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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 561-580
 Header Item Early Childhood Care and Education Data
 Header Item Child Safety
 Header Item Area Based Childhood Programme
 Header Item Area Based Childhood Programme
 Header Item Mental Health Policy
 Header Item Childcare Services Data
 Header Item Departmental Staff Retirements
 Header Item Town and Village Renewal Scheme
 Header Item Walks Scheme
 Header Item Social Inclusion and Community Activation Programme Administration
 Header Item Public Private Partnerships Data
 Header Item Community Services Programme
 Header Item Departmental Staff Retirements
 Header Item Civil Registration Legislation
 Header Item National Minimum Wage
 Header Item Public Services Card Provision
 Header Item State Pension (Contributory)
 Header Item Gender Recognition
 Header Item Social Welfare Appeals
 Header Item State Pension (Contributory) Eligibility

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 964 No. 4

First Page Previous Page Page of 89 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 561-580

Early Childhood Care and Education Data

 561. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan Information on Aindrias Moynihan Zoom on Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone the demand for places under the early childhood care and education scheme in County Cork; the way in which deficits are being made up in local areas; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4492/18]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone There are currently 2,359 children availing of the Early Childhood Care and Education scheme (ECCE) in services in Cork City and a further 10,419 children at services in Cork County. 

Having conducted an analysis of ECCE capacity my Department is confident that there will be no shortfall in places for the 2017-2018 programme year. ECCE providers have catered for over 108,000 children for this programme year and while pressures can arise in some immediate localities all eligible children have been catered for.  My Department works closely with the local County Childcare Committees and are not aware of any shortage of places in Cork City or County.

From September 2018, the ECCE Programme will revert to one single entry point in a given ECCE Programme Year (i.e. September) with eligible children entitled to two full years of ECCE provision. Also from that date the number of ECCE enrolments in going forward is estimated to be in the region of 114,000. Given that 120,000 places were filled in April 2017, it is highly unlikely there will be capacity issues for those expected to register for ECCE, for up to 2 years, from September 2018.

My Department provided €8.4million for the 2017 Early Years Capital funding programme and some of this funding was directed towards assisting in alleviating pressures with regard to availability of ECCE places. This represents a doubling of the €4m provided under the 2016 Early Years Capital.

Child Safety

 562. Deputy James Browne Information on James Browne Zoom on James Browne asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone her plans to encourage young persons to limit screen time spent on smartphones; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4513/18]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone Excessive screen time on smartphones is a problem that has only arisen in recent years with the massive advances in communications technology.  The long term impact on society of this excessive screen time remains to be seen. I think this a new societal issue and needs a societal response.

The Deputy will probably agree that it is not just young persons who spend too much screen time on smartphones. If we want young people to reduce screen time, we need to start with good example from adults. Parents need to take a more constructive role in deciding at what age and for what purpose a child should have access to a smartphone; and what services the child should access through that device. Children need to be aware of the tremendous benefits that can come from effective use of smartphone technology, but also the difficulties that arise from excessive use. There is a need for education, whether at home, in school or other settings. I know that bodies such as CyberSafeIreland perform a valuable support for education in this field.

Evidence suggests that excessive screen time has negative impacts on children's social and physical development. It has also been linked to childhood obesity.

Screen time is one of the factors identified as having a negative impact of the aims of our national policy framework for children and young people Better Outcomes Brighter Futures. This is particularly related to the aim that involves "enjoying play, recreation, sports, arts, culture and nature".

Healthy Ireland, A Framework for Improved Health and Wellbeing 2013-2025, is the national framework led by the Minister for Health adopting a whole of government and whole of society approach to improve Ireland's health and well-being in the coming generations. My Department supports Healthy Ireland with a particular focus on the commitments for children and young people in Better Outcomes Brighter Futures.

Of course, the question of control over online content which is available to children through smartphones presents a range of challenges for the safety, welfare and protection of children. Last November, I met with the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Denis Naughten and the Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan, to discuss the cross-Government collaboration that is needed.  As a result, the Government will hold an Open Policy Debate on the topic on 8 March, 2018. Minister Naughten's Department is leading the co-ordination of this event; with support and participation from my Department, the Departments of Justice & Equality; Business, Enterprise and Innovation; Education and Skills and Health.

