeks, if the customer has not been successful in finding suitable employment he or she may, subject to an assessment by an Intreo case officer, apply for other activation supports such as CE.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Free Travel Scheme Eligibility

 340. Deputy Brian Stanley Information on Brian Stanley Zoom on Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the position regarding the free travel pass for pensioners who have permanent residence here and are citizens but out of the State for a number of months each year on missionary duties. [17478/17]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The free travel scheme provides free travel on the main public and private transport services for those eligible under the scheme. These include road, rail and ferry services provided by companies such as Bus Átha Cliath, Bus Éireann and Iarnród Éireann, as well as Luas and services provided by over 80 private transport operators. There are currently approx. 877,000 customers with direct eligibility with an annual allocation of €80 million. The scheme is available to all people aged over 66 living permanently in the State. To qualify for the scheme, applicants who are under age 66 must be in receipt of a qualifying payment. These are invalidity pension, blind pension, disability allowance, carer’s allowance or an equivalent social security payment from a country covered by EC Regulations or one with which Ireland has a Bilateral Social Security Agreement.

To receive a free travel pass a pensioner must be over 66 and permanently resident in the State. Where a person is out of the State for a number of months on missionary duties it is open to them to apply for a free travel pass and each case will be decided on its own merits depending on the circumstances. Any decision to extend the free travel scheme to persons who are not permanently resident in the State would have to be considered in the context of overall budgetary negotiations.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Rent Supplement Scheme Data

 341. Deputy Willie O'Dea Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the number of households that have been taken off rent supplement as a result of being placed in emergency accommodation in 2016, by local authority, in tabular form; the savings made by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17506/17]

 393. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the extent to which he has identified the hardship caused where various payments are cut off, in some cases leading to homelessness; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18333/17]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I propose to take Questions Nos. 341 and 393 together.

Rent supplement plays a vital role in housing families and individuals, with the scheme supporting some 44,800 recipients for which the Government has provided €253 million in 2017.

Statistics are not generally maintained for those exiting the rent supplement scheme, however I can assure the Deputies that every effort is made so that rent supplement tenants are supported by my Department ensuring where possible that they can remain in their homes. In view of the ongoing difficulties in the rental market, my Department provides a targeted case-by-case policy approach that allows for flexibility where landlords seek rents in excess of the rent limits, which were increased in July 2016. In addition, the Protocol arrangement in place with Threshold is operational in the areas where supply issues are particularly acute covering Kildare, Dublin, Cork, Meath, Wicklow and Galway City. Since the introduction of this flexible approach, almost 11,500 tenants at imminent risk of homelessness have been supported through increased rent supplement payments.

Continued entitlement to rent supplement is not linked to entitlement to other social welfare schemes, however the rent supplement claim may be reviewed following a decision to suspend or disallow a primary social welfare payment as there may be a change to the claimant’s circumstances that could affect eligibility. During a review of a rent supplement claim, the Community Welfare Service (CWS) officer will engage with the claimant to establish continued eligibility as quickly as possible and limit any delay to payments. Any person in this situation is encouraged to contact the Department’s CWS responsible for their rent supplement claim to discuss their situation.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputies.

JobPath Data

 342. Deputy Imelda Munster Information on Imelda Munster Zoom on Imelda Munster asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the number of job applications per week a person on JobPath's Seetec scheme will have to make; and the number of interviews they must attend. [17512/17]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar A jobseeker’s payment is conditional on a person seeking employment and being willing to take up suitable employment. To satisfy this condition, it is necessary for a person to take positive action and make genuine efforts to secure employment.

Participants on JobPath receive intensive individual support to help them tackle barriers to employment and to assist them in finding full-time paid sustainable employment. Each person is assigned to a personal adviser who assesses a person’s skills, experience, challenges and work goals. The personal adviser and the participant agree a personal progression plan that includes a schedule of activities, actions and job-focused targets which may include submitting regular job applications and attending job interviews as and when invited.

As each individual is unique and has difference requirements, there is no set number of job applications or interviews a customer must attend. Some customers who are further from the labour market may require additional support to be in a position to actively apply for work.

Suitability of employment is a key factor when customers are encouraged to submit job applications and attend interviews. If customers are placed into unsuitable jobs they are less likely to remain in employment with the consequence that the JobPath provider will not be entitled to claim a job sustainment fee.

Community Employment Schemes Eligibility

 343. Deputy John Brady Information on John Brady Zoom on John Brady asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if a person can receive an extension to their community employment scheme if they are over 62 years of age; if this extension can be up until pension age; when this measure as part of community employment reform will be available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17538/17]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The purpose of Community Employment (CE) schemes is to provide part-time temporary work in local communities, including opportunities for training and development as a stepping-stone back to employment, for people in receipt of a range of social welfare payments. These schemes help to break the cycle of unemployment and improve a person’s chances of returning to the labour market. My Department is also conscious of the valuable contribution the schemes are making in the provision of services to individuals and communities across Ireland.

A pilot initiative was announced in December 2015 to enable those aged 62 and over to extend their participation beyond the standard maximum participation limits providing the eligibility conditions are met. Participants over age 62 are allowed to participate on a continuous basis up to the State Pension age, subject to satisfactory performance on the scheme and to annual approval by the Department. The places allocated for these participants within each individual CE scheme are limited to 7% of each scheme's overall budgeted places.

I recently announced some changes which will widen the range of people who can take part in CE and these will commence following a consultation process with key stakeholders. As part of these plans I also gave a commitment to review the possibility of allowing more older people to stay on schemes for longer. This review will take place in the next 3 months.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Data Protection

 344. Deputy John Brady Information on John Brady Zoom on John Brady asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar his views on communications between an elected representative and Turas Nua regarding a person engaged with Turas Nua with the person's consent; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17539/17]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar Public Representatives may seek information from the JobPath service providers on behalf of an individual with that individual’s consent. The process to be followed by the provider in this instance is set out in the Data Protection Protocol issued to the service providers as part of the contract documentation. This process includes establishing that an inquirer is a public representative and is acting on behalf of and with the customer's consent. The JobPath service provider will keep a record of all such inquiries.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.


Last Updated: 03/03/2020 14:00:22 First Page Previous Page Page of 109 Next Page Last Page