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. 345-358
 Header Item Social Welfare Benefits
 Header Item Invalidity Pension Applications
 Header Item Carer's Allowance Appeals
 Header Item Equal Opportunities Employment
 Header Item Rural Social Scheme
 Header Item Community Employment Schemes Operation
 Header Item Community Employment Schemes Operation
 Header Item Community Employment Schemes Administration
 Header Item JobPath Implementation
 Header Item Labour Activation Programmes
 Header Item Local Employment Service
 Header Item Social Welfare Benefits Applications
 Header Item Youth Guarantee
 Header Item Labour Activation Programmes

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. 345-358

Social Welfare Benefits

 345. 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 plans to reinstate a diet supplement payment; the way in which persons, particularly those in receipt of social welfare payments, are to manage these payments without the diet supplement payment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17540/17]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar Diet supplement, administered under the supplementary welfare allowance (SWA) scheme, is payable to qualifying persons, in receipt of the supplement prior to February 2014, who have been prescribed a special diet as a result of a specified medical condition. There are currently 3,300 in receipt of the diet supplement at a cost of €4.6 million in 2017.

Following the outcome of a review of the costs of healthy eating and specialised diets by the Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute commissioned by the Department during 2013, the scheme has been closed to new applicants from 1 February 2014. The research showed that the average costs across all of the retail outlets of the diets supplemented under the scheme can be met from within one third of the minimum personal rate of social welfare payment, i.e. the SWA rate which was then paid at €186 per week. The weekly rate of SWA has recently increased to €191 further to Budget 2017. The diet supplement scheme was discontinued for new applicants on the basis of this evidence and I have no plans to reverse this decision.

Existing recipients continue to receive the diet supplement at the current rate of payment for as long as they continue to have an entitlement to the scheme or until their circumstances change. This measure ensured that nobody was immediately worse off by the closure of the scheme.

In cases of particular hardship, officials continue to have the legislative power to award a SWA payment in cases of exceptional need. I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Invalidity Pension Applications

 346. Deputy John McGuinness Information on John McGuinness Zoom on John McGuinness asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if an invalidity pension will be approved for a person (details supplied). [17585/17]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 27 February 2017. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought. When these papers have been received from the Department, the case in question will be referred to an Appeals Officer who will make a summary decision on the appeal based on the documentary evidence presented or, if required, hold an oral appeal hearing.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions in relation to social welfare entitlements.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Carer's Allowance Appeals

 347. Deputy Alan Farrell Information on Alan Farrell Zoom on Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the status of an appeal for a carer’s allowance by a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17609/17]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 23 February 2017. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought. When these papers have been received from the Department, the case in question will be referred to an Appeals Officer who will make a summary decision on the appeal based on the documentary evidence presented or, if required, hold an oral appeal hearing.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions in relation to social welfare entitlements.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Equal Opportunities Employment

 348. Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the annual cost of running the WALK PEER programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17616/17]

Minister of State at the Department of Social Protection (Deputy Finian McGrath): Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath The Providing Equal Employment Routes (PEER) project is run in Co. Louth by the Walkinstown Association for People with an Intellectual Disability (WALK). The project provides for customised supports for its participants to access employment. The target group is young people with disabilities aged 16–24, including those with physical disability, sensory impairment, mental health problems, challenging behaviours, medical condition and/or autism.

The project was originally one of 14 disability activation projects (DACT), in the Border, Midlands & West region, that were jointly funded by the European Social Fund (ESF) and the Department of Social Protection (DSP), between 2012 and April 2015. After the ending of ESF funding, as provided for in EU regulations, the WALK PEER project obtained additional funding from both a private sector organisation and the HSE. This additional funding under this programme ended in July 2015.

Research work by the National Disability Authority and Indecon has demonstrated that there are gaps between employment programmes for people with disabilities and what people with high support needs who want to work are provided with through the health system. Arising from these findings, Budget 2017 provides for a €2 million programme to fund pre-activation supports for people with disabilities. Plans for the introduction of this service are at an advanced stage.

