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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 220-239
 Header Item Early Childhood Care and Education
 Header Item Irish Language
 Header Item Child Abuse Reports
 Header Item Childcare Services Data
 Header Item Community Childcare Subvention Programme
 Header Item Irish Language
 Header Item Rural Regeneration and Development Fund
 Header Item Rural Regeneration and Development Fund
 Header Item Social Insurance
 Header Item State Pension (Contributory)
 Header Item Illness Benefit Payments
 Header Item Illness Benefit Applications
 Header Item Data Protection
 Header Item Irish Language
 Header Item Paternity Benefit
 Header Item Community Employment Schemes Supervisors
 Header Item Public Sector Staff Retirements

Wednesday, 20 February 2019

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 979 No. 6

First Page Previous Page Page of 86 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 220-239

Early Childhood Care and Education

 220. 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 estimated cost of increasing the number of weeks of the ECCE scheme by increments of two weeks up to 52 weeks per year, in tabular form.  [8610/19]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone The Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme provides for a programme of early learning for children before commencing primary school.

  With effect from September 2018, all children meeting the minimum age requirement of 2 years and 8 months will be eligible for a full two programme years on the ECCE scheme. This further enhancement delivers fully on a commitment in the Programme for a Partnership Government that is good for children and families.

  The current academic year runs for 38; weeks; the following table shows the cost of increasing the number of weeks available to children in 2019, based on estimated registration figures:

  Table 1: Cost of increasing ECCE academic year by increments of 2 weeks

Number of weeks in academic year Total Cost Increase
38 (Current allowance) 298.1 0
40 313.8 15.7
42 329.5 31.4
44 345.2 47.1
46 360.9 62.8
48 376.5 78.4
50 392.2 94.1
52 407.9 109.8

Irish Language

 221. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone the progress made on implementing all aspects of the 20-Year Strategy for the Irish Language 2010 to 2030 that are relevant to her Department and bodies under her remit; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8614/19]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone Under the Education theme of the 20 Year Strategy for the Irish Language 2010 to 2030, my Department is committed to supporting the provision of services in the Irish language to children at an early age; and supporting the role pre-schools and crèches can play in promoting Irish as a living language. There are no specific commitments in the strategy relating to bodies under the remit of my Department.

My Department has worked with closely with colleagues in the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and the Department of Education and Skills in agreeing a comprehensive set of actions to be implemented under the Action Plan for the Irish Language 2018 to 2022; launched by the Minister of State for the Irish Language, the Gaeltacht and the Islands, in June 2018. This five year action plan sets out a range of agreed actions, with associated timeframes, to be implemented in support of the overarching 20 Year Strategy for the Irish Language for the period 2010 to 2030.

My Department has committed to a range of actions designed to affirm the importance of the role that early years settings can play in fostering Irish language proficiency. The aim of these actions is to build on existing measures, supports and partnerships in the area of Irish-medium early years education. The agreed actions include the creation of two Irish language early years posts to co-ordinate the development of Irish language provision in the early years sector in non-Gaeltacht areas, and the establishment of baseline supports for naíonraí that will inform future policy plans.

A further action relates to the establishment of an oversight group by the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, comprised of representatives from the relevant departments, agencies and stakeholders, to oversee the implementation of the actions relating to the early years sector. The inaugural meeting of this group has taken place. My Department is also represented on the oversight group .

My Department is working to ensure improved communication with Irish speaking childcare services, in particular in the context of the major national childcare schemes that my Department funds. For example, in relation to the forthcoming Affordable Childcare Scheme, the website currently in development will be available in Irish, as will the parent application portal. Communications in relation to the launch of the new Scheme will also be available in Irish. The contact support centre will have Irish speakers on its staff. Training for the Access and Inclusion Model (AIM) that helps children with a disability to participate in the Early Childhood Care and Education Programme (ECCE) is available through Irish for Gaeltacht pre-school settings and the AIM website and materials are available in the Irish language.

The City/County Childcare Committees (CCCs) are funded by the Department to act as a local agent in the delivery of the national early learning and care and school age childcare programmes and the implementation of Government policy at childcare committee level. They work with the Comhar Naíonraí na Gaeltachta development workers, who provide direct supports to the stiurthoirí in the Irish language childcare services.

The Early Years Forum which I chair has two members representing Irish language needs in the sector.

A Whole of Government Strategy for Babies, Young Children and their Families was launched on 19th November. This ambitious ten year plan contains two actions specifically aimed at supporting the development of the Irish language within the early learning and care sector (ELC). These actions are as follows:

- Introduce measures to ensure that children in Gaeltacht areas have access to Irish-medium ELC provision;

- Develop mechanisms to provide Irish-language supports to ELC provision where there are high proportions of children who are learning through the medium of Irish.

An implementation plan for the actions contained within that Strategy will be published within six months.

These are just some examples of the ways in which my Department is engaging with and ensuring that childcare services are facilitated to provide their services through the Irish language.

