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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 176-196
 Header Item Departmental Contracts Data
 Header Item Airport Security
 Header Item Public Transport
 Header Item Roads Maintenance
 Header Item Transport Infrastructure Ireland Data
 Header Item Public Transport Data
 Header Item Public Transport
 Header Item Bus Services
 Header Item National Transport Authority
 Header Item Children in Care
 Header Item Departmental Contracts Data
 Header Item UN Conventions Ratification
 Header Item Dog Licences
 Header Item Rural Regeneration and Development Fund
 Header Item Departmental Contracts Data
 Header Item Departmental Budgets
 Header Item Public Participation Networks
 Header Item State Pensions
 Header Item Pensions Reform
 Header Item JobPath Data
 Header Item Public Sector Pensions

Thursday, 11 April 2019

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 981 No. 8

First Page Previous Page Page of 60 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 176-196

Departmental Contracts Data

 176. Deputy Robert Troy Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Shane Ross Zoom on Shane Ross the State contracts awarded to a company (details supplied) over the past seven years; and the contracts delivered according to the original contract. [17121/19]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Shane Ross): Information on Shane Ross Zoom on Shane Ross The information requested by the Deputy is currently being collated by my officials and will be forwarded to the Deputy within 10 working days. 

The following deferred reply was received under Standing Order 42A

I refer to Parliamentary Question No. 176 (17121/19), “To ask the Minister for Transport; Tourism and Sport the State contracts awarded to a company (details supplied) over the past seven years; and the contracts delivered according to the original contract.”

  My Department has not awarded any State contracts to the company in question over the past seven years.

Airport Security

 177. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Shane Ross Zoom on Shane Ross further to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 307 and 308 of 4 April 2019, the reason an executive summary of the report cannot be published on the competence of the IAA after a recent oversight audit on security matters which are of essential importance to the public interest; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that an appeal will be made to the Office of the Information Commissioner if a summary is not forthcoming; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [17122/19]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Shane Ross): Information on Shane Ross Zoom on Shane Ross The report to which the Deputy refers is a recent European Commission inspection of the Irish Aviation Authority, which is the Appropriate Authority in the State under EC Regulation No 300/2008 on common rules in the field of civil aviation security.

  This report is classified as EU Restricted which means that the disclosure of the information contained could be disadvantageous to the EU or one or more of its member states.

  It includes findings that identify security issues specific to individual regulated entities. Hence the reports content is restricted so as not to enable such details be released into the public domain.

  I am unable to comment further on the report or its contents.

Public Transport

 178. Deputy Eamon Ryan Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Shane Ross Zoom on Shane Ross the estimated cost to provide free nationwide public transport to persons in full-time education. [17178/19]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Shane Ross): Information on Shane Ross Zoom on Shane Ross The National Transport Authority (NTA) has responsibility for public transport fares and I have therefore forwarded the Deputy's question to the NTA for direct reply.  Please advise my private office if a response is not received within ten working days.

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deputy under Standing Order 42A

Roads Maintenance

 179. Deputy Eamon Ryan Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Shane Ross Zoom on Shane Ross the amount spent on road maintenance in each year since 1992 by local, regional and national roads. [17179/19]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Shane Ross): Information on Shane Ross Zoom on Shane Ross The improvement and maintenance of regional and local roads is the statutory responsibility of the relevant local authority in accordance with the provisions of Section 13 of the Roads Act 1993. Works on those roads are funded from the Council's own resources supplemented by State road grants.  Details of the regional and local road grant allocations and payments to local authorities are outlined in the regional and local road grant booklets which are available in the Dáil Library. 

The tables included in the payment and allocation booklets outline expenditure by type of grant programme.  Most of the expenditure allocated for regional and local roads under the National Development Plan is being directed towards road maintenance and renewal.  For example, this year Exchequer funding  of €483 million is being invested  and €65 million of that is for the Strategic and Specific road improvement programmes.  It is also the case that, within the amount of €65 million, that €15.6 million earmarked for the smaller scale road improvement schemes includes provision for bridge rehabilitation and safety schemes.

