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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 580-599
 Header Item State Pension (Non-Contributory) Applications
 Header Item Illness Benefit Eligibility
 Header Item Humanitarian Assistance Scheme
 Header Item State Bodies Funding
 Header Item Pensions Legislation
 Header Item Pensions Legislation
 Header Item Social Welfare Benefits Eligibility
 Header Item State Pension (Non-Contributory)
 Header Item Family Income Supplement Eligibility
 Header Item Departmental Communications
 Header Item State Pensions
 Header Item Youth Employment Initiative
 Header Item Motor Tax
 Header Item National Parks and Wildlife Service
 Header Item Housing Assistance Payment
 Header Item Water Services
 Header Item Homeless Persons Data
 Header Item Housing Assistance Payment Data

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 960 No. 4

First Page Previous Page Page of 86 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 580-599

State Pension (Non-Contributory) Applications

 580. Deputy Tom Neville Information on Tom Neville Zoom on Tom Neville asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty if a full review will be carried out of the application for the old age non-contributory pension for a person (details supplied); and the details of the calculations in view of the fact that the person is disputing the refusal totally. [43802/17]

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty State pension non-contributory is a means tested pension. The person concerned originally applied for this pension on 12 October 2015. Following examination, the claim was disallowed as the person concerned had means in excess of the maximum weekly limit, and the person was notified of this decision. The claim was reviewed in early 2016, and again disallowed due to weekly means still exceeding the permissible limit. A further decision notification and letter of clarification issued to the person concerned in this regard on 3 March 2016. These notifications also informed the person concerned of their right of appeal to the independent Social Welfare Appeals Office, should they consider the decision to be incorrect. The person concerned has not exercised this right of appeal to date.

It is also open to the person concerned, if there is any change in their weekly means, to re-apply for State pension non-contributory and their claim will be processed without delay.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Illness Benefit Eligibility

 581. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty the social welfare entitlements for which a person (details supplied) qualifies. [43816/17]

Minister of State at the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Finian McGrath): Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath Illness benefit is a payment for persons who cannot work due to illness and who satisfy the pay-related social insurance (PRSI) contribution conditions. For illness benefit claims made in 2017 the governing contribution year is 2015.

The rate of payment depends on the person's level of earnings in the governing PRSI contribution year. Where the average weekly earnings are €300 or more, the personal rate of payment is €193 weekly. A graduated rate applies where the average weekly earnings are less than €300.

The person concerned made a claim to illness benefit and this claim was registered in my Department on 15 September 2017. The person concerned qualifies for a graduated rate of Illness benefit of €151.20 weekly, based on their earnings in the governing year, 2015. Payment has been made to the date of the latest medical certification received.

Supplementary Welfare Allowance is payable where a person’s means are insufficient to meet their needs. Application may be made to the Community Welfare Services at the local Intreo centre. I trust that this clarifies the matter for the Deputy..

Humanitarian Assistance Scheme

 582. Deputy John Brady Information on John Brady Zoom on John Brady asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty if she will amend the humanitarian assistance scheme in County Donegal to ensure that affected families who lost items such as children's toys, play and entertainment items and garden equipment are adequately compensated for their loss. [43870/17]

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty My Department immediately activated the humanitarian assistance scheme, administered by the local Community Welfare Service (CWS), to assist householders in County Donegal affected by the flooding experienced towards the end of August.

Humanitarian assistance is designed to provide hardship alleviation, as opposed to compensation, to people affected by an emergency event. The scheme provides income-tested financial support to people whose homes are damaged from flooding and severe weather events and who are not in a position to meet costs for essential needs, replacement of household items and in some instances structural repair.

Assistance is not provided for losses which are covered by insurance or for commercial and business losses, or generally any loss or damage to private rented accommodation or local authority accommodation.

Guidance on the administration of the scheme is provided to Community Welfare Service staff. The guidance provided is not exhaustive and each case is considered on an individual basis to assist families replace essential belongings.

Any person experiencing hardship following the flooding in Donegal in August and indeed following the severe weather over the last twenty four hour period should contact my Department’s local Community Welfare Service for assistance.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

State Bodies Funding

 583. Deputy John Brady Information on John Brady Zoom on John Brady asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty if the funding removed from a company (details supplied) by Pobal is still available for other interested parties or organisations in the area to apply for; if she will clarify same; the person in her Department who is responsible for processing a new application for support under the Pobal community services programme. [43871/17]

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty The organisation referred to by the Deputy is a not-for-profit co-operative society working to promote tourism and arts and crafts in the Inishowen peninsula in county Donegal. The company operates from two offices based in Buncrana and Carndonagh, which open five days per week. The company manages the website www.visitinishowen.com, develops packages and marketing material, prints brochures, collates visitors data and works with tourist trade operators to promote and package Inishowen as a 'must see' holiday destination. The company received Community Services Programme (CSP) funding of €117,645.50 per annum, which supported the employment of a manager and 4.5 staff delivering the service.