Child Abuse Reports

 222. Deputy Catherine Connolly Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone further to Parliamentary Question No. 33 of 13 February 2019, when the review by HIQA of the NRP commenced; when it ceased; if a copy of the review will be provided; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8748/19]

 223. Deputy Catherine Connolly Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone further to Parliamentary Question No. 33 of 13 February 2019, the timeline for the implementation of the action plan to identify the best governance solution for the NPR submitted by her Department to HIQA; the status of the action plan; the person or body that prepared the action plan; if a copy will be provided; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [8749/19]

 224. Deputy Catherine Connolly Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone further to Parliamentary Question No. 33 of 13 February 2019, the consideration being given to placing the NPR on a statutory footing; the basis on which such a consideration is founded; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8750/19]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone I propose to take Questions Nos. 222 to 224, inclusive, together.

The National Review Panel (NRP) for the investigation of serious incidents, including the deaths of children and young people in care or known to the child protection system, was set up in 2010 as part of the Implementation Plan associated with the Report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse (the Ryan Report). The NRP carries out its work independently and the quality of the findings, judgements and systematic learning provided in the Panel’s reports have consistently been found to be of the highest standard.

In 2016, the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) conducted a monitoring exercise in respect of the NRP, on the basis of revised guidance produced in November 2014. HIQA shared a draft report with Tusla and my Department in June 2016, and submitted a final report in January 2017.

Overall, the HIQA report found that the reviews completed by the NRP were thorough, consistent, and of good quality. The NRP reports reviewed by HIQA were clearly written, fair and balanced, and highlighted both good practices and any deficits, if found. Key learnings were identified and recommendations were made, based on the findings of the reviews. The report found that reviews were consistent in their approach, quality assured by the NRP chair, and the final reports were structured in the same manner. In addition, the report found that the work of the NRP was carried out independently of Tulsa and operated at a national level. The range of professionals selected to each review was found to be appropriate, and it was confirmed that the NRP liaised with Tusla to ensure that learning was shared from these reviews.

However, the report found a number of issues with the NRP in relation to governance matters, with the concerns raised largely relating to matters outside of the control of the NRP, and arising from the ad-hoc nature of the Panel’s establishment in 2010.

On this point, the report acknowledged that the circumstances surrounding the genesis of the NRP were less than optimum. The NRP was established during a time of particular focus and pressure on the Health Service Executive in relation to severe criticism of its management of cases where children in State care had died. The urgent need for a solution, at a time of severe national economic challenge, impacted on planning for the body. In addition, it was originally estimated that the Panel would be dealing with approximately five cases per annum, involving an estimated two child deaths and three serious incidents. In fact, the NRP has been dealing with cases significantly in excess of this original estimate. This has on occasion contributed to delays in the publishing of reports.

In order to address concerns identified by HIQA, my officials prepared an action plan to identify the best governance solution for the NRP. These actions were to be addressed, in the main, by my officials and their colleagues in Tusla, with the assistance of the Chair of the NRP. The plan was forwarded to HIQA in October 2016.

In seeking to implement this plan, my officials continued to explore a number of options for the NRP, to address not only governance matters, but issues highlighted by the Chair of the Panel which have impacted on the efficiency of that body in concluding its work. This process was seen as a unique opportunity both to address the various challenges the NRP faces in producing its reports, and to maximise the Panel’s value. Factors identified as challenges for the NRP included (i) a perception in some quarters that the NRP was not fully independent; (ii) access to files and personnel for review purposes (outside of those in Tusla); and (iii) governance and structural issues.

Having examined several options to address these issues, Government, last November, approved my recommendation that the NRP be established as an independent statutory body in its own right. Appointments to the Panel will be conducted by the Public Appointments Service.

This course of action will address the governance issues noted by HIQA in its monitoring exercise of 2016. Furthermore, it is intended that the Panel will have the power to seek cooperation from relevant parties. This will facilitate access to all pertinent files and personnel across relevant agencies. The final construct and interventions available to the NRP will of course be refined during the drafting of the relevant provisions and will be subject to legal advice and the advice of Parliamentary Counsel.

My officials have begun the preliminary work to draft the necessary legislation. It is not possible to provide a timeline for this legislation at present.

Childcare Services Data

 225. 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 number of level 5, 6, 7 and 8 childcare workers supported under the learner fund in 2017 and 2018, in tabular form; the average funding provided to workers seeking levels 5, 6, 7 and 8; and the percentage of the training cost covered by the funding. [8770/19]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone I thank Deputy Rabbitte for her question.

The Learner Fund for Early Learning and Care practitioners first opened for applications by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs in March 2014.

Between 2014 and 2016, four strands of funding were opened. The Learner Fund at that time had two primary aims:

1. To support Early Learning and Care practitioners working directly with children in registered centre based and home based services to meet the mandatory minimum qualification requirements which (subsequently) came into effect on December 31st 2016. The specific qualification subsidised was a QQI award at NFQ Level 5 in Early Childhood Care and Education.