Representatives from industry, NGOs and stakeholders will also participate. The overall aim of the event is to raise awareness among all participants of the activities which are being undertaken by the Government, the EU, industry, NGOs and others and to identify gaps where further action is required and areas where further cooperation between stakeholders is possible. This will help develop and finalise Government policy on this important and timely issue.

Area Based Childhood Programme

 563. Deputy James Browne Information on James Browne Zoom on James Browne asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone her plans to expand the family intervention programme, Preparing for Life, to other parts of the country; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4518/18]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone The Area Based Childhood (ABC) Programme is a prevention and early intervention initiative, consisting of committed funding for an area-based approach to improving outcomes for children, young people, and families, in 13 areas of disadvantage. It was designed as a time-bound and co-funded arrangement between the Department of Children and Youth Affairs (DCYA) and The Atlantic Philanthropies, with a total allocation of €29.7 million being provided between the funders on a matched basis, between 2013 and 2017. A further €1.5 million was provided by DCYA in 2017 to extend the whole ABC Programme to the end of December.

The ABC Programme was preceded by the Prevention and Early Intervention Programme (PEIP) (2007-2013) in which the Preparing for Life Programme, along with two other sites: Youngballymun and the Childhood Development Initiative Tallaght participated. Preparing for Life received €6m as a participant in the PEIP. The total funding for Preparing for Life under the ABC Programme to the end of 2017 is €3.74m, bringing the funding received by Preparing for Life under both programmes to €9.74m.

I welcome the very positive results coming from the evaluation of the Preparing for Life Programme relating to the home visiting and parenting programme elements.

These evaluation findings and associated costs will be informing the consideration of mainstreaming the learning from the ABC Programme.  The ABC Programme itself is currently being evaluated. The findings from this national evaluation will be produced in Q2 2018.

In the most recent budget, my Department secured additional funding to extend all of the existing ABC Programme in 2018. My Department has agreed additional funding allocation of just under €1 million (€987,946), for Preparing for Life in order to provide for the extension of the Programme to the end of August 2018, to align with the national evaluation of the ABC Programme.

My Department is working to ensure that we take full account of the learning from all the interventions across the 13 ABC sites, including Preparing for Life, and the national evaluation. We will utilise these learnings to inform the delivery of prevention and early intervention initiatives in order to achieve our shared goal of improving the lives of children and families throughout Ireland.

Area Based Childhood Programme

 564. Deputy James Browne Information on James Browne Zoom on James Browne asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone if her Department has consulted with the Department of Health to use mental health research to help deliver the preparing for life family intervention programme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4519/18]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone The Preparing for Life Programme is a prevention and early intervention programme delivered by Northside Partnership in North Dublin City (Dublin 5 and 17). It is one of 13 such programmes operating under the Area Based Childhood (ABC) Programme (2013-2017). Under this programme, Preparing for Life has received over €3.7m in funding. The ABC programme is overseen by an interdepartmental project team which has included representatives from a number of government departments, including the Department of Health.

The Area Based Childhood (ABC) Programme is a joint prevention and early intervention initiative led by my Department. The ABC Programme commenced in 2013 and was co-funded for the period 2013 to 2017 with The Atlantic Philanthropies, with a total investment to date of over €31 million. The aim of the programme is to test and evaluate prevention and early intervention approaches in 13 areas of disadvantage in Ireland to improve outcomes for children, in particular children and families living in poverty. As a programme focussed on the use of evidence to improve outcomes, all areas have focussed on existing and emerging research findings to inform their programme delivery.

The focus of the work under the ABC Programme covers: Child Health and Development; Children’s Learning; Parenting; and Integrated Service Delivery.  There is a strong focus on Infant Mental Health across all areas in the ABC Programme.

My Department is in contact with the Department of Health across a number of areas including on the Youth Mental Health Taskforce and in the development of psychological services in Tusla. We use emerging learnings, research and evaluation findings and ongoing discussions to inform the delivery of prevention and early intervention initiatives in order to achieve our shared goal of improving the lives of children and families throughout Ireland.

Mental Health Policy

 565. Deputy James Browne Information on James Browne Zoom on James Browne asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone if her Department’s mental health services working group involving the HSE, the Department of Health and Tusla will examine the growing influence of social media and smartphones on young persons' mental health; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4520/18]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone The key objective of the working group is to examine the psychological and mental health services for children and young people with the aim of ascertaining a clear continuum of provision, strengthening alignment and areas for improvement, centred on the needs of children and young people.