  Following concerns raised regarding the company in early 2016, Pobal, on behalf of my Department, commissioned an independent review of its governance arrangements. The report, completed in December 2016, identified a number of serious governance issues and made 22 recommendations to address these. The company was issued with the report on 22 December 2016 and was given a deadline of 30th April 2017 to make progress on the recommendations of the report.

  Unfortunately, the company failed to make sufficient progress in implementing the report’s recommendations and, in the circumstances, they were informed that CSP funding for the service could not continue through them beyond 30 June 2017. This decision was accepted by them at a meeting with members of their board on 9th May 2017.

  I want to make clear to the Deputy that I do not wish to withdraw funding for the service being provided. However, in light of the governance issues identified, my Department could not continue to fund the service through the company in question.

  Officials from my Department and Pobal continue to explore other options as to how funding for the service can be maintained going forward. Progress has been made and I am hopeful that a new entity, through which the funding can be delivered, will be in place before the end of the year. It is important to note that the funding will remain in the Inishowen region.

  My Department will consider any expression of interest in relation to the promotion of tourism in the Inishowen area from a CSP funding perspective. The CSP Policy Unit within my Department is based in Carrick-on-Shannon.

  I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Pensions Legislation

 584. Deputy Sean Fleming Information on Seán Fleming Zoom on Seán Fleming asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty if she will re-examine the situation whereby women who were in the workforce and left in earlier years for family duties are not in a position to get the full State contributory pension when they reach retirement age; and her plans to address this situation. [43881/17]

 593. Deputy Niamh Smyth Information on Niamh Smyth Zoom on Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty her plans to reform the pension system, which it is perceived discriminates against persons, mainly women, who took time out of the workforce prior to 1994 to care for children or elderly relatives; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44029/17]

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty I propose to take Questions Nos. 584 and 593 together.

There are three main pensions paid by my Department to people over 66, the rates of payment of which vary depending on the scheme and the circumstances of the pensioner. Entitlement levels to the State Pension, contributory (SPC), which is financed by PRSI on a pay-as-you-go basis, are calculated by means of a ‘yearly average’ calculation, where the total contributions paid or credited are divided by the number of years of the working life. Payment rates are banded. For example, someone with a yearly average of 48 contributions will qualify for a full pension, whereas someone with a yearly average of 20 will qualify for a pension at 85% of the full rate. The intention of this, as in the contributory pensions which exist in other European countries and elsewhere, is to incentivise and reward contributions into the fund which finance that pension, by means of higher pension entitlements. Those with relatively lower contributions are more likely to be paid under alternative pensions, where they will attract a higher rate of payment.

The homemaker's scheme makes qualification for a higher rate of SPC easier for those who take time out of the workforce for caring duties. The scheme, which was introduced in and took effect for periods from 1994, allows up to 20 years spent caring for children under 12 years of age, or caring for incapacitated people over that age, to be disregarded when a person’s social insurance record is being averaged for pension purposes, subject to the standard qualifying conditions for State pension contributory also being satisfied. This has the effect of increasing the yearly average of the pensioner, which is used to set the rate of his or her pension. It is estimated that backdating it in respect of periods before its introduction in 1994 would cost some €290 million per annum in 2017, and this figure would rise at a faster rate than the overall rise in the cost of State pensions.

Where people do not qualify for a maximum-rate SPC in their own right, the social protection system provides other ways of supporting such pensioners in old age. Where their spouse has a contributory pension, they may qualify for an Increase for a Qualified Adult amounting up to 90% of a full rate pension. This is paid directly to them, and is subject to a personal means-test. Alternatively, they may qualify for a State Pension (non-contributory), based on their household means, amounting up to 95% of the maximum contributory pension rate. There are very significant income and capital disregards in the means tests for these payments, which result in the large majority of payees – most of whom are women – being paid at the maximum rate. Where a person is a widow/widower, they will generally qualify for a full 100% rate pension, based on either their own PRSI or on that of their late spouse or civil partner.