Following representations from WALK PEER pending the introduction of the preactivation programme, it was decided to provide funding from the Department to this project to enable it to continue service provision. It is expected that over a period of 12 months (August 2016 to July 2017), total grants of €300,000 will be provided.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Rural Social Scheme

 349. 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 his plans to change the structure and nature of the rural social scheme to include an element of training for the participants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17621/17]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The rural social scheme (RSS) is an income support scheme which provides part-time employment opportunities in community and voluntary organisations for farmers or fishermen who are in receipt of certain social welfare payments and underemployed in their primary occupation. As part of the social welfare budget package for 2017, I announced an additional 500 places on the RSS. These places have been available with effect from 1st February 2017. This is the first increase in places since 2006 and will expand the overall number of participants from 2,600 to 3,100.

My Department also delivers community employment (CE) which is part of a range of schemes that are designed to break the cycle of unemployment and maintain work readiness, thereby improving a person’s chances of returning to the labour market. CE schemes provide part-time temporary work in their 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, including those on a long-term jobseeker’s payment.

I have no plans to include a formal training element in the RSS scheme as there is an opportunity for training provided under CE, as outlined above. However, my Department is committed to continuing to enhance the effectiveness of the RSS. It recognises the benefits the RSS provides for participants and their families, including enhancing existing skills and developing new skills through the scheme, as well as the valuable contribution the scheme is making to the provision of services in communities across Ireland.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Community Employment Schemes Operation

 350. 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 plans to phase out crèche and play school service provision by community employment schemes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17622/17]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar My Department introduced a new Community Employment (CE) childcare strand in 2013 under which there is a dedicated childcare training programme leading to a major award at QQI Level 5 for CE participants who work directly with children. The QQI Major Level 5 Award is the entry-level requirement to work as a basic practitioner in childcare. This has led to rationalised entry requirements, defined standards of achievement, a career progression path, and a structure for CE workers in Early Years Services.

These changes are designed to provide a more tailored and valuable support to the provision of community childcare and achieve greater coherence between participation on CE and the job market. This will improve the career path for participants who wish to pursue a career in childcare. There are no plans to make further changes to the childcare strand of CE at present.

I trust that this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Community Employment Schemes Operation

 351. 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 plans to provide additional resourcing for QQI level six training for community employment participants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17623/17]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar A training grant is allocated to Community Employment schemes in respect of all approved places on a “per-place, per annum” basis. Training is identified in accordance with a tailored individual learning plan (ILP) compiled by the CE supervisor with the participant, given the participant’s training needs and employment goals. Any proposed training that exceeds the budget allocated is assessed based on the value of the training provided to furthering the employment prospects of the individual. There is flexibility that can be applied in the approval of training rates, particularly when the training leads to a QQI major award, including up to level six, e.g. in Childcare.

All expenditure must be accounted and vouched for by way of receipts. It is the responsibility of the scheme to ensure that they have obtained the best price and that they have achieved value for money. A CE scheme sponsor should contact their local DSP office if they have particular issues and the matter will be reviewed on a case by case basis.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Community Employment Schemes Administration

 352. 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 he will consider increasing the additional supplement provided to community employment participants in view of increased transport costs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17624/17]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The Deputy may be aware that under Budget 2017 every Community Employment (CE) participant received an extra €5 per week with effect from 13 March 2017 and those in receipt of an increase for a qualified adult also received an additional €3.30 or €2.10 depending on the individual circumstances.

  There are no plans to provide further increases to CE participants at this time.

  I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

JobPath Implementation

 353. 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 it is his Department's policy objective to place jobseekers in JobPath in preference over community employment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17625/17]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar Activation supports are provided for customers of my Department who are in receipt of a jobseeker’s payment. The activation services and schemes are provided directly by the Intreo Case Officers; by private companies such as the JobPath companies, the Local Employment Services and Job Clubs or through Community Employment Schemes such as CE and Tús. The aim of activation is to help the jobseeker secure and sustain full-time employment.

My Department does not have a policy of referring jobseekers to JobPath in preference to CE Scheme. However, 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, it also ensures that the best use is made of places available across all the activation supports available.