The Working Group is jointly managed by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and the Department of Health and co-chaired by senior officials from the two Departments. Terms of Reference have been agreed and the working group held its first inaugural meeting on 19 January 2018. It is expected that the working group will meet bimonthly.

The focus of the working group is to look at provision in response to emerging needs of children and young people rather than specific issues dealt with by services. At this point in time, it is not intended that specific issues will be the focus of the group. 

Childcare Services Data

 566. Deputy Anne Rabbitte Information on Anne Rabbitte Zoom on Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone the funding each CCC has received in each of the years 2008 to 2017, inclusive, and to date in 2018, inclusive of the administration of the child minding development grant, the access and inclusion model and the parent and toddler initiative, in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4530/18]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone Officials in my Department are currently compiling the information as requested by the Deputy. This information will be supplied to the Deputy in no later than 10 working days. I have asked my officials follow up on this to ensure delivery as a matter of urgency.

  The deferred reply under Standing Order 42A was forwarded to the Deputy.

Departmental Staff Retirements

 567. Deputy Peter Burke Information on Peter Burke Zoom on Peter Burke asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone the number of persons at assistant principal level under the aegis of her Department due to retire in the next six months due to age in counties Galway, Mayo, Roscommon and Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4970/18]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone As my Department has no offices in counties Galway, Mayo, Roscommon and Clare, the issue of retirees in the next six month in these counties does not apply.

Town and Village Renewal Scheme

 568. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin Information on Fiona O'Loughlin Zoom on Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring the town and village programme allocations for 2017; and if he plans to continue with the scheme in 2018. [4088/18]

Minister for Rural and Community Development (Deputy Michael Ring): Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring The 2017 Town and Village Renewal Scheme was launched in April last year, with a focus on improving the economic development of our rural towns and villages.

  In October 2017, I approved funding of €21.6 million for 281 projects in rural towns and villages under the scheme.  Details of the projects funded are available on my Department’s website at:

http://drcd.gov.ie/subheader1/town-village-renewal-scheme/

  The Town and Village Renewal Scheme forms an important part of the Action Plan for Rural Development and has the potential to stimulate economic recovery and job creation in towns and villages across rural Ireland.  A number of the projects approved under the 2017 scheme focus on the development of enterprise centres and digital hubs which will have a positive impact on local economies.

  I intend to launch a further round of the Town and Village Renewal Scheme in 2018, with an emphasis again this year on supporting projects which demonstrate strong economic impacts.

Walks Scheme

 569. Deputy Eugene Murphy Information on Eugene Murphy Zoom on Eugene Murphy asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring if the Hymany Way will be included in the walk scheme for 2018; if landowners along this 100 km route will be allowed to avail of walk scheme payments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4214/18]

Minister for Rural and Community Development (Deputy Michael Ring): Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring My Department administers the Walks Scheme which facilitates the development and maintenance of many of Ireland’s walking trails. The scheme involves landholders as key participants in the provision of high quality walking trails, by contracting them to undertake maintenance work on sections of National Way Marked Ways and other priority walks that traverse their lands. The landholders receive modest payments for maintenance work undertaken, in line with agreed work plans.

The scheme currently covers 39 trails, with payments made to approximately 1,900 landholders to maintain those trails.

The Programme for a Partnership Government and the Action Plan for Rural Development include a commitment to increase the number of trails covered by the Walks Scheme and my officials are working towards this objective. I intend to initiate a comprehensive review of the scheme’s operation this year in order to determine how best to expand the scheme and maximise the impact of the resources available to me.  This review will inform any decisions to be made regarding new walks to be included in the scheme.

As significant consultation will be required with both landholders and other stakeholders, it is unlikely that any increase in the number of walks covered by the scheme will be implemented until late 2018 or early 2019.

Social Inclusion and Community Activation Programme Administration

 570. Deputy Noel Grealish Information on Noel Grealish Zoom on Noel Grealish asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring the person within his Department who sought the legal advice on the number of lots required to deliver the SICAP programme; the reason advice was sought; if he has seen and read this legal advice; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4418/18]

Minister for Rural and Community Development (Deputy Michael Ring): Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring The SICAP programme to which the Deputy refers is the largest social inclusion programme in the State and is a key priority for Government.  The programme is implemented by 46 Programme Implementers in 51 geographic areas (known as Lots).  These Lots were determined by the Local Community Development Committees (LCDCs) in 2014, prior to the commencement of the original programme, SICAP 2015 - 2017, which came to an end on 31 December 2017. 

