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. 359-375
 Header Item Disability Allowance Eligibility
 Header Item JobPath Implementation
 Header Item JobPath Implementation
 Header Item Child Benefit Eligibility
 Header Item Community Employment Schemes Operation
 Header Item Departmental Properties
 Header Item Jobseeker's Allowance Appeals
 Header Item Community Employment Schemes Funding
 Header Item Disability Allowance
 Header Item JobPath Data
 Header Item JobPath Implementation
 Header Item JobPath Implementation

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. 359-375

  Question No. 359 answered with Question No. 77.

Disability Allowance Eligibility

 360. 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 examine the case of a person (details supplied); and if compensation the person received will be excluded from the calculations for disability allowance. [17700/17]

Minister of State at the Department of Social Protection (Deputy Finian McGrath): Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath Following a review, this lady was deemed to have means in excess of the statutory limit for her circumstances. She was notified in writing of this decision on 7 September 2016 and of her rights of review and appeal.

  The person in question appealed to the independent Social Welfare Appeals Office (SWAO) a decision by a deciding officer to disallow her disability allowance (DA) payment.

  Following due consideration, the appeal of the person in question was disallowed by an appeals officer (AO) on 25 January 2017. She was notified of this decision in writing by the SWAO on the same date.

  An AO’s decision is final and conclusive in absence of any fresh facts or evidence.

  In line with the provisions of social welfare legislation, means must be assessed in order to determine entitlement to disability allowance.

  Compensation from an accident is not excluded under the above mentioned provisions.

JobPath Implementation

 361. 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 amount the JobPath programme has cost to date, including the entire tendering process, the use of economic research specialists and legal costs; the amount the programme will cost the taxpayer by the end of the four-five year cycle; if there are any breaks or penalty clauses if the Government decides on the early termination of the contract; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17704/17]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar JobPath is a payment by results model which means that companies will not be able to fully recover their cost until they place sufficient numbers of jobseekers into sustainable jobs. Therefore the overall cost of JobPath will be determined by the number of people who participate in the programme and the number who get sustainable jobs.

The payments made are in respect of registration fees, paid for clients who have engaged with the service, and fees paid for sustained employment outcomes of 13, 26, 39 and 52 weeks duration. The total amount paid in fees from the outset of the service in July 2015 up to the end of February 2017 is €37.6m.

The procurement process and the attendant costs and legal costs form part of my department’s normal business and as such would be included in the overall procurement budget.

In advance of developing the service the Department retained the services of the non-profit Centre for Economic and Social Inclusion (London) to advise on the JobPath model and the procurement process.

The Minister may terminate a JobPath contract by serving six months written notice on the contractor. In the event that the Agreement is terminated a payment will be made to the Contractor, the amount to be determined by the Contracting Authority, in respect of unavoidable losses which have been actually and reasonably incurred by the Contractor as a direct result of the early termination of the contract.

The Department also has the right to initiate reviews of the terms of the contract (including fees) in the event that contractor performance (including profitability of the contractor) provide reasonable cause for consideration of such a review.

I trust this clarifies the matters for the Deputy.

JobPath Implementation

 362. 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 rationale for the basic requirement to be considered eligible to bid for JobPath that a company had a minimum turnover of €20 million per year, which excluded many local companies and voluntary organisations from the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17705/17]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The Pathways to Work initiative launched in 2012 signalled the potential of contracting with third party providers to complement the existing capacity of the Department of Social Protection and that already provided on behalf of the department by Local Employment Service providers, to deliver employment services. The additional capacity was and is essential, to facilitate meaningful engagement with all those who are unemployed – in particular the long-term unemployed (who need more intensive levels of engagement).

Given the nature of the resourcing requirement, that contracted service provision is common practice in EU/OECD countries and given that the use of contracted service provision was suggested by the NESC and OECD, among others, and given the constraints on Exchequer finances, it was concluded that a contracted, payment by results model, was the most appropriate approach.