The average pension payments made by my Department to men and women over 66 years of age are within 1% of each other approximately, and this results in very similar outcomes for older men and women in avoiding poverty. The most recent CSO figures for Consistent Poverty indicated that 2.6% of women over 65 and 2.9% of men over 65 are in consistent poverty, which is less than a third of that general population. Eurostat figures also show that men and women over 65 are less likely to be at risk of poverty and social exclusion in Ireland than in the EU as a whole, with the gap in outcomes between men and women being significantly narrower in Ireland than in most countries.

It is expected that the “Total Contribution Approach” (TCA) will replace the yearly average approach, for new pensioners from 2020. The aim of this approach is to make the rate of contributory pension more closely match contributions made by a person. This is a very significant reform with considerable legal, administrative, and technical elements in its implementation. An important element in the final design of the scheme will be the position of women who have gaps in their contribution records as a result of caring duties, and this factor is being considered very carefully in developing this reform.

Officials in the Department are currently working on the detailed development of the TCA proposal. It is then intended to have a public consultation later this year, and this will provide an opportunity for people to submit their views on the priorities in the design of this proposal. Following the consultation period, I will submit a proposal to Government seeking approval for the new approach, and then proceed to introduce legislation to give effect to this reform.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputies..

Pensions Legislation

 585. Deputy Sean Fleming Information on Seán Fleming Zoom on Seán Fleming asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty her plans to consider a pension scheme for community employment supervisors; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [43884/17]

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty Community Employment (CE) scheme supervisors are employees of private companies in the community and voluntary sector. The State is not responsible for funding pension arrangements for such employees even where the companies in question are reliant on State funding. It is open to individuals to make provision for a pension by way of PRSA which all employers are obliged to facilitate.

Nevertheless, it should be noted that the issue of CE supervisors’ pension provision is currently being examined by a Community Sector High Level Forum, chaired by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. My Department is represented on this group, as are IMPACT, SIPTU, Pobal and other relevant Government Departments. The Forum is due to meet again in early November and I understand that their work is ongoing.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy..

Social Welfare Benefits Eligibility

 586. Deputy Robert Troy Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty if a fuel allowance and a living alone allowance increase will be awarded to a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [43898/17]

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty An increase for living alone can be claimed by a person in receipt of pension if they are living alone, or mainly alone. In this case, the person concerned is the qualified adult on their spouse’s state pension (contributory) and is therefore not eligible for this increase. A letter informing the person of this decision was issued on 21 September 2017.

  Similarly, Fuel Allowance can be claimed by a pension recipient, but not their qualified adult.

  A letter has issued to the person concerned advising them to apply for a pension in their own right because if they qualify, they may also have an entitlement to additional increases in respect of living alone and fuel allowance.

  I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

State Pension (Non-Contributory)

 587. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty if she will examine a case in which a person (details supplied) was awarded an increase for a qualified adult; if the fact the person did not know they were entitled to an increase for a qualified adult will be considered; if backdating can be made on same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [43944/17]

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty Increase for a Qualified Adult on a State Pension (contributory) payment is a means tested payment.   

  The person concerned applied for an increase for qualified adult on their state pension (contributory) on 2 August 2017. The increase was awarded with effect from 2 June 2017, as prior to that date the qualified adult was in receipt of state pension (non-contributory) in their own right at a higher rate.

  I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Family Income Supplement Eligibility

 588. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire Information on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire Zoom on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty her plans for those who are self employed regarding family income supplement; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [43956/17]

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty The Working Family Payment (WFP), formerly known as Family Income Supplement, or FIS, is an in-work support which provides an income top-up for employees on low earnings. The WFP is designed to prevent in-work poverty for low paid workers with child dependants, and to offer a financial incentive to take-up employment. There are currently over 57,000 families with more than 127,000 children in receipt of the WFP. The estimated spend on the WFP this year is approximately €422 million.

  To qualify for payment of the WFP, a person must be engaged in insurable employment which is expected to last for at least three months and be working for a minimum of 38 hours per fortnight or 19 hours per week. Therefore, self-employed people are not eligible for the WFP.

  The rationale for not extending eligibility for the WFP to include self-employed persons includes:-

  - the practical difficulties in defining and controlling an alternative to the hours worked condition;

  - the difficulty in establishing satisfactorily a self-employed person’s hours of employment and certifying this on an ongoing basis;

  - existing arrangements to provide income support to self-employed people on low incomes, such as jobseeker’s allowance and farm assist for low-income farmers;

  - the cost of extending the scheme to the self-employed, which would be considerable.