In advance of the commencement of the procurement process for the new refined programme, SICAP 2018 - 2022, which rolled out in most areas from 1 January 2018, legal advice was sought by relevant officials in my Department on a number of issues, inter alia, in relation to the Lot delivery structure.  Based on the legal advice received by the Department a policy decision was taken that the new programme should be tendered for on the basis of the existing Lot areas (as previously determined by the LCDCs). 

As the Deputy is aware, Legal Advice is subject to privilege and it would not be appropriate, in the circumstances, for me to make any further comment on the matter. 

Public Private Partnerships Data

 571. Deputy Pearse Doherty Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring the public private partnerships his Department is currently engaged in; the name, cost and timeframe of each; the names of all private parties involved; the nature of each project in terms of design, build, maintain and so on, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4441/18]

Minister for Rural and Community Development (Deputy Michael Ring): Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring I can confirm that my Department is not currently engaged in any public private partnerships.

Community Services Programme

 572. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring if a financial package is available for a resource centre (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4447/18]

Minister for Rural and Community Development (Deputy Michael Ring): Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring The Community Services Programme (CSP) supports community organisations to provide local services through a social enterprise model.  Around 425 organisations are supported under the CSP, with funding provided as a contribution to the cost of a manager and an agreed number of full-time equivalent positions.  The CSP contribution must be co-funded by the organisation concerned from other sources, for example, from income received from the public use of their facilities and services.  General administration costs are met from this locally generated income.  

The organisation in question has been supported by the CSP since 2006. However, it has now voluntarily exited the Programme and, in this context, I understand that the organisation will not be required by Pobal to submit audited statements.

Departmental Staff Retirements

 573. Deputy Peter Burke Information on Peter Burke Zoom on Peter Burke asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring the number of persons at assistant principal level under the aegis of his Department due to retire in the next six months due to age in counties Galway, Mayo, Roscommon and Clare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4978/18]

Minister for Rural and Community Development (Deputy Michael Ring): Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring I wish to confirm, with regard to my Department, that there are no Assistant Principal Officers in Counties Galway, Mayo, Roscommon or Clare, expected to retire in the next six months, due to having reached retirement age.

Civil Registration Legislation

 574. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty her plans to allow notaries public to solemnise marriages; if new legislation is necessary to provide for this change in view of the fact that at present those that wish to get married outside of normal Monday to Friday office hours and do not wish to have a religious or humanist ceremony cannot do so; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4372/18]

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty The legal basis for the appointment of marriage solemnisers in Ireland may be found in Part 6 of the Civil Registration Act 2004, as amended.

  Section 54 of that Act provides for the categories of bodies and organisations which may apply for registration of persons on the Register of Solemnisers maintained by an t-Árd Chláraitheoir (Registrar General). These are:

  - The Health Service Executive for the registration of a registrar employed by the Executive,

  - A religious body (as defined) for the registration of a member of that body, and

  - A secular body (as defined) for the registration of a member of that body.

  There are currently no plans to amend the legislative provisions in relation to the appointment of marriage solemnisers.

National Minimum Wage

 575. 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 number of persons paid below the national minimum wage of €9.25 due to the exceptions for an employee in the first year after the date of first employment over 18 years of age and the second year after the date of first employment over 18 years of age; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4473/18]

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty I was pleased to announce on Budget Day that the national minimum wage would increase by 30 cents, from €9.25 to €9.55 per hour, with effect from 1 January 2018.

Minimum wage legislation provides that in certain cases, sub-minima rates of the national minimum wage can be paid. Specifically, sub-minima rates can be paid to employees who are:

(i) under the age of 18;

(ii) in their first or second year of employment over 18 years of age;

(iii) undergoing a prescribed course of study or training (known as trainee rates).

Since the second quarter of 2016, the CSO, at the request of the Low Pay Commission, has included a question asking respondents if they were earning the national minimum wage or less in their Quarterly National House Survey (now replaced by the Labour Force Survey). In cases where the respondent was earning less than the minimum wage, they were asked the reason for this. The most recent data from this survey, published in April 2017, refers to the last three quarters of 2016 and finds that, on average, 5,800 people reported earning less than the National Minimum Wage due to being on an age-related rate with a further 5,700 earning less than the National Minimum Wage due to being on a special training rate. The number of responses provided was insufficient to enable the CSO to reliably determine the number for those over 18 in their first job for. It is therefore currently not possible to provide this figure to the Deputy. It should be noted that these figures will be revised by the CSO to reflect the Census of Population results, and the 2017 data should be published in the coming months.

