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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 198-211
 Header Item Commercial Rates
 Header Item Social and Affordable Housing Provision
 Header Item National Planning Framework
 Header Item Carer's Allowance Eligibility
 Header Item JobPath Implementation
 Header Item Family Income Supplement Payments
 Header Item Jobseeker's Benefit Applications
 Header Item Social Welfare Payments Waiting Times
 Header Item Youth Guarantee
 Header Item Social Welfare Benefits Eligibility
 Header Item Job Initiatives
 Header Item Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance Scheme Payments
 Header Item Employment Support Services

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 947 No. 1

First Page Previous Page Page of 97 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 198-211

Commercial Rates

 198. Deputy Martin Heydon Information on Martin Heydon Zoom on Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if there has been a change to the charging of commercial rates on utility companies in recent years; the impact this change had on them; the reason for the change; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18570/17]

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 under the Valuation Acts 2001 to 2015.

The Valuation Acts 2001 to 2015 provide for global valuations of utility undertakings to be carried out by the Valuation Office every five years and entered on the central valuation list. The Valuation Acts are under the aegis of my colleague, the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality.

Social and Affordable Housing Provision

 199. Deputy Róisín Shortall Information on Róisín Shortall Zoom on Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the reason he has refused to introduce an affordable housing scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18612/17]

Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney I have no plans at present to re-introduce an Affordable Housing Purchase Scheme because there are a range of measures being taken under the Rebuilding Ireland Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness to increase housing supply overall, with the aim of creating a functioning and sustainable housing system which can meet housing demand at more affordable prices. 

  The plan is divided into five pillars, with each targeting a specific area of the housing system. Pillar 3, entitled Build More Homes, has a key objective of increasing the output of private housing to meet demand at affordable prices, including by-

  - Opening up land supply and State lands, including the Major Urban Housing Development Sites initiative, which identified large-scale sites in the main cities that are capable of delivering significant homes in the short to medium term to boost overall housing supply;

   - €200 million Local Infrastructure Housing Activation Fund;

   - National Treasury Management Agency financing of large-scale “on-site” infrastructure;

   - Planning Reforms;

   - Putting in place a National Planning Framework and land management actions;

   - Efficient design and delivery methods to lower housing delivery costs;

   - Measures to support construction innovation and skills.

   Pillar 4 of the Plan, entitled Improve the Rental Sector, provided for the introduction of an affordable rental scheme to enhance the capacity of the private rented sector to provide quality and affordable accommodation for households currently paying a disproportionate amount of disposable income on rent. Lands held by local authorities in rent pressure zones are to be brought to market on a competitive tendering basis, with a view to leveraging the value of the land to deliver the optimum number of units for rent, targeting middle income households, in mixed tenure developments.

   Other measures taken to increase the supply of housing include -

   - The enhanced supply of more affordable starter homes in key locations through a targeted rebate of development contributions in Dublin and Cork for housing supplied under certain price levels;

   - New National Apartment Planning Guidelines, reducing the cost of apartment building;

   - Changes to aspects of the operation of Strategic Development Zones to enable swifter adjustments to meet market requirements;

   - A vacant sites levy.

National Planning Framework

 200. Deputy Robert Troy Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy asked the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the timeframe for analysing submissions for the national planning framework in view of the fact the submission date has passed; and when the resulting framework will be published. [18631/17]

Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney The new National Planning Framework (NPF), titled Ireland 2040 – Our Plan, will act as the successor to the National Spatial Strategy 2002 (NSS) and will serve as the Government’s strategic 20 year-plus framework for the development of Ireland out to 2040.  The NPF will set a new strategic planning and development framework for the co-ordination of a range of national, regional and local authority policies and activities, planning and investment.  

I launched the national consultation on Ireland 2040 – Our Plan on 2 February and extended this initial consultation period to 31 March to ensure that all citizens and interested parties could make a submission.

My Department is currently cataloguing and analysing over 3,000 submissions received, with all relevant aspects of these submissions being considered and taken into account.  In addition, on foot of the finalised Census 2016 results which are now emerging, my Department will review and analyse all of the statistical data provided and ensure the most recent and accurate data is considered and reflected in any evidence-based proposals that may form part of a draft NPF.

At this point, I anticipate that a draft NPF will be finalised for submission to Government before the end of the second quarter of the year, after which it will be published for formal consultation over the Summer, with a view to being finalised later in 2017.

