Houses of the Oireachtas

All parliamentary debates are now being published on our new website. The publication of debates on this website will cease in December 2018.

Go to oireachtas.ie

 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 84-108
 Header Item Heritage Sites
 Header Item Flood Relief Schemes
 Header Item Public Sector Staff
 Header Item Local Authority Funding
 Header Item Flood Prevention Measures
 Header Item Community Employment Schemes
 Header Item Flood Risk Management
 Header Item Garda Stations
 Header Item Public Sector Staff
 Header Item Roads Maintenance
 Header Item Public Sector Staff
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic
 Header Item Brexit Preparations
 Header Item Office of Public Works
 Header Item Flood Relief Schemes
 Header Item Departmental Staff
 Header Item Garda National Immigration Bureau
 Header Item Flood Prevention Measures
 Header Item Community Employment Schemes
 Header Item Special Educational Needs
 Header Item Third Level Staff
 Header Item Third Level Education
 Header Item Special Educational Needs

Tuesday, 30 June 2020

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 994 No. 4

First Page Previous Page Page of 92 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 84-108

Heritage Sites

 84. Deputy Joe O'Brien Information on Joe O'Brien Zoom on Joe O'Brien asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath if he will facilitate the longer opening of heritage sites outside of the traditional season in order to benefit from a potential increase in staycations and domestic holidays and in order to accommodate visitors and to avoid overcrowding sites during seasonal weeks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13091/20]

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Michael McGrath): Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath The Heritage Visitor sites managed by the Office of Public Works have been directly affected by the Covid-19 crisis with both the year-round and seasonal sites within the portfolio largely closed to the public during the shutdown.   These properties have however been reopening progressively since 18th May last when certain outdoor locations resumed and the position in relation to the remainder is being actively examined.  Currently, the OPW is working to resume operations at a broad range of remaining indoor sites in line with the Government's most recent Roadmap which indicated that the Museums and Galleries would reopen after 29th June.

Visitor sites within the portfolio will, when they resume, offer a changed service to members of the public in many cases with some restrictions evident in terms of the numbers who can be admitted, accessing confined spaces etc.   However, it is the firm intention of the OPW to support insofar as possible the re-invigoration of the domestic Irish tourism sector and to offer the best possible visitor experience to the public while still allowing for necessary Covid restrictions.   It is not at this stage clear what the extent of the visitor appetite will be and how long into the Autumn demand will be sustained, but the OPW will keep opening times for seasonal sites under review if it is clear that there is a significant demand, and will respond accordingly.  It ought to be borne in mind however that the visitor portfolio operates within defined financial parameters and that it may not be feasible in all cases to sustain a longer season if there is not a vibrant demand or if attractions cannot be staffed appropriately and safely. 

Flood Relief Schemes

 85. Deputy Johnny Mythen Information on Johnny Mythen Zoom on Johnny Mythen asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath the estimated or full cost of each flood relief scheme for the Glashaboy and Bride rivers in County Cork and the Slaney river, Enniscorthy, County Wexford; the status of each project; and the project which will commence first. [13233/20]

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Michael McGrath): Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath Please see below the information requested in tabular form:

  Estimated full Project Cost Current Status Construction Start Date
Glashaboy FRS c. €13.9m Confirmation Stage - awaiting Confirmation Expected Q3 2021
Blackpool FRS c. €20.5m Confirmation Stage - awaiting Confirmation Expected in first half of 2021
Enniscorthy FRS c. €50m Confirmation Stage - awaiting Confirmation Expected in second half of 2021
  The Blackpool and Glashaboy Flood Relief Schemes are currently undergoing assessment as part of the Confirmation process of the Minister for  Public Expenditure and Reform. Further information has been requested by the Minister as part of the environmental impact assessment which he is carrying out on both proposed Schemes.  This information is currently being prepared and is expected to be provided to the Minister by October 2020. The Confirmation process will be concluded by the Minister in the quickest possible time frame. 

  In relation to the Enniscorthy Scheme a request for tender of services for environmental consultants is currently being progressed by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. The public consultation phase is also due to be commenced by DPER shortly. 