 As regards national roads, within its annual budget, allocations to individual local authorities is a matter for Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII).  I have, therefore, referred the Deputy's Question to TII for direct reply. Please advise my private office if a reply is not received within 10 working days.

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deputy under Standing Order 42A

Transport Infrastructure Ireland Data

 180. Deputy Eamon Ryan Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Shane Ross Zoom on Shane Ross the new road infrastructure projects contractually committed to or under construction; and the cost of each. [17180/19]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Shane Ross): Information on Shane Ross Zoom on Shane Ross As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, I have responsibility for overall policy and funding in relation to the national roads programme under the National Development Plan (NDP).  Under the Roads Acts 1993-2015, the planning, design and construction of individual national roads is a matter for Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) in conjunction with the local authorities concerned. 

  Noting the above position, I have referred the questions to the TII for a direct reply.  Please advise my private office if a reply is not received within 10 working days.

  The improvement and maintenance of regional and local roads is the statutory responsibility of the relevant local authority in accordance with the provisions of Section 13 of the Roads Act 1993. Works on those roads are funded from the Council's own resources supplemented by State road grants.  Each local authority is the contracting authority for the purpose of implementation of regional and local road improvement projects. 

  Under the National Development Plan, my Department is committed at present to providing grant funding towards the cost of 12 capital road improvement schemes.  As indicated previously to the Deputy, the status and current estimated cost for each of these schemes is set out in the following table.

Name of Project Total Cost of Project €m Brief Description of Current Status of Project Project Completion Date
R407 Sallins By Pass 57 At Construction. 2020
Coonagh to Knockalisheen 52 At land acquisition stage & preparation of tender documents 2022
Athy Southern Distributor Road 34 At land acquisition stage and advance works 2023
Shannon Crossing/Kilalloe Bypass/R494 Upgrade 62 At land acquisition stage, site investigation and detailed design 2023
Eastern Garavogue Bridge and Approach Road (DTTaS element) 20 Land acquisition, advance works and preparation of contract documents. 2022
Adamstown & Nangor Road Upgrades 18 At Construction stage 2019
Sligo Western Distributor Road (DTTaS element) 15 At Construction stage 2020
R498 Latteragh realignment 15 At planning stage 2022
Tralee Northern Relief Road 11 At Detailed Appraisal 2021
Portlaoise Southern Distributor Road 7 At Construction 2019
Laytown to Bettystown Link Road 5 At planning stage 2020
Dingle Relief Road 4 At Construction stage 2019

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deputy under Standing Order 42A

Public Transport Data

 181. Deputy Eamon Ryan Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Shane Ross Zoom on Shane Ross the public transport projects contractually committed to or under construction; and the cost of each. [17181/19]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Shane Ross): Information on Shane Ross Zoom on Shane Ross The information sought by the Deputy is available on the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform's online "Investment Projects and Programmes Tracker" at:

  www.per.gov.ie/wp-content/uploads/Investment-Projects-and-Programmes-Tracker-2018-Revised-version-8th-March-2019.xlsx. 

Public Transport

 182. Deputy Eamon Ryan Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Shane Ross Zoom on Shane Ross the investigation carried out of the investment and operational support which would be needed to establish an integrated public transport service providing a level of service comparable to the best systems in other European countries; and if he will provide documents resulting from this research. [17182/19]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Shane Ross): Information on Shane Ross Zoom on Shane Ross As the Deputy is aware the National Transport Authority (NTA) has a statutory responsibility to develop a Transport Strategy for the Greater Dublin Area. The most recent Strategy, which incorporates plans for both infrastructural and service developments, was approved by the then  Minister in early 2016. The Strategy must be reviewed every six years and work on that review will commence in 2020.

In relation to the 4 other cities, the NTA is working in close co-operation with relevant local authorities in developing and implementing a transport strategy for each of these cities. Galway City Council published its Strategy in 2016, Cork local authorities expect to publish a draft Cork Metropolitan Area Transport Strategy shortly, while consultations on both  Limerick and Waterford transport strategies are expected to commence later in 2019.