2. To support Early Learning and Care practitioners who already held a major award in Early Childhood Care and Education at Level 5 on the NFQ (or equivalent), to attain an NFQ Level 6 qualification in the same discipline, in order to meet ECCE contractual requirements and facilitate expansion of the ECCE programme.

Through these specific funding strands, up to 4,488 Early Learning and Care practitioners were approved for funding to support them to raise their qualification levels in Early Learning and Care. To allow practitioners time to complete their qualifications, the final payments to training providers were made in late 2018. A final breakdown of the total spend per region and per person is not yet available. Funding was made available based on need, to a maximum of €950. Preliminary figures would indicate that not everyone who was approved for funding took steps to avail of the full amount.

There is not one uniform price for undertaking QQI awards, and the amount charged by training providers varies. My officials estimate that the amount paid would have covered between 80% to 100% of the cost of the programmes.

Since the introduction of these initial Learner Fund strands, DCYA regulations have ensured that the workforce now meets regulatory qualification requirements and as need has changed, the focus of the Learner funding has pivoted to support of continuing professional development. This year and into 2020, funding will be provided for Early Learning and Care services, including registered Childminders, to avail of First Aid Responder training accredited by the Pre-Hospital Emergency Care Council. There will also be supports put in place for Childminders to upskill to a major QQI award in Early Childhood Care and Education. Since January 2017, a bursary has been available to experienced Early Learning and Care practitioners, who graduated from DCYA recognised Early Childhood Education and Care degree programmes. In 2017, 1080 individuals received a bursary as this included practitioners who achieved awards between 2013 and 2017. In 2018, 550 individuals received a graduate bursary.

The degree bursary amount per individual is €750. There is more variation in the cost of ECEC degrees in the country than might be expected; it is estimated that this amount would represent between 25 and 40% of the cost. As the Deputy is most likely aware, there are a variety of funding streams available to students of degree programmes in the State. Many Early Learning and Care providers pay for, or heavily subsidise the cost of this training for existing staff given the higher capitation payment that is made to ECCE services by a level 7 or 8 graduate. This additional Higher Capitation payment amounts to approx. €200 per week for an ECCE room of 20 children to cover the 15 hour programme.

Building a professional Early Learning and Care workforce is a key component of First 5, the Whole of Government Strategy for Babies, Young Children and their Families, which was launched on the 19th of November. First 5 commits to establishing a Workforce Development Plan for the ELC workforce. Preliminary work has already begun on this. The Department of Education and Skills has also recently developed enhanced criteria and guidelines for Higher Education Institutions providing Early Childhood Education and Care degree programmes. The aim is to ensure a more unified approach to professional training for ELC practitioners at degree level. This forms part of a range of measures to be introduced in the future. My department hopes to revisit the Learner Fund support for qualifications for ELC practitioners once further progress has been made with the Workforce Development Plan.

Community Childcare Subvention Programme

 226. Deputy John McGuinness Information on John McGuinness Zoom on John McGuinness asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone her views on the issues raised by a cross-county community childcare forum regarding its concerns relative to the childcare and aftercare compliance reports for 2018 and 2019; her plans to deal with the inability of the group to re-register up to 49 children in its crèche and after-school care services due to the compliance reports; if the solutions put forward by the forum will be considered and funding provided when needed; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [8774/19]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone Assisting families to access high quality, affordable early learning and care and school age childcare is a priority for me as Minister and hence I take these issues raised in your question very seriously.

  My Department funds a number of early learning and care and school age childcare programmes. Given the large amount of public money that is used in funding these programmes, there needs to be an appropriate level of oversight and accountability. The Department of Children and Youth Affairs believes that our approach to compliance and supporting services strikes the right balance. Our approach involves setting out the rules for the receipt of State funding, supporting providers to deliver services, and at the same time, the approach offers assurances to the taxpayer that the funding assigned is being spent as it was intended.

  A high level of compliance with the rules of the various childcare schemes is vital to maintaining existing investment as well as ensuring future investment. It is a requirement that services operating the early learning and care programmes funded by my Department must be compliant with the ‘Rules for DCYA childcare funding programmes’ , the most recent of which was published on 9th  August 2018. These Rules clearly state the need to maintain attendance records and keep registrations updated in line with attendance. Compliance with these Rules is overseen by Pobal on behalf of my Department. Because subsidies for the early learning and care programmes are paid based on attendance (and not just enrolment), this is a vital governance component of the funding for which my Department is responsible.

  I appreciate that community childcare settings, such as those referenced, provide a valuable service to children and families across the country and may face a variety of challenges to their sustainability. However, significant support is available to them to bring their service onto a more sustainable footing, whilst being necessarily compliant with the scheme rules. My Department oversees an integrated Case Management system operated by Pobal through which a dedicated team assesses services facing challenges. This Case Management service provides non-financial assistance or support. Financial supports are also available for services facing certain challenges which may also be accessed through Case Management following a financial assessment.

  Results from Pobal compliance visits for the first part of the programme year 2018/2019 show issues in relation to non-compliance which needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency. I am encouraged however that most services have engaged constructively with the process so far. I would recommend all other services to get in contact with Pobal or their local City / County Childcare Committee if they need support or advice, particularly in relation to the re-registration issues you reference.