In November 2012, following a public procurement competition, the Centre for Economic and Social Inclusion (‘CESI’ a UK based leading not-for-profit company dedicated to tackling disadvantage and promoting social inclusion in the labour market) was appointed to provide the Department with expert advice and assistance relating to the design and delivery of an employment service model (“JobPath”)

Based on its knowledge of the operation of contracted employment services in other States, CESI provided advice with regard to the design of the JobPath model including detailed financial modelling of a payment by results approach in Ireland.

The JobPath contract model was designed over an extended period taking account of advice from Irish and international experts on contracting of employment services and inputs received following a number of public stakeholder consultations/briefings.

On 12 December 2013, the Department published a contract notice inviting tenders for the provision of JobPath services. The Tender documentation was published on www.etenders.gov.ie while information on JobPath was published and continues to be available on www.welfare.ie.

The Request for Tenders (RFT) details all aspects of the JobPath Service, including the fact that it is intended to function as a payment by results model. This means that all initial outlay expenditure, such as costs of premises, staff recruitment and training, etc. are borne by the provider companies.

The RFT advised that the successful tenderers must have the ability to satisfy the Service Contract requirements in terms of scale and duration, and were therefore required to demonstrate a cash generation sufficient to undertake the provision of the JobPath Service, and be in a sufficiently robust position to service debt obligations and contingencies or other liabilities which may arise over the term of the Agreement. Potential tenderers were advised that they may rely on the financial resources of other entities for the purposes of demonstrating their economic and financial standing, but they must demonstrate that they had the capacity to raise the finance required to deliver the service.

In line with Government policy, participation by Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in the procurement exercise was specifically referenced in the introduction to the RFT. Per paragraph 1.5 on page 5 of the RFT it is stated that SMEs who believed that the scope of the procurement was beyond their technical or business capacity were encouraged to explore the possibilities of forming relationships with other SMEs or with larger enterprises. Through such relationships they would be enabled to participate in and contribute to the successful implementation of any contracts, agreements or arrangements arising from the competition. In addition, larger enterprises were also encouraged to consider the practical ways that SMEs could be involved in their proposals to maximise the social and economic benefits of the contracts resulting from this particular public procurement competition.

The RFT did not, therefore, preclude the submission of tenders by any company, or amalgamation of companies, and it is not the case that the intention was to award contracts exclusively to large private companies.

Contracts were awarded on the basis of the most economically advantageous tender based on the following criteria (i) cost, (ii) implementation of services, (iii) delivery of services and (iv) contract management and governance. Full details of the JobPath procurement requirements and evaluation criteria used during the tender process are set out in the “Request for Tenders for the Provision of Employment Services (JobPath)”, which is available on the Department’s website at www.welfare.ie/en/Pages/JobPath.aspx.

It should be noted that the two companies can and do engaged with a range of other companies for the provision of various services and they employ some 600 people either themselves or through sub-contracted relationships.

Finally as in previous years, for 2017 the department has contracts in place with in excess of 60 companies for the provision of the Local Employment Service (LES) and Job Clubs. In addition, the Department also contracts with other companies for the delivery of community employment schemes and community service programmes. The Department therefore has and continues to have contracts for the provision of services with a wide variety of organisations.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

  Question No. 363 withdrawn.

Child Benefit Eligibility

 364. Deputy Maurice Quinlivan Information on Maurice Quinlivan Zoom on Maurice Quinlivan asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if he will change the guidelines of the child benefit payment to include 18 year olds who are still in school to be in receipt of the payment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17731/17]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar Child Benefit is a monthly payment made to families with children in respect of all qualified children up to the age of 16 years. The payment continues to be paid in respect of children up to their 18th birthday who are in full-time education, or who have a disability. Child Benefit is currently paid to around 627,000 families in respect of some 1.2 million children, with an estimated expenditure of over €2 billion in 2017.

  Budget 2009 reduced the age for eligibility for Child Benefit from 19 years to less than 18 years. A value for money review of child income supports, published by the Department of Social Protection in 2010, found that the participation pattern of children in education supports the current age limit for Child Benefit.