Noting the NTA's responsibility in the matter, I have referred the Deputy's question to the NTA for a more detailed reply.  Please contact my private office if a reply is not received within 10 days.

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deputy under Standing Order 42A

Bus Services

 183. Deputy Peadar Tóibín Information on Peadar Tóibín Zoom on Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Shane Ross Zoom on Shane Ross when the 115A bus morning and evening peak period through service will be reinstated as promised by the NTA in November 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17183/19]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Shane Ross): Information on Shane Ross Zoom on Shane Ross The issue raised is an operational matter for the National Transport Authority (NTA) in conjunction with Bus Éireann and I have forwarded the Deputy's question to the NTA for direct reply.  Please advise my private office if a response is not received within ten working days.

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deputy under Standing Order 42A

National Transport Authority

 184. Deputy Róisín Shortall Information on Róisín Shortall Zoom on Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Shane Ross Zoom on Shane Ross if it is a statutory requirement of the National Transport Authority to attend local authority meetings on transport if it is requested to do so.  [17185/19]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Shane Ross): Information on Shane Ross Zoom on Shane Ross I am aware that the National Transport Authority (NTA) is always willing to facilitate attendance at meetings of local authorities whenever possible. I am advised for instance that the Chief Executive of the NTA recently attended meetings of Wicklow and Kildare County Councils. However, there is no statutory requirement of the NTA to attend local authority meetings.

Section 42 of the Dublin Transport Authority Act 2008 requires the NTA to "keep itself informed of the policies, objectives, resolutions and guidelines of any public authority, the functions of which have, or may have, a bearing on the matters with which the Authority is concerned."

Children in Care

 185. Deputy Clare Daly Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone the proportion of children in care who received criminal charges while in the care of the State in each of the years 2016 to 2018.  [16996/19]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, does not collate national data in respect of children in care and their involvement in the criminal justice system.  Information regarding individual children in care  would be known to the child's social worker, team leader,  principal social worker and foster carer or residential care staff, and would inform the child's care and placement plan. 

Oberstown Detention Centre collates information about  children in care who are detained there. I have been informed by Tusla that they engage with Oberstown Detention Centre to ensure that all children/young people who are detained in Oberstown, and known to Tusla, receive appropriate support and intervention. 

Departmental Contracts Data

 186. Deputy Robert Troy Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone the State contracts awarded to a company (details supplied) over the past seven years; and the contracts delivered according to the original contract. [17108/19]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone My Department has awarded no contracts to this company to date. 

  Tusla, the Adoption Authority of Ireland and Oberstown Children Detention Campus have also confirmed that they have held no contracts with this company.

  I have referred the question to the Ombudsman for Children's Office and asked them to provide the information sought directly to the Deputy.

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deputy under Standing Order 42A

UN Conventions Ratification

 187. Deputy Róisín Shortall Information on Róisín Shortall Zoom on Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone the reason for the continued delay in the State ratifying the second optional protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography; and the rationale for the State not ratifying the protocol. [17127/19]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone I am firmly committed to the ratification of the Second Optional Protocol to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. To date, ratification has been pending to ensure that all of the necessary arrangements are in place to comply with the obligations of the Optional Protocol. The recent enactment of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2017 and the Criminal Justice (Victims of Crime) Act 2017 constitute key steps on the pathway to the ratification of the Optional Protocol and fulfil a number of its requirements.

My Department has recently completed a substantive review of Ireland’s compliance with the Optional Protocol’s provisions, which has been submitted to the Office of the Attorney General for its advice. Once approved, I will seek Government approval to ratify the Optional Protocol at the earliest opportunity.

Dog Licences

 188. Deputy Louise O'Reilly Information on Louise O'Reilly Zoom on Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring if his attention has been drawn to a survey (details supplied); his views on the potential loss of revenue in view of the low rate of dog licences paid for in comparison to the level of dog ownership indicated by the survey; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17012/19]

Minister of State at the Department of Rural and Community Development (Deputy Seán Canney): Information on Seán Canney Zoom on Seán Canney I am aware of the industry survey by pet food manufacturers in Ireland which is referenced by the Deputy.