  With regard to the particular service the Deputy referred to, I understand that they the are meeting with Pobal representatives this week and I would expect that the matter can be resolved then. It is open to the service to register children on CCSP at any time in the programme year.

  The Deputy will be aware that investment in childcare has increased by 117% over the last four budgets, now totalling €575m per year. Community services access much of this growing investment. The Affordable Childcare Scheme, which will be introduced later this year, will mark another significant milestone, creating an infrastructure from which Government can further increase investment in services over the next decade, This is in line with the commitment made in First 5, the Whole of Government Strategy for Babies , Young Children and their Families, I published last November.

Irish Language

 227. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring the progress made on implementing all aspects of the 20-Year Strategy for the Irish Language 2010 to 2030 that are relevant to his Department and bodies under his remit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8626/19]

Minister for Rural and Community Development (Deputy Michael Ring): Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring My Department was established on 19 July 2017. I can confirm that my Department has been engaged in the preparation of its first Irish Language Scheme in accordance with the Guidelines outlined under Section 12 of the Official Languages Act 2003. The Scheme will be finalised shortly and will be in effect for the period from 2019 to 2021. It has been formulated with the intention of ensuring that all relevant obligations under the Official Languages Act 2003 relating to my Department, and its agencies, as appropriate, are being fully addressed on an incremental basis, through this and future schemes.

In addition to this, and to facilitate our provision of services through Irish, the Department has contracted translation services in accordance with the framework put in place by the Office of Government Procurement.

The Department recognises that the objective of Government policy in relation to Irish in the 20 Year Strategy for the Irish Language 2010-2030 is to increase, on an incremental basis, the use and knowledge of Irish as a community language. Through the preparation and implementation of its Irish Language Scheme, the Department aims to implement the aspects of the 20 Year Strategy for the Irish Language 2010 to 2030 that are relevant to its remit.

Rural Regeneration and Development Fund

 228. Deputy Dara Calleary Information on Dara Calleary Zoom on Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring the number of applications between category 1 and 2 projects made under the rural regeneration and development fund by county to date, in tabular form; the number of successful and unsuccessful project applications, respectively, by category that applied for funding by county; the successful projects by county that have been approved for funding by category; the value of funding approved for each such project; the number of successful applicants that have received approved funding to date; the value of same; the number of unsuccessful applicants that have not received approved funding to date; the amount allocated for the fund in 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8766/19]

Minister for Rural and Community Development (Deputy Michael Ring): Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring The first call for applications for the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund closed at the end of September. €1 billion is committed to the Fund over a 10 year period to support rural economic development and help build strong communities. €315m is allocated to the Fund for 2019-2022.

  There was an excellent response from all across the country, with 280 applications received. 126 applications related to Category 1, "shovel ready" projects while 154 related to Category 2 projects - those which needed development funding to become potential Category 1 applications in future calls for applications.

  In November 2018, I announced the first set of 18 successful Category 1 projects, providing €24.4m in funding for projects with an overall value of €34.6m. Just last week in Castleblayney, I announced another 20 successful Category 1 projects and 46 Category 2 projects which will benefit from support from the Fund of €62m, with a total project value of €83m. Overall, this first call from the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund will provide €86m in support for projects worth €117m.

  A breakdown of the number per county of successful and unsuccessful applications as well as the number of applications received from each county is set out in Table 1.

  A list of the successful projects by county and the amount of funding approved for each project is set out in Tables 2 and 3.

   My Department is currently engaged with the successful lead applicants in agreeing milestones and schedules as part of due diligence and contractual arrangements. Payment dates will also be agreed as part of this process.

  Table 1. Number of Applications by Category and County.

  Category 1     Category 2      
- Number of Successful Applications Number of Unsuccessful Applications Category 1 Applications per County Number of Successful Applications Number of Unsuccessful Applications Category 2 Applications per County Overall Applications per County
Carlow 1 0 1 1 4 5 6
Cavan 1 1 2 2 1 3 5
Clare 4 9 13 2 8 10 23
Cork 2 15 17 5 44 49 66
Donegal 2 6 8 1 3 4 12
Dublin 0 0 0 0 1 1 1
Galway 3 6 9 3 2 5 14
Kerry 1 6 7 4 3 7 14
Kildare 1 3 4 2 7 9 13
Kilkenny 2 2 4 1 4 5 9
Laois 1 3 4 0 1 1 5
Leitrim 0 2 2 1 2 3 5
Limerick 3 10 13 1 4 5 18
Longford 2 0 2 0 1 1 3
Louth 1 1 2 1 1 2 4
Mayo 3 4 7 2 4 6 13
Meath 0 2 2 4 2 6 8
Monaghan 1 4 5 4 0 4 9
Offaly 0 1 1 1 3 4 5
Roscommon 3 1 4 1 0 1 5
Sligo 2 1 3 1 1 2 5
Tipperary 1 2 3 0 3 3 6
Waterford 0 1 1 1 3 4 5
Westmeath 0 1 1 1 1 2 3
Wexford 1 4 5 4 2 6 11
Wicklow 0 1 1 0 2 2 3
Multiple Locations 3 2 5 3 1 4 9
Totals 38 88 126 46 108 154 280