  Any extension of the WFP to other categories of persons, such as the self-employed, would have to be considered in a budgetary context. There are no plans for such an extension in present circumstances.

  However, I would bring the Deputy’s attention to the Back to Work Family Dividend, which helps families to move from social welfare into employment, including self-employment, by retaining their qualified child increase for up to two years. There are currently 8,156 families in receipt of the dividend, of whom 124 are in self-employment.

Departmental Communications

 589. Deputy Sean Fleming Information on Seán Fleming Zoom on Seán Fleming asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty the level of contact between her Department, in respect of trading businesses in which employers owe a debt to the Social Insurance Fund, and the Revenue Commissioners to establish if they continue to actively trade; if she will provide a copy of the memorandum of understanding between the two organisations with regard to following up debts of these employers; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [43959/17]

 590. Deputy Sean Fleming Information on Seán Fleming Zoom on Seán Fleming asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty the level of debt owed by employers to the Social Insurance Fund in circumstances in which these employers are continuing to trade; the number of such debts owed by band (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [43965/17]

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty I propose to take Questions Nos. 589 and 590 together.

  A debt is raised against the employer when a payment is made under the Redundancy and Insolvency Payment scheme from the Social Insurance Fund. The total employer debt to the SIF at 31 December 2016 stood at €462 million.

  A comprehensive analysis on the trading status of all companies and businesses with a debt to the Social Insurance Fund was completed in April 2017. Approximately 13,400 individual employers owe a debt to the Social Insurance Fund.

  A total of 9,305 of Irish registered companies account for the vast majority of employer debt (91%). The profile of these indebted companies indicates that the majority (63%) are either dissolved or are in the process of being wound up through receivership or liquidation. These account for almost €345 million of the total debt.

  A third of indebted companies (c 3,450) has filed annual returns in recent years and are categorised as “normal” by the Companies Registration Office. These companies account for c €72 million of employer debt. While these companies continue to exist as a legal entity, it does not necessarily mean that they are trading.

  A further 4,093 indebted employers are classified as sole traders and partnerships. These account for just over €41 million in employed debt (9% of the total). There is no central information source on the trading status of these non-registered businesses.

  The Department has a dedicated debt management team in the redundancy and insolvency section which has responsibility for managing employer debt in line with the Department’s debt management policy. The team engages directly with employers who are categorised as normal, and with the non-registered sole traders and partnerships, with a view to recovering debt. The team makes contact with these employers to establish their financial position and ability to repay the debt in full or as part of an agreed debt repayment plan. In these cases the Department is mindful that an overly aggressive process in pursuing debt with employers that are still trading, but are nevertheless in a financially precarious position, might result in those companies being pushed into an insolvency situation which could result in further job losses. Accordingly the unit engages with employers to establish the situation on a case by case basis and seeks to recover debt on a mutually agreed basis, including setting up repayment by instalment where appropriate.

  A total of €10.7 million in funds paid out of the SIF to cover redundancy related payments was recovered by the Department in 2016. Approximately 400 employers are continuing to repay debt by instalment arrangements.

  The Department of Social Protection and the Revenue Commissioners have a Memorandum of Understanding which governs the exchange of all information between the two bodies, including all redundancy and insolvency scheme liaison and communication. A copy of this Memorandum of Understanding, entitled “Memorandum of Understanding on co-operation and mutual assistance between the Department of Social Protection and the Office of the Revenue Commissioners” will be forwarded to the Deputy.   

  The employer PAYE number provided by the Revenue Commissioners is primarily used to identify a company or business which is subject to redundancy or insolvency. The Department’s main source of information on the status of companies with debt is from the Companies Registration Office (CRO).

  The following tables give a breakdown of employer debt owed by ‘normal’ companies and sole traders/partnerships.

Table 1-Breakdown of employer debt with trading status as “normal” per CRO

Amount
Number of Employers
Total Debt
Less than €10,000
1,818
€8,267,096
€10,000 - €50,000
1,331
€29,319,633
€50,000 - €100,000
192
€13,169,947
€100,000 - €500,000
110
€19,821,468
€500,000 - €1m
1
€577,989
Greater than €1m
1
€1,079,418
Grand Total
3,453
€72,235,552
  Table 2-Breakdown of employer debt of non-registered companies (eg sole traders)
Amount
Number of Employers
Total Debt
Less than €10,000
2,944
€12,264,920
€10,000 - €50,000
1,047
€20,772,037
€50,000 - €100,000
83
€5,848,422
€100,000 - €500,000
19
€2,664,881
€500,000 - €1m
0
0
Greater than €1m
0
0
Grand Total
4,093
€41,550,260