Information supplied by local authorities to my Department for 2017 shows that the number of individual dog licences issued was nearly 200,000 and the number of licences issued for having more than one dog was over 800.  Information relating to the number of people who own a dog but do not have a dog licence is not available in my Department. 

It is a legal requirement for all dog owners to have a dog licence. In 2018, to make it easier to purchase a licence, local authorities rolled out a new online system for the purchase of dog licences. Licences can now be purchased online, at Post Offices or at local authority offices.   This initiative demonstrates the commitment of local authorities to driving efficiencies and modernising to meet the needs of citizens. Furthermore, I understand that mobile access and reporting facilities, which will assist detection and evasion, will be enabled for the local authority dog warden service later this year. 

Under the Control of Dogs Acts, local authorities are responsible for licensing services in their areas and my Department is not involved in this operational activity.   

Rural Regeneration and Development Fund

 189. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin Information on Eoin Ó Broin Zoom on Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring if material changes to proposals approved under category 1 require approval; and reapplication; and if it is acceptable to proceed with amended proposals on condition of meeting the relevant fund criteria regarding the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund. [17034/19]

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.   A total of 84 projects were successful under the first call - 38 Category 1 projects and 46 Category 2 projects -  and support of €86m was allocated from the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund.  The combined value of the projects, taking account of matched funding provided from other sources, totals €117m.  

As part of the application process, which was competitive in nature, lead parties were required to set out a detailed project proposal.  Project proposals were thereafter subject to a comprehensive evaluation process, involving assessment by my Department under the oversight of an independent Project Advisory Board, established to assist in making recommendations on the suitability of applications for funding.  Recommendations were identified based on the assessment undertaken, the observation of Board members, and the extent to which project proposals aligned with the objectives of the Fund. 

Successful applicants enter into a contractual arrangement with the Department to deliver as planned. Funding is in principle and subject to completion of final due diligence and oversight of any emerging procurement costs. It is a condition of the approved funding that it must be used solely for the activities set out in the project proposal.  If a case were to arise in which a material change was proposed in respect of a project which was selected for funding, my Department should be notified immediately. My Department would then engage with the lead party for the project and formulate an appropriate course of action based on full knowledge of the circumstances.

Departmental Contracts Data

 190. Deputy Robert Troy Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring the State contracts awarded to a company (details supplied) over the past seven years; and the contracts delivered according to the original contract. [17120/19]

Minister for Rural and Community Development (Deputy Michael Ring): Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring I can confirm that my Department has not awarded any State contracts to the company in question since the Department was established in July 2017.

Departmental Budgets

 191. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring the projects and initiatives that will be affected in 2019 as a result of the €3 million adjustment of the further Revised Estimates in the 2019 Vote of his Department.  [17123/19]

Minister for Rural and Community Development (Deputy Michael Ring): Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring The Further Revised Estimates 2019 for the Department of Rural and Community Development provided for an adjustment from €55 million to €52 million for the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund (RRDF).

Under Project Ireland 2040, the Government has committed €1 billion to the RRDF over a 10 year period to support rural economic development and to help build strong communities. The RRDF is a multiannual programme, with the National Development Plan providing for an allocation of €315 million over the four year period 2019 to 2022.

Whilst each annual allocation remains to be confirmed as part of the annual budgetary process, the €315 million allocation for the period 2019-2022 remains unchanged. Therefore, no projects will be adversely impacted by the re-profiling required in 2019.

In total 84 projects have been allocated funding of €86 million under the first funding call. Together with match funding, this will enable projects worth €117 million to be delivered across the country. I expect to be in a position shortly to launch a second call for applications under the RRDF. The funding allocation remains available to deliver these and future projects over the coming years.