I am pleased to state that the Low Pay Commission submitted a report to me in December 2017 with recommendations relating to the sub-minima rates. I am currently considering the Commission’s recommendations in this area and I will ensure that their report is laid before the House in the coming weeks.

Public Services Card Provision

 576. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty the policy regarding the issuing of the public services card and persons who are adopted (details supplied); if only certain information is inscribed on the card; if information regarding a person's adoption history or status is inscribed or encoded on the card; if a person has ever been refused a card based on his or her adoption status; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3940/18]

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty A Public Services Card (PSC) may be issued to a person who has successfully completed a SAFE 2 identity registration. The person’s Public Service Identity Dataset is verified as part of this process. Adopted people are treated in the same way as other individuals in terms of verification of identity. Name, date of birth, place of birth and mother’s birth surname are generally verified from the birth certificate or, in the case of an adopted person, from an adoption certificate.

Generally, in the case of an adopted person, the details on the birth register will be different to those on the adoption register and not consistent with their current identity.

As my Department has access to the Irish Birth Register the above details can be verified without the need for the individual to physically present a birth certificate, providing that the record can be located on the Register.

However, in contrast, my Department does not have access to the Irish Adoption Register. Accordingly, staff would not be aware of a customer’s adoption status. In such circumstances the individual is asked to bring a copy of their adoption certificate. This requirement is stated clearly in SAFE 2 registration invitation letters and on my Department’s website.

When a person presents for a SAFE 2 appointment without a birth certificate, and their birth registration details cannot be located on the Register, they are asked to contact the General Register Office to obtain same. This could be a birth certificate or an adoption certificate.

The information inscribed on a PSC is laid down in Section 263(1a) of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005, as amended, and consists of the name of that person, the Personal Public Service Number of that person, a photograph of that person, the signature of that person, the issue number of the PSC, and the expiry date of the PSC.

The information encoded on the chip within the PSC is similarly laid down in Section 263(1b) of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005, as amended, and consists of the name of that person, the Personal Public Service Number of that person, the date of birth of that person, the place of birth of that person, the sex of that person, the nationality of that person, all former surnames (if any) of that person, all former surnames (if any) of the mother of that person, a photograph of that person, the signature of that person, the issue number of the PSC, and the expiry date of the PSC.

No information relating to the adoption status of a person is inscribed or encoded on the PSC. No person has been refused a PSC because they were adopted.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

State Pension (Contributory)

 577. Deputy Declan Breathnach Information on Declan Breathnach Zoom on Declan Breathnach asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty the status of the consultation process to find a resolution to the inequities in the averaging system for the State contributory pension; the status of a report in this regard completed by her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [3941/18]

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty On 23 January, the Government agreed to a proposal that will allow pensioners affected by the 2012 changes in rate bands to have their pension entitlement calculated by a new “Total Contributions Approach” (TCA) which will include up to 20 years of a new HomeCaring credit. This approach is expected to significantly benefit many people, particularly women, whose work history includes an extended period of time outside the paid workplace, while raising families or in a caring role. It will make it easier for pensioners assessed under the yearly average model, to qualify for a higher rate of the State Pension (contributory). The TCA will ensure that the totality of a person’s social insurance contributions - as opposed to the timing of them - determines a final pension outcome. The new TCA with substantial HomeCaring credits will be available to all people who reached pension age after 1st September 2012, when the revised rate bands took effect.

Under the new arrangements a person who has a 40 year record of paid and credited social insurance contributions, subject to a maximum of 20 years of the new HomeCaring credits, will qualify for a maximum contributory pension where they satisfy the other qualifying conditions for the scheme. This means, regardless of when a person started working, they may only need 20 years of paid PRSI contributions, over the course of 50 years, to receive a maximum rate pension, if they also have home-making periods. If they had periods of unemployment or illness where they received credited contributions, they may use up to 10 years of such contributions for such periods, subject to an overall cap of 20 years. People who were in receipt of Invalidity or Widows Contributory Pensions at retirement age will generally receive a maximum rate pension, regardless of this calculation.