The JobPath service is provided for jobseekers that have been unemployed for at least a year; Selection for JobPath is based on a random selection of eligible jobseekers who are not engaged with another activation support at the time of selection. Where a person is selected for JobPath, and they already have received an offer of a placement on a CE Scheme which is commencing within four weeks, my Department will facilitate the customer to take up the placement, similarly a person on a CE Scheme will not be available for selection for JobPath until their placement on the CE scheme is complete.

Each person referred to the JobPath service is allocated a personal advisor 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. Community Employment does not, nor is intended to provide full-time sustainable employment.

The referral period for the JobPath service is typically for a year. At the end of the 52 weeks, Jobseekers who have not been successful in finding suitable employment 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.

Labour Activation Programmes

 354. 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 the precise criteria required for a person to transfer from JobPath to community employment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17626/17]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar Jobseekers can only participate with one activation scheme or service at a time; this is to ensure that the scheme and service providers have sufficient time to work with the participants and also that the best use is made of the available places. In general jobseekers are not transferred to Community Employment (CE) once they are referred to JobPath.

However, jobseekers who on the date of their referral to JobPath already have a written offer with a start date within four weeks for CE will be facilitated to take up the placement. Additionally, in a small number of exceptional cases, which are assessed on a case by case basis, my Department may facilitate a customer to move from one activation support to another.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Local Employment Service

 355. 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 it is his Department's policy to replace local employment service mediators; if so, his plans to replace them; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17627/17]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar In 2016 LES providers were asked to increase the frequency with which they engage with jobseekers to enhance the quality of the services they provide. To facilitate this more intensive engagement, caseloads were reduced. The number of local employment service mediators also increased from (circa) 163 in 2015 to (circa) 170 in 2017 and there is no plan to replace them.

Ireland’s Public Employment Service (PES) is managed by my Department and delivered directly by its own Intreo service as well as by contracted private companies i.e. the JobPath companies, the Local Employment Service (LES) and Job Clubs.

The LES engages primarily with long-term unemployed jobseekers but may also engage with short-term unemployed jobseekers where a local need arises. Jobseekers are referred directly to the LES by Intreo offices. Jobseekers may also request services from the LES on a “walk-in” basis. Other groups, to whom the LES offer services, include people with a disability, lone parents, early school leavers, qualified adults, ex-offenders, members of the travelling community and refugees. Where these people initially present at an Intreo office they may be sent to the LES for activation services.

For 2017 my Department has contracted 22 private contractors for the provision of LES in 26 locations. The funding for LES has been maintained at €20m and there is no plan at this time to reduce expenditure.

Prior to the introduction of Intreo and JobPath my Department had a total of (circa) 300 case officers (including LES) working with over 460,000 people on the live register, i.e. a caseload of over 1,500 people : 1 Case Office against international benchmark of less than 200:1. My Department has increased the number of case officers to approx. 1,250, including Intreo and JobPath services. With the reduction in the unemployment rate from a peak of 15% (Feb 2012) to 7.2% (Jan 2017) and the live register now at approx. 276,000 people, the average caseload today is around 230:1. My Department is seeking to maintain LES and JobPath caseload ratio of 100/125:1 which is in line with OECD caseload benchmarks.

Social Welfare Benefits Applications

 356. Deputy Tom Neville Information on Tom Neville Zoom on Tom Neville asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the status of an application for supplementary welfare allowance and one-parent family allowance in the case of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17661/17]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The person concerned made an application for supplementary welfare allowance and one-parent family payment both of which were disallowed.

  Correspondence received from the person concerned was treated as an appeal for both schemes.

  The supplementary welfare allowance appeal submission has been prepared by the designated person administering the supplementary welfare allowance scheme and is being forwarded to the Social Welfare Appeals Office, D’Olier House, Dublin 2 today.

  The person’s one parent family appeal is currently with the Social Welfare Inspector. When the Inspector finalises his report the appeal will be returned to the Deciding Officer for further consideration. If the Deciding Officer does not revise the original decision the appeal will then be forwarded to the Social Welfare Appeals Office, Dublin 2 as soon as possible.

  I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy. If you require any further assistance with this query please do not hesitate to contact my office.