  For all schemes it should be noted that estimated costs are based on current design and are pre-tender estimates and therefore subject to change. Once each scheme is Confirmed, the detailed design will be completed and a tender competition held to appoint a works contractor.  It is hoped that construction will commence on all three schemes in 2021.

Public Sector Staff

 86. Deputy Frankie Feighan Information on Frankie Feighan Zoom on Frankie Feighan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath the number of administrative officer positions in the public service that will become available in counties Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim, Mayo, Roscommon, Longford, Cavan and Monaghan over the next year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13632/20]

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Michael McGrath): Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath As the Deputy will be aware the Public Appointments Service (PAS) is an independent, statutory body which provides professional recruitment and selection services to the civil and public service. 

PAS advertised an Administrative Officer competition in October 2019 to fill vacancies which may arise in the Civil Service.  Vacancies are filled as and when required by employing Departments. The number of assignments depends on the demand from Departments/Offices and that demand is subject to their pay and numbers allocation.

Local Authority Funding

 87. Deputy Brendan Griffin Information on Brendan Griffin Zoom on Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath when funding will be provided to Kerry County Council to carry out repairs on the cliff at Dromature, Ballyheigue, County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12690/20]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Eamon Ryan): Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan I have been advised that an application submitted under the OPW Minor Flood Mitigation Works and Coastal Protection scheme by Kerry County Council for a project at Ballyheigue comprising the use of rock armour to stabilise the cliff is currently under consideration. The Council will be notified shortly of a decision.

Flood Prevention Measures

 88. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath when works will be commenced by Meath County Council following a successful voluntary homeowners relocation scheme application by persons (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12723/20]

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Michael McGrath): Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath Having identified the property in question for consideration, Meath County Council applied for funding under the Remedial Works element of the 2017 Voluntary Homeowners Relocation Scheme.

  The application was approved by the Commissioners of Public Works in Ireland on the 5th December 2019.

  I have been advised by Meath County Council that it aims to begin the process of engaging Consulting Engineers to carry out detailed design on this project in mid-July. The Council will endeavour to expedite the process of engagement of Consultants and Contractors toward commencing works in the last quarter 2020.

Community Employment Schemes

 89. Deputy David Cullinane Information on David Cullinane Zoom on David Cullinane asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath if, further to the passage of the motion on community employment pension scheme on 26 April 2018, he met with unions that represent community employment supervisors and assistant supervisors in order that negotiations could commence with a view to creating a process to bring this issue to finality. [12771/20]

 90. Deputy David Cullinane Information on David Cullinane Zoom on David Cullinane asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath if, further to the passage of the motion on community employment pension scheme on 26 April 2018, he made available the financial resources to address this issue. [12772/20]

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Michael McGrath): Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath I propose to take Questions Nos. 89 and 90 together.

This issue relates to a claim by community employment supervisors and assistant supervisors who have been seeking, through their union representatives, the allocation of Exchequer funding to implement a 2008 Labour Court recommendation relating to the provision of a pension scheme.

The matter was the subject of extensive discussion at the Community Sector High Level Forum which was reconvened to examine certain issues pertaining to the Community Employment sector and in particular to ensure that the matter was fully examined having regard to both costs and precedent in the context of the wider Community and Voluntary sector.  The membership of this Forum includes public service management and union representatives including the direct involvement of officials from my Department who  were involved in all stages of the in-depth deliberation process.

The implications arising from this claim extend well beyond the CE Supervisors and Assistant Supervisors cadre and could have  impacts across the entire Community and Voluntary sector (which may employ over 100,000 people).  While CE supervisors and assistant supervisors represent only a very small part of the wider community and voluntary sector, any explicit provision of State funding for such a scheme in respect of those employees would inevitably give rise to claims for similar schemes and funding provision on the part of those many thousands of workers in the broader sector. Accordingly there has to be regard to the full potential Exchequer exposure associated with setting such a precedent.

With this in mind, a detailed scoping exercise was carried out by my Department in 2017 in order to comprehensively examine and assess the full potential implications of the issues involved.

The scoping exercise found that this matter presents very significant issues for the Exchequer, with a potential cost exposure for the State of between €188m and €347m per annum (depending on the exact size of the sector which is difficult to ascertain) were consequential demands to be made to fund employer pension contributions for all similar State funded Community and Voluntary organisations whose employees are in a similar position to the Community Employment scheme supervisors.  This excludes any provision for immediate ex-gratia lump sum payment of pension for those imminently retiring, as sought, which could, depending on the size of the sector, give rise to a further Exchequer cost exposure of up to €318m.