Table 2. List of Successful Category 1 Projects
County Lead Applicant Location Total RRDF Funding
Carlow Carlow County Council Borris €654,820
Cavan Cavan County Council Cootehill €867,174
Clare Clare County Council Kilrush €1,720,000
Clare Clare County Council Loop Head Lighthouse €868,500
Clare Clare County Council Lahinch €2,860,000
Clare Clare County Council Ennistymon €1,023,300
Clare; Donegal; Galway; Kerry; Mayo; Wicklow Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht National Parks (multiple) €3,915,000
Cork IRD Duhallow CLG Banteer €1,128,000
Cork Cork County Council Kinsale €2,175,000
Donegal Donegal County Council Swan Park, Buncrana €1,728,042
Donegal Udaras na Gaeltachta Doiri Beaga €1,500,000
Donegal/Sligo/Mayo/

Roscommon
Western Development Commission Multiple €644,734
Galway Galway County Council Athenry €3,554,000
Galway Western Development Commission Tullycross, Renvyle €1,728,000
Galway Údarás na Gaeltachta An Spidéal €548,887
Kerry Kerry County Council Valentia Island €1,270,000
Kildare Kildare County Council Emily Square, Athy €2,707,500
Kilkenny Kilkenny County Council Thomastown €2,080,486
Kilkenny Kilkenny County Council Callan Town €561,750
Laois Office of Public Works Emo, Emo Court €1,200,000
Limerick Limerick City and County Council Abbeyfeale, Newcastlewest, Rathkeale, Ardagh €2,724,657
Limerick Ballyhoura Development CLG Glenbrohane €626,369
Limerick Ballyhoura Development CLG Murroe €3,816,450
Limerick,Cork,Sligo,

Dublin,

Wicklow,Offaly,Laois
Coillte Ballyhoura, Coolaney, Ticknock/Ballinastoe/ Slieve Blooms €10,262,900
Longford Longford County Council Edgeworthstown €1,269,019
Longford Longford County Council Granard €2,872,434
Louth Louth County Council Ardee Castle €2,147,000
Mayo Mayo County Council Ballinrobe €825,000
Mayo Sligo LEADER Partnership CLG Claremorris €2,100,000
Mayo Údarás na Gaeltachta Béal a' Mhuirthead €795,062
Monaghan Monaghan County Council Castleblaney €2,138,560
Roscommon Roscommon Integrated Development Company Ltd Ballaghdarreen €1,656,750
Roscommon Roscommon County Council Boyle Town €1,705,705
Roscommon Roscommon County Council Castlerea €1,545,000
Sligo Sligo County Council Yeats Trail €500,000
Sligo Sligo County Council Strandhill €615,752
Tipperary Tipperary County Council Tipperary Town €600,000
Wexford TEAGASC Johnstown Castle €658,696


Table 3. List of Successful Category 2 Projects
County Lead Applicant Location RRDF Funding
Carlow OPW Ballon €450,000
Cavan Cavan County Council Ballyjamesduff €90,000
Cavan Cavan County Council Cootehill €56,000
Clare Clare County Council Doolin €465,571
Clare Clare County Council Inis Cealtra €920,500
Clare/ Kerry Fáilte Ireland Multiple €666,300
Cork Cork County Council Cork County €206,168
Cork OPW Annes Grove €375,000
Cork Cork County Council Ballydesmond €56,250
Cork Udaras na Gaeltachta Baile Bhuirne/Colaiste Iosagain €180,000
Cork Avondhu Blackwater partnership CLG Rathormac €122,025
Donegal Letterkenny Institute of Technology Killybegs €293,436
Donegal, Mayo,

Galway, Clare, Kerry, Wicklow
Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht - NPWS Donegal, Mayo, Galway, Clare, Kerry, Wicklow €1,466,250
Galway Galway County Council Kinvara €124,781
Galway Galway County Council Dunmore €960,909
Galway Galway County Council Tuam €175,000
Kerry Udaras na Gaeltachta Baile na Fheirtéaraigh €292,500
Kerry Udaras na Gaeltachta Dingle Workhouse €415,000
Kerry Kerry County Council Kenmare €275,000
Kerry Údarás na Gaeltachta Gaeltacht Uibh Rathaigh/Iveragh Taskforce €174,352
Kildare Kildare County Council Athy €80,000
Kildare Kildare County Council Monasterevin €78,000
Kilkenny Kilkenny LEADER Partnership Kilkenny €60,000
Leitrim Leitrim County Council Mohill €37,500
Limerick Limerick City and County Council Newcastle West €330,000
Louth Louth County Council Ardee €526,744
Mayo Mayo County Council Multi Location €75,000
Mayo Mayo County Council Westport and Cong €56,000
Mayo, Galway Geological Survey Ireland Multi Location €969,387
Meath Meath County Council Kells €210,000
Meath Meath County Council Boyne Navigation and Greenway €845,250
Meath Meath County Council Enfield €726,000
Meath OPW Trim €262,500
Monaghan Waterways Ireland State Agency €325,000
Monaghan Monaghan County Council Clones €377,250
Monaghan Monaghan County Council Ballybay €410,400
Monaghan Monaghan County Council Carrickmacross €632,000
Offaly Offaly County Council Edenderry €75,000
Roscommon Roscommon Integrated Development Company Ltd Ballaghdarreen €20,250
Sligo Sligo County Council Enniscrone €131,250
Waterford Waterford Leader Partnership Blackwater Valley €128,842
Westmeath Westmeath County Council Kinnegad €600,000
Wexford Wexford County Council Gorey €95,224
Wexford Wexford County Council Ferrycarraig and the Hook Peninsuala €1,087,340
Wexford Wexford County Council New Ross €328,407
Wexford Wexford County Council Gorey €429,145