Youth Guarantee

 357. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire Information on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire Zoom on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the amount of youth guarantee funding spent to date; and the amount of money drawn down from 2014 to 2016 and to date in 2017. [17663/17]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar Some elements of the programmes that contribute to Ireland’s response to the EU recommendation on a youth guarantee are part-funded by the EU’s Youth Employment Initiative (YEI). Management of Ireland’s European Social Fund (ESF) Operational Programme, which includes the YEI, is carried out by the ESF Managing Authority, within the Department of Education and Skills.

The YEI is integrated into ESF programming as a dedicated priority axis within the ESF co-financed Programme for Employability, Inclusion and Learning (PEIL) 2014-2020. PEIL includes proposed allocations for over 20 activities, including the YEI, being implemented across a range of bodies, and contains a total budget of €1.153 billion for the period 2014-2020 comprising ESF and Exchequer contributions of €542.43m each and the YEI budget contribution of €68.145m.

Seven actions were originally selected for YEI funding, namely the Back to Work Enterprise Allowance; JobBridge (now closed to new participants from October 2016); JobsPlus Incentive Scheme; Tús; Youthreach, Social Inclusion and Community Activation Programme and Momentum.

The YEI and related ESF funding is available for drawdown before the end of 2018, and while a claim for funding has not been made to date it is expected that the funding will be fully drawn down. The ESF Managing Authority and the Operational Programme Monitoring Committee (PMC) maintain an ongoing overview of the funding allocations under the PEIL and can re-allocate the available funding as required, in accordance with the EU Regulatory provisions. The PMC has agreed in principle to the inclusion of Community Training Centres, which are funded by the Education and Training Boards in consultation with SOLAS, as an approved activity under the YEI with effect from 1 January 2017.

I am informed that while no claim for funding has been made to date, the activities concerned are fully funded up-front by the Exchequer and there is therefore no resulting reduction or delay in the funding available to those activities.

Under the ESF Regulations, initial and annual pre-financing is provided by the Commission, resulting in receipts of €51.8m for the PEIL to date. Of this €51.8m, €28.3m relates to ESF advances and €23.5m relates to YEI advances. €20.4m (€18m ESF and €2.4m YEI) of these receipts have been distributed, while the remaining €31.4m (€10.3m ESF and €21.1m YEI) has or will be reimbursed to the Commission in the absence of a claim being made. Work on the designation of the relevant ESF authorities, including the provision of a national computerised accounting and information system for EU funds to meet the 2014-2020 functionality requirements is continuing.

I understand that the Department of Education and Skills expects that this designation work will be completed in the coming months and that it is proposed to commence the preparation of a first interim claim for payment from the Commission once the process of designation has concluded. This claim will be made within the EU Regulatory deadlines to ensure no loss of ESF or YEI receipts.

Labour Activation Programmes

 358. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if a person (details supplied) who is working on a gateway scheme can transfer on completion of their term on this scheme to either the Tús scheme or the community employment scheme or any other scheme; if as part of the gateway scheme there is an arrangement with the local authorities in question to provide permanent employment within the local authority for participants completing the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17672/17]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar As the Deputy is aware, Gateway is a work scheme which aims to provide short-term work opportunities for those who are unemployed for more than 24 months while, at the same time, carrying out beneficial work identified by Local Authorities.

Gateway participants work for an average of 19½ hours a week and placements last for 22 months and cannot be extended. My Department has no input into the regular Local Authority recruitment process.

The person concerned commenced employment on Gateway on 10 August, 2015 and will be due to complete their 22 months contract in June 2017. A person cannot go directly from a Gateway scheme to Community Employment (CE) or a Tús scheme. In order to qualify for CE or Tús after participating on Gateway, a person must be fully unemployed and in receipt of a jobseekers payment continuously for at least a year. Time spent on Gateway does not count towards CE or Tús eligibility.

If the person concerned is unsuccessful in finding full-time work after their engagement on Gateway, they should contact their local Intreo Office and make an appointment with a case officer to discuss their training needs or other activation options. Their entitlement to a jobseeker’s payment will also be determined.

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