The new TCA for pensioners assessed under the 2012 rate band changes, comes into effect from 30 March 2018. The Department will invite over 40,000 pensioners, currently assessed under the 2012 rate band changes, to have their pensions recalculated under TCA to determine if they qualify for a higher rate of entitlement. However, as it will take time to design and set up administrative processes, and the necessary IT systems, the Department expects to send out the invitations from the fourth quarter of 2018, and to begin payments, including arrears for any period from 30 March 2018, from Q1 2019.

This measure will allow those who reached pension age since September 2012, and were negatively impacted upon by the yearly averaging system and/or lack of recognition of home-making periods pre-1994, to benefit from TCA. It will not, however, remove the situation where some people may receive a maximum rate pension for little over 10 years contributions, for example where they moved here in their early 50s. This anomaly will only be removed when the Yearly Average calculation system has been abolished.

It is envisioned that from 2020, all new pensioners will be assessed under the final Total Contributions Approach. The final design of this model will be subject to broad public consultation later this year and the final model will then be presented to Government for approval.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Gender Recognition

 578. Deputy Ruth Coppinger Information on Ruth Coppinger Zoom on Ruth Coppinger asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty the number of gender recognition certificates issued in each of the years 2015, 2016 and 2017. [3961/18]

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty A Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) can be issued to a person who:

  - has his/her birth recorded in either the register of births or the adopted children register maintained by an tArd-Chláraitheoir (General Register Office); or

  - is registered on the foreign birth register maintained by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade; or

  - is registered in the register of intercountry adoptions maintained by the Adoption Authority of Ireland; or

  - is ordinarily resident in Ireland; AND

  - is at least 18 years of age on the date of application.

  Under Section 12 of the Gender Recognition Act of 2015, an application for a GRC made on behalf of a child who has attained the age of 16 but not 18 years, may only be considered if furnished with an order from the Circuit Family Court. This Order will exempt the applicant from the requirement to have attained the age of 18 before he/she applies for gender recognition.

The application form for a GRC can be downloaded from the Department’s website www.welfare.ie  . The form must be completed in full making sure to tick the Gender box that is required.

  The number of GRCs issued is as follows:

  2015 - 89

  2016 - 109

  2017 - 97

  I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Social Welfare Appeals

 579. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty the status of an appeal by a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3966/18]

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 3 October 2017. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant papers and comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection. These papers have been received in the Social Welfare Appeals Office on 22 January 2018 and the case will be referred to an Appeals Officer who will make a summary decision on the appeal based on documentary evidence presented or, if required, hold an oral hearing. The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Employment Affairs and 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.

State Pension (Contributory) Eligibility

 580. Deputy John McGuinness Information on John McGuinness Zoom on John McGuinness asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty the record of contributions in the case of a person (details supplied); and the reason they are not in receipt of a full State pension (contributory). [4022/18]

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty The person concerned is in receipt of a reduced rate state pension (contributory) with effect from 28 December 2017, based on an assessed yearly average of 38 contributions, covering their 50-year working life from December 1967 to end-December 2016. According to the records of my Department, the person has a social insurance record of 1,885 reckonable contributions and credits. The person concerned is in receipt of the correct rate of contributory pension based on this social insurance record. The person has no recorded contributions for the tax years 2008, 2009 and 2011, and has less than the full rate of 52 contributions for a number of years during their contribution history. This affects their overall yearly average and, consequently, their rate of weekly pension entitlement.

The person was notified in writing of their pension award on 18 October 2017. Attached to that letter was a copy of their contribution record, as held by my Department and upon which their entitlement was calculated. If the person concerned considers they have additional unrecorded contributions or credits, it is open to them to forward relevant documentary evidence and my Department will review their entitlement.

Last week the Government announced proposals that pensioners who qualified for state pension (contributory) since September 2012, and whose rate of entitlement was impacted by the 2012 rate band changes, may apply for a review to have their entitlement considered under a new Total Contribution Approach (TCA). It will take some time to draft and pass the necessary legislation, and then develop the systems and procedures necessary to administer the new pension entitlement option. It is expected that these pensioners will start receiving invitations from my Department in Q4 2018 to apply for a review under the new pension eligibility arrangements, and to notify any periods spent caring for which HomeCaring credits may be due. Review applicants will be notified of the outcome of their review and the higher rate of entitlement, where applicable, will be paid to them. Where an increase is awarded, it will be backdated to 30 March 2018.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.


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