State Pensions

 591. Deputy Brendan Smith Information on Brendan Smith Zoom on Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty further to Parliamentary Question No. 1,554 of 26 July 2017, her plans to amend the legislation and regulations in regard to eligibility for State pension purposes; if such provisions will be included in the forthcoming social welfare Bill; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [43972/17]

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty Officials in the Department are currently working on the detailed development of the ‘Total Contribution Approach’ (TCA). It is expected that the TCA will replace the yearly average approach for new pensioners from around 2020. The aim of this approach is to make the rate of contributory pension more closely match contributions made by a person. This is a very significant reform with considerable legal, administrative, and technical elements in its implementation, which will take a number of years to complete. An important element in the final design of the scheme will be the position of women who have gaps in their contribution records as a result of caring duties, and this factor is being considered very carefully in developing this reform.

Data from the independent actuarial review of the Social Insurance Fund is currently being analysed to cost options for the new approach. Following that analysis, a paper will be prepared, outlining and costing various alternatives, including, as promised, options regarding homemaker periods. My Department will then conduct a period of consultation with relevant stakeholders, providing them with information and requesting that they outline what they consider should be the priorities in this reform. After the consultation period, I will submit a proposal to Government seeking approval of the new approach. Following a Government decision, legislation will be prepared for consideration by the Oireachtas.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Youth Employment Initiative

 592. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire Information on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire Zoom on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty the amount of Youth Guarantee funding spent to date; and the amount drawn down from 2014 to 2016, inclusive, and to date in 2017. [44018/17]

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty The Youth Employment Initiative (YEI) is one of the main EU financial resources to support the implementation of the youth guarantee by providing job, education and training opportunities to young people aged 15-25 who are not in employment, education of training. YEI funding is reserved for use in those regions, including Ireland, where youth unemployment levels exceeded 25% during the reference year of 2012. The specific YEI funding allocation for Ireland of €68m is matched by equal amounts from our European Social Fund (ESF) allocation and from the Exchequer, giving an overall allocation of €204m.

The YEI is integrated into ESF programming and is being delivered in Ireland as a dedicated priority axis within the ESF Programme for Employability, Inclusion and Learning (PEIL) 2014-2020. This programme is managed by the ESF Managing Authority, within the Department of Education and Skills. Seven actions were originally selected for YEI funding, namely the Back to Work Enterprise Allowance; JobBridge; JobsPlus Incentive Scheme; Tús; Youthreach, Social Inclusion and Community Activation Programme and Momentum. These actions are underway and are being fully funded up-front by the Exchequer.

I am informed that while no application has been made to date to the EU Commission in respect of the YEI, it is expected that the European 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 re-allocate the available funding as required, in accordance with the EU Regulatory provisions. In this regard, the PMC has agreed in principle to the further inclusion of the Community Training Centres, which are funded by the ETBs in consultation with SOLAS, as an approved activity under the YEI with effect from 1 January 2017.

The ESF Regulations provide for initial pre-financing/advances of EU support at 1% (or 1.5% for Member States under financial assistance in 2014 and 2015) of the full programme support, payable for each year from 2014 to 2016, together with annual pre-financing of between 2% and 3% payable from 2016 to 2023. In May 2015 an amendment to the relevant EU Regulations resulted in an unprecedented increase in the YEI advances to be paid to Member States. The Commission subsequently released pre-financing payments from the dedicated YEI budget line, worth 30% of the YEI budget, to provide additional financial liquidity to support YEI implementation. However, the relevant Regulations specified that where a Member State did not submit an interim payment application by 23 May 2016 for at least 50% of the additional pre-financing amount, the Member State must reimburse the Commission the total YEI pre-financing contribution. As Ireland did not submit an interim YEI payment application, the €19.8m additional pre-financing received was reimbursed to the Commission. This reimbursement has not resulted in any loss of EU monies to the Exchequer. Furthermore, as the YEI activities are fully funded up-front by the Exchequer there is no resulting reduction or delay in the funding available to them.

I understand that the ESF Authorities in the Department of Education and Skills intend to submit a payment application to the European Commission in respect of the YEI following its designation in accordance with the EU Regulatory requirements in the coming months.