It continues to be the position that state organisations are not the employer of the particular employees concerned and accordingly it is not a matter for the State to provide funding for occupational pension scheme provision in this regard.

As a newly appointed Minister, I intend to give careful consideration to this issue and I will engage directly with the relevant stakeholders in the period ahead. 

Flood Risk Management

 91. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan Information on Aindrias Moynihan Zoom on Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath the status of a project (details supplied) identified in the flood risk management plan; the part within the ten-year time frame it is listed to be progressed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12801/20]

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Michael McGrath): Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath In May 2018, I launched 29 Flood Risk Management Plans for the main river basins in Ireland, identifying a total of 118 flood relief projects to protect the main flood risk areas throughout the country.  These Plans and projects are a key part of the overall flood risk management strategy set out in the National Development Plan 2018 - 2027, involving total investment of almost €1 billion over the ten-year timeframe of that Plan.  

The flood relief projects identified in the Flood Risk Management Plans are to be funded under the Government's 10-year flood risk investment programme of almost €1 billion under the National Development Plan 2018 – 2027. 

 A proposed flood relief scheme at Inchigeelagh has been identified by the CFRAM programme to be progressed at a preliminary cost estimate of approximately €2.6 million.  This proposed scheme consists of flood walls and embankments and will protect 28 properties when completed.

As it is not possible to implement all of the 118 projects at the one time, a total of 60 projects have been prioritised for the initial tranche of investment and delivery, based on the level of risk and number of properties to be protected.  While the proposed scheme for Inchigeelagh is not in the first tranche of projects to be progressed, the OPW and the local authority will work closely to ensure that they will be commenced as soon as possible within the 10 year timeframe for the programme of investment.   

Once consultants are appointed to progress the scheme, consultation with statutory and non-statutory bodies, as well as the general public, will take place at the appropriate stages to ensure that all parties have the opportunity to input into the development of the scheme.

Garda Stations

 92. Deputy Frankie Feighan Information on Frankie Feighan Zoom on Frankie Feighan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath the cost-benefit analysis conducted by the OPW on the decision to divert as planned State funding away from a new Garda station in Sligo and instead to invest in remedial works at the current station and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12822/20]

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Michael McGrath): Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath A new Regional Garda station for Sligo was originally proposed by Garda Estates in late 2016.  OPW purchased, on behalf of the Garda Estates request, a site adjacent to an existing OPW owned site used by Social Protection near Sligo town for that purpose.  The Sligo site was to be used for a new Regional Garda Station as part of the Garda PPP bundle.  Sligo was to be a regional Garda HQ similar to the Wexford Regional HQ completed by OPW in autumn 2017.  In December of 2019 Gardai notified OPW and their parent Department, the Department of Justice and Equality, of revised Garda operational plans.  These revised Garda operational plans led to the omission of a new Regional Sligo Garda station from their PPP bundle.  

The Garda Commissioner decides Garda operational matters. 

In accordance with the Public Spending Code, it is the responsibility of the Sponsoring Agency, in this case the Gardai, to prepare (a) the Strategic Assessment Report and (b) develop the Business Plan to include an appropriate financial, economic and sensitivity appraisal. 

Public Sector Staff

 93. Deputy John McGuinness Information on John McGuinness Zoom on John McGuinness asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath further to Parliamentary Question No. 228 of 27 March 2018, if the staff at Shannon Commercial Properties that commenced their employment with Shannon Development will be redeployed as a matter of urgency in view of the length of time they have been on the redeployment list; the number of staff involved; if the Labour Relations Commission recommendation 21632 will be honoured; the efforts made since 2017 to redeploy the staff affected; if he will intervene to approve the redeployment; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [12866/20]

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Michael McGrath): Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath As the Deputy will be aware, the Public Service Agreements (PSAs) provided for agreed redeployment arrangements to apply in the civil service and in other parts of the public service.