Rural Regeneration and Development Fund

 229. Deputy Dara Calleary Information on Dara Calleary Zoom on Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring the amount of the €55 million funding allocated to the rural regeneration and development fund in 2019 or the planned initial funding of €315 million to the fund on a phased basis over the period 2019 to 2022 that will be reprofiled to another Department following spending overruns; and the amount being reprofiled from the fund for the allocations announced to date. [8767/19]

Minister for Rural and Community Development (Deputy Michael Ring): Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring Under Project Ireland 2040, the Government has committed €1 billion to the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund over a 10 year period to support rural economic development and help build strong communities. The Fund has been allocated €315m over the period 2019 to 2022 and the various allocations over that period will be confirmed as part of the annual budgetary process. Certain projects under the fund are multi-annual and this will also be provided for.

I do not expect the overall 4 year allocation for the Fund to be impacted by any re-profiling taken to address capital funding shortfalls elsewhere and my Department remains focused on delivering on its mission with the aid of the vote allocated to us for that purpose. Indeed, in respect of the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund, just last week in Castleblayney, Co. Monaghan I announced the details of 66 projects which were successful in the first call under the Fund. These projects will benefit from €62m in funding from the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund and are worth €83m in total investment for rural communities. Combined with the first announcement I made in November 2018 of 18 successful projects, the Fund has made available a total of €86m in funding to enable projects worth €117m to be delivered across every county in the country.

Further to the above, I also expect to be in a position shortly to launch a second call for applications under the Fund. I am satisfied that the funding commitment is available to enable these projects and future projects to be delivered over the next four years.

Social Insurance

 230. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty the reason credits are not applied in the case of widower's and widow's payments for the purpose of availing of dental and optical benefits; her plans to amend the status quo in this regard; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8513/19]

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty Credited contributions (credits) can be awarded where a worker has a gap in their insurance record as a result of their absence from the workforce for reasons of, for example, unemployment, illness, or due to a statutory leave eg. maternity. Receipt of a social welfare payment, such as a widows pension, does not in itself automatically result in the award of credits and it is not proposed to change the position in this regard.

In relation to Treatment Benefit (TB), if a person is qualified for TB in their own right or as a dependent adult, based on their spouse/partners PRSI record at the time of their death, they will retain this entitlement until their circumstances change in relation to their marital/relationship status.

It should be noted that the award of credits alone would not confer entitlement to TB as the person would require a combination of paid and credited contributions to qualify.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

State Pension (Contributory)

 231. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty if a person (details supplied) is eligible to receive an increased pension and arrears following a recent pension review; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8527/19]

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty Since late September 2018, my Department has been examining the social insurance records of approximately 90,000 pensioners, born on or after 1 September 1946, who have a reduced rate State pension contributory entitlement on post Budget 2012 rate-bands. These payments are being reviewed under a new Total Contributions Approach (TCA) to pension calculation which includes provision for homecaring periods. My Department has already written to these pensioners to explain the process.

Where possible, my Department will use information already held to assist in these reviews. Additional information will be requested in writing from pensioners in relation to unexplained gaps in their social insurance record where required to complete their review.

Following a review of the social insurance record of the person concerned some unexplained gaps have been found in her social insurance record. A letter has issued to the person concerned requesting details of any periods of time spent in a parenting or caring capacity. Included in the letter are details on how to return the required information using the Department’s online services. This is the quickest and easiest way to provide the information required to complete the review. The letter also provides a dedicated telephone number to call if the person concerned has any difficulty using the online application. If the difficulties cannot be resolved over the phone, a paper application form will be sent to the pensioner for compilation.

On receipt of the requested information, the person’s state pension (contributory) pension will be reviewed and they will be informed of the outcome in writing. If an increase is due, it will be backdated to 30 March 2018. If no increase is due, the person concerned will continue to receive their current weekly rate of pension.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Illness Benefit Payments

 232. 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 the status of illness benefit payments for a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8540/19]

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 Illness Benefit and is certified and paid, including any arrears, up to 13th February 2019. If the person concerned remains ill and unfit for work, a further medical certificate should be submitted as soon as possible in order for further payments to issue.