My Department also obtained EU funding under the European Commission’s call for proposals for preparatory actions under the Youth Guarantee Pilot, to pilot a Youth Guarantee Scheme in Ballymun which operated in 2014. The total cost of the pilot was €302,279 which included EU funding of €250,000..

Question No. 593 answered with Question No. 584.

Motor Tax

 594. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin Information on Eoin Ó Broin Zoom on Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy the reason motor tax cannot be transferred from one vehicle to another when a person sells their taxed car and purchases an untaxed car; and his plans to allow persons take their car tax with them when they change vehicle. [43437/17]

Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government (Deputy Eoghan Murphy): Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy The legal provisions governing the motor tax system are based on associations between the particular vehicle and its taxation category, which is determined by reference to factors such as engine size, CO2 emissions, vehicle weight, type of vehicle and the purposes for which the vehicle is used. Motor tax discs contain details of these criteria and are therefore vehicle specific, meaning they cannot be transferred between vehicles. There are currently no plans to change this system.

National Parks and Wildlife Service

 595. Deputy Darragh O'Brien Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy if the attention of the National Parks and Wildlife Service, NPWS, has been drawn to the frequent closure of beaches by the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, and local authorities in the past two years (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43542/17]

Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government (Deputy Eoghan Murphy): Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is a key statutory body for investigating complaints of pollution and for the enforcement, both directly and through oversight of local authorities, of environmental legislation in Ireland, including compliance in relation to licensed urban waste water discharges. Public notification of beach closures is generally by way of beach notices, local authority communication networks and via the national bathing water website (www.beaches.ie) operated by the EPA.

  The EPA's Bathing Water Quality Report for 2016 identifies several bathing waters adjacent to urban areas as being prone to episodic pollution events and being of less than 'good' water quality status. The requirement for bathing restrictions, either as an ‘advice against bathing’ or a ‘bathing prohibition’, is determined and implemented by the relevant local authority, rather than the EPA. Such restrictions are generally put in place as a precautionary measure following elevated bacterial counts from routine sampling which indicates the potential for increased public health risk, or as a proactive warning of possible pollution e.g. in advance of predicted heavy rainfall events. The choice of restriction is based on decision criteria agreed between the EPA and the HSE. 

  An assessment of bathing water incidents by the EPA shows that many, in particular those affecting major urban centres around Dublin Bay, are likely to be linked to discharges from sewage outfalls, often following rainfall events. This is particularly so in the case of Loughshinny where existing wastewater infrastructure is under considerable pressure. In the cases of Merrion Strand and Sandymount Strand, investigations have shown pollution inputs from human waste contamination of surface water streams through misconnections as well as from avian and canine sources. The presence of these multiple inputs has been confirmed by genetic studies of faecal bacteria carried out by researchers at UCD.  The relative proportions that each contributes is still under investigation. While seabird impacts are known to be a factor in these locations, their more general contribution to water quality in other areas is unknown.

  Bathing waters are sampled at regular intervals by local authorities during the bathing season from 1 June to 15 September, in accordance with the Bathing Waters Regulations 2008. Data is reported to the EPA who coordinate its quality assessment and the communication of such assessments to the public, my Department, and the European Commission by means of the  national bathing water website and through its annual bathing water report.

Housing Assistance Payment

 596. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy his plans to address a matter (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43561/17]

Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government (Deputy Eoghan Murphy): Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy The Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) is a flexible and immediate housing support that is now available to all eligible households throughout the State. There are currently over 28,000 households in receipt of HAP, including more than 8,000 households that were previously supported by Rent Supplement and some 20,000 separate landlords and agents providing accommodation to households supported by the scheme. Unlike Rent supplement, households in receipt of HAP support can work full-time without losing their housing support.

  Under HAP, a tenant sources their own accommodation, the tenancy agreement is between the tenant and the landlord and is covered by the Residential Tenancies Act 2004 (as amended). The Act provides that rents may not be greater than the open market rate and may only be reviewed upward or downward every 24 months unless there has been a substantial change in the nature of the accommodation that warrants a review. The requirement that the rent set is not above the market rents for similar properties applies in designated Rent Pressure Zone areas and in non-designated areas. When undertaking a rent review, the landlord must provide three examples of rents for similar properties in a comparable area to demonstrate this. Tenants must be given 90 days’ notice of new rent and can make an application for dispute resolution to the Residential Tenancies Board where they feel the rent increase is in excess of the market rent.