Public Participation Networks

 192. Deputy Róisín Shortall Information on Róisín Shortall Zoom on Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring the statutory requirements for local authorities in relation to development and support of public participation networks; and the percentage of the State currently covered by a PPN.  [17187/19]

Minister of State at the Department of Rural and Community Development (Deputy Seán Canney): Information on Seán Canney Zoom on Seán Canney Section 46 of the Local Government Reform Act 2014 provides the legislative basis which gives effect to the Framework for Public Participation and the Public Participation Networks (PPNs). This Act, which amends section 127 of the Local Government Act 2001, requires each local authority, in accordance with general policy guidelines issued by the Minister, to adopt a Framework for Public Participation in Local Government for the purposes of promoting, developing and implementing a coherent and integrated approach to participation in decision-making processes of the local authority.

General guidelines on the operation of PPNs were issued by the Department in 2014, followed by a number of Departmental Circular Letters and a PPN User Guide in 2016, which is currently being reviewed.

PPNs have been established in all local authority areas.  Some are more firmly established than others, largely reflecting the timing of set-up arrangements, the recruitment of resource workers and the formation of the various groupings required for PPNs to function.  Nonetheless, substantial progress has been made in the ongoing development of PPNs since their initial establishment, with over 15,000 member groups recorded nationally at the end of 2018. I am aware that Limerick PPN is not currently operational and my officials are working closely with Limerick City and County Council to have the PPN re-established as soon as possible.

Since 2015, up to €50,000 has been provided annually by my Department in respect of each PPN, provided this was supplemented by a minimum of €30,000 from the local authorities' own resources. Other supports provided by the local authorities include the provision of office accommodation and equipment,  reimbursement of PPN representatives' expenses for those members who sit on local authority boards or committees and a contribution towards the cost of the recruitment of a PPN Support Worker in 2019, to assist the PPN Resource Worker.

In addition, two local authority officials represent the local authority sector on the National PPN Advisory Group, which advises and supports the Department in relation to the ongoing development of PPNs.

State Pensions

 193. Deputy Seán Haughey Information on Seán Haughey Zoom on Seán Haughey asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty when the review of State pensions paid to pensioners who took time to care for children will be completed; when increases in the rate of payment due to these pensioners will be awarded; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [17000/19]

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 based 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.

Wherever possible, reviews will be processed based on information already held by the Department.  Where additional information is required about gap periods in a person's social insurance record, a written request will issue.  Over 36,900 requests for information have been issued.  

Reviews commenced from 13 February 2019, the day after I signed the necessary Regulations which, together with provisions in the Social Welfare, Pensions and Civil Registrations Act 2018, allows the increased payments to be made.  As at 2 April 2019, 13,915 reviews have been completed and review outcomes issued.  The remaining review outcomes will issue as individual reviews are completed.  

Regardless of when a review is conducted, where an increase in payment is due, the person's rate of payment will be adjusted without delay and arrears issued backdated to 30 March 2018, or the person's 66th birthday if later.  Where a person's rate does not increase following a review, the person will continue to receive their existing rate of payment. 

It will take a number of months to complete the reviews due to the numbers involved and the individual nature of social insurance records.  This work will continue until all identified pensioners receive their review outcome. 

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Pensions Reform

 194. Deputy John Brady Information on John Brady Zoom on John Brady asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty the rationale for the decision to increase the pension age to 67 years of age in 2021 and 68 years of age in 2028; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17003/19]

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty It is well known that people are living longer lives.  For example, based on CSO figures, a 65 year old man in 1996 would have had life expectancy of 13.8 years (i.e. they could expect, on average, to live to 78.8), whereas by 2011 this had increased to 17.7 years, an increase of over 28%.  Over the same period, the life expectancy of a 65 year old woman increased from 17.4 years to 20.6, an increase of over 18%.  In other words, average life expectancy rose by over 23% in a period of just 15 years.  These changes are obviously very positive, but it is equally obvious that they result in significantly increased pension costs, if people continue to retire aged 65.

As a result of this demographic trend, the number of State pension recipients is increasing year on year.  This has significant implications for the future costs of State pension provision which are currently increasing by approximately €1 billion every 5 years, and more when recent rate increases are taken into account.  For example, the cost of my Department's pension payments rose from €7.1 billion in 2016 to €7.75 billion in 2018, an increase of €650m (or 9.2%) in 2 years.  For comparison, the Consumer Price Index rose by 0.5% in the 2-year period from January 2016 to January 2018, and by 1.1% in the period from December 2016 to December 2018.