  I trust this clarifies matters for the Deputy.

Illness Benefit Applications

 233. 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 the status of an illness benefit application by a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8580/19]

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty Illness Benefit is a payment for persons who are medically certified as being incapable of work and who satisfy certain PRSI (Pay Related Social Insurance) conditions. One of these conditions is that a person is required to have 104 reckonable PRSI contributions paid since entering insurable employment. The records of the Department show that the person concerned does not have the required amount of PRSI contributions paid and as a result she will not qualify for payment of Illness Benefit at this time.

  If the person concerned considers that she may have more PRSI contributions than is recorded by the Department she should provide evidence of same and the current position will be re-examined.

   I trust this clarifies matters for the Deputy.

Data Protection

 234. 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 if the former data protection officer (details supplied) of her Department has been reassigned from their role or transferred to another Department or location; the reason this person ceased to be the DPO of her Department; the date on which this occurred; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8585/19]

 237. 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 if breaches of Article 38.3 GDPR (details supplied) have occurred and been brought to her attention since its introduction; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8667/19]

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty I propose to take Questions Nos. 234 and 237 together.

Articles 37, 38 and 39 of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) deal with the appointment and role of a Data Protection Officer (DPO). All public authorities and bodies including Government Departments are required to designate a DPO. My Department has assigned the DPO role to a senior manager at Principal level and also assigned considerable staff resources to support the DPO in fulfilling the requirements of the role set out in the GDPR.

As the Deputy is aware, Article 38.3 provides for the DPO to be independent in the conduct of his / her tasks and not receive any instructions regarding the exercise of those tasks. The Department is fully satisfied that the DPO is given the required independence and autonomy. The Department does not interfere in any way with the DPO's independent functions, nor does it instruct the DPO in the exercise of DPO duties.

Over the past number of weeks a significant number of reassignments have taken place at Principal level in the Department. Opportunities for these moves arose as vacancies were created by retirements and promotions of serving Principals. The Department is conscious of the development needs of its staff and considers it important to provide staff with the chance to expand their personal experience and develop their careers. Movements of staff between functions also facilitates cross-fertilisation of knowledge and builds organisation resilience. The retirement and promotion of a number of staff at Principal level provided the Department with the opportunity to reassign almost 30% of Principals with a view to achieving these objectives. In this context the Principal performing the role of DPO was one of the Principals assigned to another role. A serving Principal with a significant knowledge of data protection issues has now been assigned to the DPO role.

Irish Language

 235. 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 progress made on implementing all aspects of the 20-Year Strategy for the Irish Language 2010 to 2030 that are relevant to her Department and bodies under her remit; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8619/19]

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty My Department is represented on the Inter-Departmental Group for the Government's 20 Year Strategy for the Irish Language 2010-2030 and officials are familiar with the objectives of the Strategy.

  The Department’s Language Scheme 2015 – 2018, which took effect from 16 March 2015, sets out the Department’s commitments to customer service in Irish and advises of the availability of services through Irish. The Scheme, which was published on the Department’s website, sets out how our services will be improved during the life of the Scheme. This Scheme was developed within the policy context of the '20 Year Strategy for the Irish Language 2010-2030' and has been informed by submissions received from our customers and staff. The Department’s new Scheme 2019-2022, which will come into effect from 26 February 2019, continues to expand on these commitments.

  My Department is committed to providing quality services to its customers in either Irish or English as required by the customer and as set out in our Language Scheme 2015 – 2018, Customer Charter and Customer Action Plan 2016 – 2018. In accordance with our obligations under the Official Languages Act (OLA), letters and emails received in Irish are replied to in Irish; headings of stationery are provided in Irish or bilingually; all recorded oral announcements are bilingual; documents setting out public policy proposals, financial statements, annual reports and strategy statements are published bilingually on the Department’s website; signage in Departmental offices is compliant with OLA and Regulations; circulars / mailshots are bilingual; the official place names of Gaeltacht areas are used by the Department.

  The following public offices of my Department are located in Gaeltacht areas: Acaill, An Clochán Liath and Beal an Mhuirthead Intreo Centres and An Daingean branch office and all of these offices provide a full service through Irish.

  The Department’s web-site, www.welfare.ie, is a critical information service to customers, providing application forms and details of available schemes and services. In addition, notices advising customers of the availability of services through Irish are displayed in all relevant offices.

  Staff members who volunteer to provide services through Irish are encouraged and supported by the Department’s Staff Development Unit to attend Irish training courses. Staff are supported on an ongoing basis to complete Certificate in Professional Irish (NFQ levels 3 to 6) with Gaelchultúr. The Department has assessed Irish language training requirements through consultation with managers and staff and arranged for Irish language training for staff. During 2017 and 2018, in-house training was delivered at the regional locations of Athlone, Galway, Roscommon and Longford by Gaelchultúr. Pre-entry language proficiency assessments are provided by Gaelchultúr to ensure staff members are supported to attend the appropriate level.