  The accommodation sourced by tenants should be within the prescribed maximum HAP rent limits, which are based on the household size and the rental market within that area. HAP applicants are informed of the maximum rent limits for their local authority area; these elements of the scheme are stated in the HAP Tenant Information Booklet, on the dedicated HAP website, www.hap.ie, and local authority staff are expected to explain them to each HAP applicant. Each local authority has statutory discretion to agree to a HAP payment up to 20% above the prescribed maximum rent limit in circumstances where it is necessary, because of local rental market conditions, to secure appropriate accommodation for a household that requires it.  Greater enhanced support is also statutorily provided for in the Dublin Region for homeless households.  It is a matter for the local authority to determine if the application of the flexibility is warranted on a case by case basis. Local authorities must also be cognisant of the provisions  of the Residential Tenancies Act when approving increases in HAP payments and advise tenants accordingly.

  My Department is aware that some HAP recipients are making payments directly to their landlords, beyond the amount of HAP being paid on their behalf. There is no legislative provision precluding HAP supported households contributing towards the monthly rent to their landlord. Where a qualified household sources accommodation outside the maximum rent limits, it is important to highlight the responsibility falling on the household as set out in their tenancy agreement.  From available data, at the end of Q.2 2017, and excluding the additional discretion available to homeless households in the Dublin Region, 12.6% of HAP households nationally were benefitting from the flexibility to exceed the rent limits. In the Kerry local authority area, 27 of the 194 households supported by HAP at that point, or 13.9% of households, were benefitting from the flexibility to exceed the rent limits. 

  The data available to my Department at this time indicates that the current rent limits and the flexibility to exceed those rent limits, provides local authorities with sufficient capacity to assist households in securing rented accommodation that meets their needs. My Department continues to keep the operation of the HAP scheme under review. I am satisfied with how the HAP scheme is operating and I consider it to be a key vehicle for meeting housing need and fulfilling the ambitious programme under Rebuilding Ireland.

Water Services

 597. Deputy Paul Kehoe Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy his plans to provide compensation for private well owners, group water schemes or those who have financed their own water supply but are also required to pay for water from general taxation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43857/17]

Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government (Deputy Eoghan Murphy): Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy The Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Future Funding of Domestic Water Services recommended that the principles of equity of treatment and equivalent financial support should be applied equally between households on public water supplies and those in Group Water and Sewerage Schemes, those using septic tanks and those with individual water supplies.

The Water Services Bill 2017 is currently being considered by the Oireachtas.  The provisions in the Bill give effect to the recommendations of the Committee. My Department will shortly commence a review involving the National Federation of Group Water Schemes and other relevant stakeholders to advance the recommendation of the Committee in relation to the quantification of investment required to equalise treatment between those availing of domestic water services from Irish Water and those availing of private services.

Homeless Persons Data

 598. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin Information on Eoin Ó Broin Zoom on Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy the move-ons by tenure type (details supplied) in view of his Department's press statement accompanying the August 2017 homeless figures stating that 134 families moved on from homelessness in that month. [43373/17]

Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government (Deputy Eoghan Murphy): Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy My Department publishes data on a monthly basis regarding the number of homeless families, including dependents, accommodated in all forms of emergency accommodation funded and overseen by housing authorities.  Official homeless reports are published on my Department's website  and can be accessed using the following link: http://www.housing.gov.ie/housing/homelessness/other/homelessness-data.

  In addition, my Department publishes data on a quarterly basis based on the regional quarterly performance reports which sets out the numbers of households and individuals which exited homelessness into sustainable independent tenancies and the type of those tenancies.  In this regard, it is worth noting that 2,060 such exits were achieved nationally in the 6 months to June 2017, a 50% increase compared to the equivalent period in 2016 when there were 1,374 such exits.  In the Dublin Region alone there were 1,400 sustainable exits in the 6 months to June 2017, a 70% increase on the equivalent period in 2016 when there were 825 such exits.  Separate to this, households and individuals may choose to leave emergency accommodation for a variety of reasons, such as returning to live with family or friends, but my Department does not record these 'move-ons' as sustainable exits.

  Nationally, in the 6 months to June 2017, HAP related tenancies accounted for 41% of the sustainable exits, local authority lettings 22%, private rented accommodation 19% and AHB lettings/supported accommodation 18%.  This level of detail is only available on a quarterly basis and not monthly as requested by the Deputy.  The regional quarterly performance reports for Quarter 2 2017 will be available on my website shortly at the link quoted above. 

  In relation to the 134 families referred to by the Deputy, I am advised by the Dublin Regional Homeless Executive that 34 of these families exited homelessness into social housing (20 local authority and 14 Approved Housing Body homes). The remaining 100 families, who presented and were assessed as homeless during this period, were provided with Homeless HAP housing solutions.