This trend is not expected to cease.  In the coming decades, the ratio of people of working age to pensioners is set to halve, from about five workers for each pensioner, to about two and a half workers per pensioner.  This clearly has significant implications for the viability of the state pension system, based as it is on a pay-as-you-go basis.

The purpose of changes to the State pension age is to make the pension system more sustainable in the context of increasing life expectancy.  If there is no change in State pension age, the proportion of a person's life spent in retirement will increase to levels where current workers will no longer be able to support current pensioners.

This sustainability is vital, if the current workers, who fund State pension payments through their PRSI, are to receive a pension themselves when they reach retirement age.  Therefore, the Social Welfare and Pensions Act 2011 provided that State pension age will be increased gradually to 68 years.  This began in January 2014 with the abolition of the State pension (transition) which was available to people aged 65 who had retired and who satisfied the PRSI qualifying conditions.  This standardised the State pension age for all at 66 years (it was already 66 for non-contributory pensioners, and for contributory pensioners who worked to 66 or older).  This will increase to 67 in 2021 and to 68 in 2028.  The savings from these increases will assist in maintaining the sustainability of the overall state pension system, and make it more feasible for the rate of payment to grow in line with prices and/or average earnings in the future. 

Jobseekers Benefit is payable subject to the person satisfying the general scheme conditions.  This entitlement is normally paid for 9 months (234 days) for people with 260 or more PRSI contributions paid and for 6 months (156 days) for people with fewer than 260 PRSI contributions paid.  Arrangements are in place to provide that jobseekers whose benefit expires in their 65th year can generally continue to be paid benefit up until pensionable age (currently their 66th birthday) provided they satisfy the necessary contribution conditions.  The jobseekers schemes are kept under review and any further changes, including entitlement beyond the 66th year, will be considered in that context.

It is important to remember that there is no legally mandated retirement age in the State, and the age at which employees retire is a matter for the contract of employment between them and their employers.  While such a contract may have been entered into with a retirement date of 65, in the context of the previous State pension arrangements, there is no legal impediment to the employer and employee agreeing to increase the duration of employment for one or more years, if both parties wish to do so.  In this regard, the Workplace Relations Commission has produced a Code of Practice on Longer Working and the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) has published guidance material for employers on the use of fixed-term contracts beyond normal retirement age.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

JobPath Data

 195. Deputy John Brady Information on John Brady Zoom on John Brady asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty the number of persons who have been referred to JobPath for a second and third time.  [17004/19]

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection provides a range of activation supports catering for long-term unemployed jobseekers and those most distant from the labour market to secure and sustain full-time paid employment. These supports include the JobPath service. 

My Department selects clients for the JobPath service by means of a random selection process. Protocols for selection currently preclude the selection of anyone who has already completed 52 weeks with the JobPath service within the previous four months. If, however, at the end of this period the jobseeker has not engaged in other activation supports and services, they then become eligible for selection for a subsequent period of activation on the JobPath service. This is necessary to ensure that they continue to receive a case management service.

To date, just over 23,900 jobseekers have commenced a second engagement period with the service, having previously availed of the service and 92 people have commenced a third engagement period.

Jobseekers referred for a subsequent referral will start working with a Personal Advisor who will review their development during their previous engagements with the service and together they will prepare a new personal progression plan to build on that progress. The actions and tasks agreed will be based on their previous engagements, with particular focus on any remaining barriers preventing the person from moving into full-time suitable employment.

Public Sector Pensions

 196. Deputy Peter Burke Information on Peter Burke Zoom on Peter Burke asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty the reason a person (details supplied) has not received increases to their pension; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17005/19]

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty The information requested by the Deputy  refers to Public Sector Pensions.  This is therefore not a matter for my Department and is proper to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.  The Deputy should raise this matter with my colleague, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. 


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