  As part of my Department’s workforce planning process, and in order to deliver on commitments under the Department’s Irish Language Scheme, the Department in consultation with Managers reviews the locations where staff are required to provide a service to customers in Irish. When a post becomes vacant in a location where a functional bi-lingual is required, my Department seeks to have it filled from panels established by the Public Appointments Service. Currently, there are 184 people serving in both Branch Offices and Departmental offices who are available to deliver services through Irish.

  The Department’s staff are familiar with their obligations under the Official Language Act and Regulations. In areas where the staff available are unable to deal with a person through Irish, a language interpretive service is offered to the customer. This service, which can be arranged at very short notice, can be provided either by 3-way phone call, or in-person, as required.

  The Department has also ensured that the obligations under the Official Languages Act and Language Scheme are brought to the attention of staff at relevant staff training courses including new entrant induction courses and managers training courses. To this end, Irish Language Training is promoted by Staff Development Unit in “Meet & Greet”, “Induction & Orientation”, and “Frontline Customer Service” Training. Obligations under the Official Languages Act are specifically referenced throughout, with emphasis also placed on Departmental interpretation and translation services and language training supports, including Refund of Fees.

  My Department has given serious consideration to ensuring that the significant changes in the way the Department will do its business in the future takes account of the preference that some of our customers have to interact with us through Irish.

  The government-wide platform MyGovID is a single, secure, online identity and access portal that provides access to a range of government services. To enable the Department’s customers to access personalised and online welfare services the Department has also built a secure, online customer-facing portal called MyWelfare. All services and information within www.MyGovid.ie, www.MyWelfare.ie and www.WelfarePartners.ie are available to customers in both Irish and English. No service can go live without both languages being fully available and functional.

  Finally, the Corporate Planning Unit in my Department has specific responsibility for monitoring the implementation of the Official Languages Act 2003 and the Department’s Language Scheme and the Unit acts as liaison with Oifig an Choimisinéara Teanga and with the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and provides reports and other information as required.

Paternity Benefit

 236. Deputy Brendan Griffin Information on Brendan Griffin Zoom on Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty if paternity benefit will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8632/19]

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty A claim for paternity benefit from the person concerned was received outside of the prescribed time limits and as a result it was not initially awarded. Further information was requested in relation to the claim and the reason that it was submitted late to the department. Following receipt of this information a review of the decision has now been made and I can confirm that a decision was made on 18th February 2019 awarding the benefit.

  A decision letter is in the post and payment will issue shortly to the person concerned.

  I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Question No. 237 answered with Question No. 234.

Community Employment Schemes Supervisors

 238. Deputy Anne Rabbitte Information on Anne Rabbitte Zoom on Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty the weekly cost of paying one full-time equivalent community employment worker. [8723/19]

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty There are 4 points on the Community Employment (CE) supervisor pay scale. Over 75% of CE supervisors are on point 4 which equates to an average cost of €40,309 annually or a weekly rate of €772.50.

  The following is the % break down of supervisors on the pay scale:

Point on Salary Scale Weely Salary Annual Salary % number of supervisors
Point 1 €639.61 €33,374.84 9.4
Point 2 €683.86 €35,683.81 8
Point 3 €728.14 €37,994.34 7.4
Point 4 €772.50 €40,309.05 75.2

Public Sector Staff Retirements

 239. Deputy Catherine Martin Information on Catherine Martin Zoom on Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty if those in the public sector who were set to retire at 65 years of age would be entitled to jobseeker's allowance until they reach 67 years of age in view of the changes to the compulsory retirement age in December 2018; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8725/19]

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty The Social Welfare and Pensions Act 2011 provided that State pension age will be increased gradually to 68 years from its current age of 66. The first increase to 67 years of age will occur in 2021 and the second to 68 years of age in 2028. The purpose of these changes is to make the pension system more sustainable in the context of increasing life expectancy. This has significant implications for the future costs of State pension provision which are currently increasing by roughly €1 billion every 5 years.

The age at which employees retire is a matter for the contract of employment between them and their employers. Where a person exits the workforce before reaching State pension age they may apply for either the jobseeker’s benefit (JB) or jobseeker’s allowance (JA) schemes. Jobseeker’s payments are paid to eligible jobseekers aged 18 to 66 years subject to them satisfying the rules of the schemes. Where qualified, these recipients may continue to be eligible for that payment until reaching pension age.

The Public Service Superannuation (Age of Retirement) Act 2018 announced by my colleague, the Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform, last year provides that most public sector employees who were recruited before 1 April 2004, other than designated uniform grades and who did not reach their compulsory retirement age of 65 before 26 December 2018, now have a new compulsory retirement age of 70. People who joined the public service before 1 April 2004 previously had to retire at age 65. Now they can choose to work to age 70 on existing terms and conditions, subject to the normal standards of health and performance that apply to all staff. Any person who chooses to retire before 70 may be entitled to support under the jobseekers schemes or the State pension as theretofore.

I trust that this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.


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