Housing Assistance Payment Data

 599. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy further to Parliamentary Question No. 241 of 21 September 2017, the average monthly rent paid to landlords under the HAP scheme in each of the years since the inception of the scheme; the annualised cost of the average monthly rent paid to landlords under HAP for the local authorities in counties Dublin, Wicklow and Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43398/17]

Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government (Deputy Eoghan Murphy): Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy Under the Housing Assistance Payment scheme (HAP), a tenant sources their own accommodation, the tenancy agreement is between the tenant and the landlord and is covered by the Residential Tenancies Act 2004 (as amended). There are currently more than 28,000 households having their housing need met by HAP across the State and some 20,000 separate landlords and agents currently in receipt of monthly HAP payments. The HAP scheme is funded through a combination of Exchequer monies and tenant differential rents collected in respect of HAP tenancies. Exchequer funding for the scheme increased from €57 million in 2016 to more than €152 million in 2017. This increase is in order to meet the continuing costs of existing HAP households, and the costs of supporting an additional 15,000 households this year.  Budget 2018 has made an additional €149 million available for HAP next year, increasing the overall exchequer provision to more than €301 million, when an additional 17,000 households are targeted for support.

  Accommodation sourced by eligible households should be within the prescribed maximum HAP rent limits, which are based on the household size and the rental market within that area.  Each local authority has statutory discretion to agree to a HAP payment up to 20% above the prescribed maximum rent limit in circumstances where it is necessary, because of local rental market conditions, to secure appropriate accommodation for a household that requires it.  Additional discretion to exceed the rent limits by up to 50% is available to assist in housing homeless households in the Dublin Region.  It is a matter for the local authority to determine if the application of the flexibility is warranted on a case by case basis. Local authorities must also be cognisant of the rent certainty and control provisions  of the Residential Tenancies Act when approving increases in HAP payments and advise tenants accordingly.

  From available data, at the end of Q.2 2017, 17.8% of the total number of households  being supported by HAP were benefitting from the additional flexibility that was provided to local authorities to exceed the maximum rent limits.  When the additional discretion available to homeless households in the Dublin Region is removed, 12.6% of households nationally were benefitting from the additional flexibility. The data available to my Department at this time indicates that the current rent limits and the flexibility to exceed those rent limits, provides local authorities with sufficient capacity to assist households in securing rented accommodation that meets their needs. My Department continues to keep the operation of the HAP scheme under review. I am satisfied with how the HAP scheme is operating and I consider it to be a key vehicle for meeting housing need and fulfilling the ambitious programme under Rebuilding Ireland. 

  HAP has been in operation in South Dublin County Council since 1st October 2014 and became operational in the remaining three Dublin Areas - Dublin City Council, Fingal County Council on 1st March 2017. The Homeless Pilot of the HAP scheme has been operational since February 2015, across the four housing authorities in the Dublin Region and is being implemented through the Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DRHE). HAP became operational in Kildare County Council in November 2015 and in Wicklow County Council in December 2016. 

  The average monthly rent paid to landlords under the HAP scheme in each of the years since the introduction of the scheme and the annualised cost of the average monthly rent paid to landlords under HAP for the local authorities in counties Dublin, Wicklow and Kildare are set out in the following table.

Dublin local authorities (South Dublin, Dublin City, Dun Laoghaire Rathdown and Fingal County Council, inclusive of Homeless HAP in each case)

Year Total HAP tenancies set-up Average monthly payment paid to landlords under the HAP scheme at year end  Annualised cost* of the average monthly payment paid to landlords under the HAP scheme
2014 8 €390  €3,511 
2015 626 €916 €10,992
2016 1,791 €1,192 €14,304
2017

(end Q2)
1,687 €1,269 €15,228
  Kildare
Year Total HAP tenancies

set-up
Average monthly payment paid to landlords under the HAP scheme at year end  Annualised cost* of the average monthly payment paid to landlords under the HAP scheme
2015 32 €927 €11,124
2016 773 €885 €10,620
2017

(end Q2)
407 €899 €10,788
  Wicklow
Year Total HAP tenancies

set-up
Average monthly rent paid to landlords under the HAP scheme at year end  Annualised cost* of the average monthly rent paid to landlords under the HAP scheme
2016 3 €750 €9,000 
2017

(end Q2)
173 €944  €11,328
   *The annualised cost is calculated on the basis that the average cost at year end was paid every month for twelve months.


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