  Changing the guidelines of the Child Benefit payment to include 18 year olds that are still in school to be in receipt of the payment would not be a targeted approach given the universality of Child Benefit. The adoption of such a proposal would have significant cost implications and would have to be considered in an overall budgetary context.

  Families on low incomes can avail of a number of provisions to social welfare schemes that support children in full-time education until the age of 22, including:

  - qualified child increases (IQCs) with primary social welfare payments;

  - family income supplement (FIS) for low-paid employees with children;

  - the back to school clothing and footwear allowance for low income families (paid at the full-time second level education rate).

  I am satisfied these schemes provide targeted assistance that is directly linked with household income and thereby supports low-income families with older children participating in full-time education.

  Question No. 365 withdrawn.

Community Employment Schemes Operation

 366. 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 for a two-stream approach to community employment; the changes that are planned in this regard; the responsibilities this will place on schemes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17876/17]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar As the Deputy may be aware, I published the Report of the Analysis of the Community Employment Programme on Friday 7 April. The Analysis of the Community Employment Programme was conducted by the Department and looks at Community Employment (CE) and the other work programmes.

Work schemes offer opportunities for the long term unemployed to gain valuable work experience and participate in training while they are paid an equivalent to their social welfare entitlement in addition to a top up payment. Participants work for 19½ hours per week. Work opportunities are within communities and, in the main, support the provision of valuable community services in areas of disadvantage.

The report recommends that all CE places should be categorised into one of two strands, either activation or social inclusion. This categorisation will be based primarily on the work experience element of the place. Regard for local labour market conditions and training and education opportunities will also be a factor.

Department officials will be consulting with scheme sponsors and other stakeholders over the coming weeks in preparation for the new arrangements.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Departmental Properties

 367. Deputy John Deasy Information on John Deasy Zoom on John Deasy asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the number of vacant buildings in his Department's ownership or control; the locations of same; and the length of time they have been unoccupied in each case. [17922/17]

 405. Deputy John Deasy Information on John Deasy Zoom on John Deasy asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar 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. [18730/17]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I propose to take Questions Nos. 367 and 405 together.

My Department currently has approximately 300 premises under its ownership or control. One of these premises, in Damastown Industrial Estate Mulhuddart Dublin 15, is unoccupied since March 2016. However, part of the building is in use as a file storage facility for the Department. It is expected that this premises will be occupied in the future. There are no additional maintenance or security costs associated with the building.

Jobseeker's Allowance Appeals

 368. 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 progress to date in the determination of an appeal in the case of a person (details supplied) in respect of an application for jobseeker's allowance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17935/17]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that an oral hearing of the appeal of the person concerned took place on 28 February 2017. At the hearing it was agreed that additional information was required and would be provided by the person concerned. As the Deputy will be aware certain information was submitted by email through his office on 20th March 2017. It was indicated in that email correspondence that the appellant was awaiting further information from his bank which to date has not been submitted to this office. If this information is available it should be submitted without delay. Otherwise the Appeals Officer will proceed to determine the appeal on the basis of the information provided to date including that adduced at the oral hearing.

The person concerned will be notified of the Appeals Officer’s decision when the appeal has been determined.

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.

  Question No. 369 withdrawn.

Community Employment Schemes Funding

 370. Deputy Patrick O'Donovan Information on Patrick O'Donovan Zoom on Patrick O'Donovan asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the position in regard to the equipment grant for community employment schemes; his plans to increase the rate payable under the grant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17999/17]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar Each Community Employment (CE) scheme has an individually-set weekly materials rate per participant based on a detailed appraisal of their actual annual expenditure levels in previous years. All consumable services and materials necessary for the effective operation of the project will normally be considered. For materials to be allowable, they must be for the use of the participants and specifically relate to the tasks approved for the project.

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. While the Department is not in a position to allocate additional monies to the 2017 budget, if there is a CE scheme experiencing particular difficulties, the sponsor should contact their local DSP office and the matter will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

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.