Carer's Allowance Eligibility

 201. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan Information on Aindrias Moynihan Zoom on Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the steps he will take to ensure that carers on maternity leave and who continue in their carer roles will not have their carer's payment cut. [18394/17]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar As is common with social security systems across the world, the Irish social welfare system generally applies the principle of one person, one payment. It can happen that a person may experience more than one contingency at the same time such as being on maternity leave, while providing full-time care and attention to a person, who consequent on an illness or disability, requires such care.

In these circumstances, full-rate carer’s allowance is not payable with maternity benefit. However, a person may qualify for half-rate carer’s allowance in addition to maternity benefit and may continue to qualify for additional supports such as the carer’s support grant, free travel and (if the person is residing with the care recipient) the household benefits package.

I have no plans to change the current arrangements.

JobPath Implementation

 202. Deputy Pat Buckley Information on Pat Buckley Zoom on Pat Buckley asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the reason a person (details supplied) cannot obtain a grant to enable a return to the workplace; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18435/17]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar As the Deputy will be aware, JobPath is an employment activation service that supports people who are long-term unemployed and those most at risk of becoming long-term unemployed to secure and sustain paid employment. Two companies, Seetec and Turas Nua, have been contracted to deliver the service.

While engaging with the JobPath service, participants are provided with a range of supports based on an assessment of individual needs. The JobPath providers will arrange and pay for specific skills training if required by a jobseeker for particular types of work. Both JobPath companies have their own discretionary funds available to pay for these training courses.

For the same reason, the Training Support Grant (TSG) provided by the Department is designed to fund quick access to short-term training where this cannot be provided by a state provider within a reasonable time or where a intervention is identified that can support individual jobseekers to access work opportunities.

While jobseekers with JobPath do not have access to the TSG, the JobPath companies will on a case by case basis provide similar funding

I am advised that the person concerned was given the opportunity to access the TSG in August 2016 for a specific training need; he did not pursue the grant at that time and was referred to JobPath in November 2016.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Family Income Supplement Payments

 203. 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 if his attention has been drawn to the fact that when a person is no longer in receipt of part-time job incentive, this payment is still taken into account when calculating a family income settlement, FIS, payment; if he will intervene in this matter in order that a person can receive the correct entitlement to family income supplement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18445/17]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The Family Income Supplement (FIS) section incorrectly calculated the FIS entitlement of the person concerned as it included the part time job incentive payment in its calculation

  The FIS claim for the person concerned has been reviewed and their weekly payment will increase to €196.00.

  FIS arrears will issue to their designated Bank Account this Thursday.

  I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Jobseeker's Benefit Applications

 204. 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 if entitlement to jobseeker's benefit exists in the case of a person (details supplied) who made an application; if the application can be decided; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18449/17]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar As per responses to PQ Refs: 8896-17, 5148-17 & 12712-17, the person concerned has submitted an application for jobseeker’s benefit. Specific documentation was requested in order to assess entitlement to this benefit. This documentation is still outstanding and the application cannot be progressed. Upon receipt of the requested documentation/information a decision will be made and the person concerned informed of the outcome of his application.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Social Welfare Payments Waiting Times

 205. Deputy John Brassil Information on John Brassil Zoom on John Brassil asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the waiting times for processing of social welfare applications and decisions by each service; the average review times of each service; the average wait times for appeals; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18464/17]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The information requested (where available) by the deputy is detailed in the table:

  Social Welfare claims by average waiting times and number of claims pending 28 February 2017

SchemeAverage Waiting time to award

(weeks)
Average processing times (weeks)

Summary Decisions
Average processing times (weeks)

Oral Hearings
Jobseeker's Benefit117.920.2
Jobseeker's Allowance216.427.8
Jobseeker’s Allowance (Means)15.222.7
Jobseeker’s TransitionalN/a11.5N/a
One-Parent Family Payment628.034.5
Partial Capacity BenefitN/a43.645.0
Deserted Wife’s BenefitN/aN/a13.7
Farm AssistN/a16.223.8
Back to Work Family DividendN/a17.2N/a
State Pension Contributory 526.331.5
Widow’s, Widower's or Surviving Civil Partner’s Contributory Pension 117.818.9
Widow’s, Widower's or Surviving Civil Partner’s Non-Contributory PensionN/a28.512.6
Widowed Parent Grant1N/aN/a
State Pension Non-Contributory10.523.840.4
Bereavement GrantN/a15.1N/a
Death BenefitN/a102.1N/a
Household Benefits1N/aN/a
Free Travel2N/aN/a
Domiciliary Care Allowance1523.229.6
Supplementary Welfare Allowance124.221.3
Child Benefit (Domestic & FRA)322.023.7
Child Benefit (EU Regulation)31
Treatment Benefit N/a14.0N/a
Maternity BenefitN/a17.7N/a
Family Income Supplement (New)317.530.7
Blind Person’s PensionN/a16.230.1
Guardian’s Payment (Contributory)N/a18.520.6
Guardian’s Payment (Non-Contributory)N/a16.6N/a
Carer's Allowance10.819.121.9
Carer’s BenefitN/a14.519.9
Carer’s Support GrantN/a14.231.5
Disability Allowance11.715.421.1
Invalidity Pension7.332.221.8
Recoverable Benefits and AssistanceN/a12.1N/a
Disablement PensionN/a18.129.1
Incapacity SupplementN/aN/a56.9
Illness BenefitN/a23.832.5
Occupational Injury BenefitN/a14.023.3
Liable RelativesN/a18.0N/a
Insurability of EmploymentN/a40.4102.8

Youth Guarantee

 206. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the measures he will take to address the findings in the report published by the European Court of Auditors on 4 April 2017 that the implementation of the Youth Guarantee here had fallen short of expectations and which also detailed a range of other deficiencies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18487/17]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The report by the Court of Auditors relates to the overall implementation at the Union level of the EU Recommendation on a Youth Guarantee, rather than making findings about individual Member States. The Court did however visit seven Member States, including Ireland, to assemble material for its assessment.

The report concludes that the “Member States visited had made progress in implementing the Youth Guarantee and some results had been achieved” but that “the current situation - more than three years after the adoption of the Council Recommendation falls short of the initial expectations raised at the launch of the Youth Guarantee”.

The European Commission, to which the Court’s report is directed in the first instance, has explicitly rejected this opinion of the Court. In its “Reply of the Commission”, published with the Court’s report, the Commission

“considers that the current results in Youth Guarantee implementation do not fall short of initial expectations.

Whilst recognising that additional efforts are still needed to reach out to all young people, delivering quality and timely offers, the Commission underlines that the Youth Guarantee has led to positive results. In particular, as highlighted in the Commission Communication (COM/2016/646) ‘The Youth Guarantee and the Youth Employment Initiative three years on’, it has provided a strong impetus on structural reforms and policy innovation, areas which are outside of the scope of this report.”

For its part, Ireland made clear, in the implementation plan published in response to the Recommendation, that “the deeply ingrained problem of youth unemployment cannot be solved with the flick of a switch” and that achieving substantial reductions in youth unemployment represented a medium-term goal of economic and labour market policy.

At the time of the adoption of the implementation plan in December 2013, the seasonally adjusted rate of youth unemployment in Ireland was 25.6%, somewhat above the then EU average of 23.4%. Since then youth unemployment here has been reduced to 13.9% in March 2017, significantly below the current EU figure of 17.3%.

Both in absolute terms, and relative to the situation elsewhere in the EU, the improvement in the youth labour market has exceeded expectation in the period since 2013. The most recent trends suggest that further significant reductions in youth unemployment can be expected in the period ahead.

Social Welfare Benefits Eligibility

 207. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if recipients of jobseeker's allowance or benefit are required by his Department to take up offers of employment, even in circumstances in which such employment is based on an if and when contract. [18488/17]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar In order to qualify for jobseeker’s allowance or benefit a customer must satisfy certain conditions including genuinely seeking work and being available for work. Customers who are genuinely seeking work must agree a personal progression plan with a case officer and avail of all reasonable employment and training opportunities offered to them.

  All customers must be in a position to show that they have taken and continue to take reasonable steps to secure employment. The deciding officer (DO) considers the nature and conditions of the employment sought, including offers made on an “if and when” basis. The DO also has regard to the individual circumstances of the person concerned including the availability and location of vacancies and the person’s family circumstances.

  Each case is examined under the conditions for a jobseekers payment on a case by case basis and the conditions of the scheme must be satisfied by the customer.   

  I truest that this clarifies the issues for the Deputy.

Job Initiatives

 208. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the details of a replacement for the JobBridge programme; when he expects the new programme to be launched; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18489/17]

 209. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the list of persons and-or organisations his Department has consulted concerning the development of a replacement for the JobBridge programme, in tabular form. [18490/17]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I propose to take Questions Nos. 208 and 209 together.