Disability Allowance

 371. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if he will examine the case of a person (details supplied) who was in receipt of disability allowance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18000/17]

Minister of State at the Department of Social Protection (Deputy Finian McGrath): Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath This question cannot be answered due to insufficient information. My Department has been in contact with the office of the Deputy and is awaiting a response.

  I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

JobPath Data

 372. Deputy Clare Daly Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the whole number totals used to calculate percentages for employment progression rates for unemployed persons on JobPath and not on JobPath, respectively, in the January 2017 JobPath performance report. [18019/17]

 373. Deputy Clare Daly Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar his views on the fact that persons unemployed for one to two years and referred to JobPath in July to September 2015 were 9% less likely to be in employment than persons unemployed for one to two years who did not participate in JobPath as of 31 October 2016. [18020/17]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I propose to take Questions Nos. 372 and 373 together.

As the Deputy will be aware JobPath is a new approach to employment activation designed to support long-term unemployed people and those most at risk of becoming long-term unemployed to secure and sustain paid employment. Two companies, Turas Nua and Seetec, have been contracted by the Department to deliver the JobPath service.

Clients receive support for 52 weeks but this period may continue for up to 130 weeks e.g. where a person engages in further education/training (for up to 26 weeks) prior to securing employment and for at least 3 months and up to up to 52 weeks, while in employment. The earliest full outcomes can be measured is therefore at the end of this 24 – 30 month period.

The JobPath Performance Data Report referred to by the Deputy, was published in January 2017 and provides an interim assessment, in respect of the 1,266 people referred to the JobPath service in the period between July 2015 and September 2015 only.

Section 2 of the report included a simple comparison, at a point in time based on the Department’s own payment systems’ data between long term unemployed people who were not engaged with JobPath against jobseekers engaged with JobPath in this period. As stated in the report, this data is interim and does not for example take into account differing characteristics between both groups such as age, prior employment history and educational qualifications or differences in Job Start dates.

It is planned to carry out a full econometric evaluation of JobPath when participant numbers will have reached a level to support a rigorous assessment of performance. This evaluation will control for the above and other factors and will produce a more robust comparison.

JobPath Implementation

 374. Deputy Clare Daly Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar further to Parliamentary Question No. 531 of 21 March 2017, the commercial sensitivities preventing the publication of individual payments to the JobPath companies Turas Nua and Seetec; and his views on the appropriateness of channelling public moneys to these companies without public transparency as to the sums involved. [18021/17]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar JobPath is a payment by results model and all initial costs and the ongoing operational costs are borne by the companies.

  Payments made to the service providers are only in respect of registration fees, for persons engaging with the service, and fees for sustained employment outcomes.

  My Department does not publish the individual fees to providers because of commercial sensitivity. This commercial sensitivity is specifically in relation to the release of the information having the potential to influence the pricing of future contracts providing a similar service and thereby having the potential to confer commercial advantage on one bidder over another.

  I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

JobPath Implementation

 375. Deputy Clare Daly Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if his Department is given a detailed accounting by Seetec and Turas Nua, respectively, of the way the €25.2 million of public money given to those two companies in 2016 was spent. [18022/17]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar JobPath is a payment by results model. All initial set up costs and the ongoing running costs are borne by the companies.

  The companies are paid registration fees and job sustainment fees.

  A registration fee may be claimed only when a jobseeker has developed a personal progression plan. Job sustainment fees are payable for each 13-week period of sustained employment, up to a maximum of 52 weeks. The jobs must be full time, that is, more than 30 hours a week, with some exceptions. This means JobPath companies are incentivised financially to assist people to find full-time jobs that they are likely to hold down and are therefore suited to. My Department verifies each individual job sustainment fee claim before payment, confirming that the customer is in employment and no longer on the Live Register.

  The monies referred to by the Deputy are solely in respect of fees claimed by the service providers for registration and job sustainment fees.

  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