  JobBridge was introduced in July 2011 in response to the sharp and dramatic increase in unemployment. A robust external evaluation of the scheme conducted by Indecon Economic Consultants in 2016 found that it is one of the most effective labour market programmes – increasing participants’ employment outcomes by 32%. It also found that while participants rated the scheme positively on 18 out of 20 aspects measured, most were dissatisfied with the level of payment and a sizable minority rated the scheme negatively on some aspects, for example the quality of training offered. Based on the findings, and taking account of the improvement in labour market conditions, Indecon recommended that JobBridge be discontinued in its current form and replaced with a new scheme. A copy of the full evaluation can be found at: http://www.welfare.ie/en/Pages/JobBridge-Evaluation.aspx.

  The Labour Market Council welcomed the report and noted the positive employment impact of the scheme. A majority of the Council similarly recommended that JobBridge be replaced.

Having considered the evidence and the suggestions put forward by Indecon and the Labour Market Council, I announced the closure of JobBridge to new applications from 27th October 2016 and my intention to replace it later this year with a new work experience programme better suited to the much improved labour market and that addresses criticisms of the scheme. I proposed that any new scheme should:

  - Be voluntary for both participants and host organisations.

  - Offer unemployed people the opportunity to break the cycle of “no work, no experience; no experience, no work”.

  - Place greater emphasis on skills development and aim to help participants to develop skills through workplace learning.

  I also proposed that all participants should receive a payment equivalent to the net minimum wage and that host organisations should make a contribution towards its cost.

  I am very conscious that any new scheme would need the support, trust and confidence of employers, jobseekers and the public. That is why I instructed my officials to consult with key stakeholders on these design principles. Please see below a list of persons and organisations consulted regarding the development of a replacement for JobBridge.

  I expect my officials to report back to me on the outcome shortly, and will make an announcement after I have a chance to consider the feedback from the key stakeholders.

  Organisations consulted on the development of a new work experience programme:

Organisation
IMPACT (& Dr. Mary Murphy)
National Youth Council of Ireland (NYCI)
Small Firms Association (SFA)
Irish Business and Employers’ Confederation (Ibec)
Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU)
Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed (INOU)
Mandate
Irish Small and Medium Enterprises (ISME)
Chambers Ireland
National Disability Authority (NDA)
SIPTU
National Recruitment Federation in Ireland (NRF)
Disability Consultative Forum (DCF)
Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development (CIPD)
Business in the Community (BITC)
National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA)

Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance Scheme Payments

 210. 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 back to school clothing and footwear allowance by €50 per child; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18513/17]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The back to school clothing and footwear allowance (BSCFA) scheme provides a once-off payment to eligible families to assist with the extra costs when children start school each autumn. The BSCFA is not intended to meet the full cost of school clothing and footwear but to provide assistance towards these costs. The Government has provided €37.4 million for the scheme in 2017.

End of year records show that under the 2016 BSCFA scheme, payments were made to over 154,000 families in respect of some 283,000 children. The rate of payment was €100 in respect of children aged 4 to 11 and €200 for children over 12 years in second level education.

Using the number of children covered by the scheme in 2016 as a basis, the additional cost to increase the BSCFA rates by €50 for each eligible child would be approximately €14.2 million. Changes to increase the rate of payment of any scheme administered by the Department would have to be considered in a budgetary context.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Employment Support Services

 211. Deputy Bobby Aylward Information on Bobby Aylward Zoom on Bobby Aylward asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar his views on a participant of Turas Nua opting out of the scheme if he or she has been offered a full-time or part-time job by a public limited company; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18547/17]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar Turas Nua is one of two companies who have been contracted by my Department to provide the JobPath service to people who are long term unemployed. The main aim of the JobPath service is to place jobseekers into full time sustainable employment. During that time, the person receives intensive and personalised support and assistance to find suitable work.

There is no restriction on any jobseeker taking up full or part-time work with any company or business while participating on the JobPath service. When person is placed into full time employment, the JobPath Company will continue to provide support for at least three months and up to an additional twelve months to assist them with any issues and help them settle into the job.

If a person finds part-time work and continues to have an entitlement to a jobseeker’s payment, they are required to continue engaging with the JobPath service who, in addition to providing the in-work support, will also give practical assistance in searching, preparing for other employment opportunities which may result in the person finding full time sustainable work.

I hope that clarifies the matter for the Deputy.


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