  Redeployment was primarily a mechanism for the transfer of surplus staff to areas where appropriate vacancies exist.  However mobility is now the primary mechanism for staff to move across the Civil Service

  My Department remains responsible for redeployment in the civil service and non-commercial state bodies and these redeployments panels are operated by the Public Appointments Service (PAS).

  No Shannon Development staff assigned from the redeployment panel in the last 12 months. However I am advised that one member of staff was offered a position around March last year, however they turned it down as it was outside the 45km rule, and as such have remained on the panel. 

  It is the continued position that these staff will be redeployed when suitable vacancies become available.

  The redeployment panel and scheme will be reviewed by officials in my Department over the coming months, in collaboration with PAS.

Roads Maintenance

 94. Deputy Brendan Griffin Information on Brendan Griffin Zoom on Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath if repairs will be carried on a bridge on the River Maine at a location (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12870/20]

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Michael McGrath): Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath I have asked the Office of Public Works (OPW) to look into this matter and to revert directly to the Deputy.

Public Sector Staff

 95. Deputy Robert Troy Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath when the clerical officer positions advertised by the Public Appointments Service with an application closing date of 24 March 2020 will be filled. [12905/20]

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Michael McGrath): Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath As the Deputy will be aware the Public Appointments Service (PAS) is an independent, statutory body which provides professional recruitment and selection services to the civil and public service. 

   PAS advertised a nationwide Clerical Officer competition in March 2020 to fill vacancies which may arise in the Civil Service.  Vacancies will be filled as and when required by employing Departments. The number of assignments depends on the demand from Departments/Offices and that demand is subject to their pay and numbers allocation.

   All competitions are time bound and this is usually between 18 months and 2 years. This affords an opportunity for those on the panel to be recruited and also gives those not on the panel an opportunity to compete. While every effort is made to make sure that panels are not large, placement on panels is no guarantee of appointment to a position. 

Covid-19 Pandemic

 96. Deputy Marc MacSharry Information on Marc MacSharry Zoom on Marc MacSharry asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath if he has considered the introduction of measures to incentivise working from home in view of the ongoing capacity constraints across public transport and so on. [13017/20]

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Michael McGrath): Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath This response is in respect of the Civil and Public Service only.

Since March 2020 Civil Service employers and employees have been finding flexible solutions to address the challenges of the COVID-19 crisis.  These include a large proportion of civil and public servants working from home in the first instance, as well as the introduction of staggered hours and extended shift patterns to accommodate social-distancing requirements for those staff who must attend business premises. Such measures also ensure that more space is made available on our public transport, allowing those workers who must travel to work premises via public transport to do so.

My department has recently produced guidance for Civil Service employers to support the current home-working arrangements (Working from Home during COVID-19; Guidance for Civil Service Organisations).  Further guidance on remote working is being developed.

Brexit Preparations

 97. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath the construction of infrastructure projects the OPW is carrying out and-or has appointed a contractor for in respect of Brexit at each seaport and airport; when each construction project will be completed; the cost of same; and the projects that are the subject of conciliation. [13141/20]

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Michael McGrath): Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath The Office of Public Works has, on behalf of the relevant Government Departments and State agencies, completed a number of construction projects in Dublin Port, Dublin Airport and Rosslare Harbour to ensure that there are sufficient facilities in place to deal with the increase in official checks and controls that will arise as a result of the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union.

None of the construction projects complete to date are subject to conciliation.

It is envisaged that the further facilities will be provided in 2020 to expand upon, and supplement, the existing facilities.  Contractors will be appointed to these projects when the necessary statutory approvals are in place.

Office of Public Works

 98. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath his plans to review and update the terms of a licence regarding accommodation between the OPW and the Bar Council at the High Court; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13214/20]

 99. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath if a full schedule of rental accommodation and or office locations and fees received by the OPW from the Bar Council for the past five years to date will be provided. [13215/20]

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Michael McGrath): Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath I propose to take Questions Nos. 98 and 99 together.

I understand from the Commissioners of Public Works that the accommodation agreements in place between the OPW and the Bar Council relate to licensing arrangements to occupy the Law Library in the Four Courts.  These arrangements are complex and date back to the early 1800s when the original Law Library in the Old Four Courts was constructed with funds provided by the Benchers, the predecessors of the Bar Council.  

Since 1931, the occupation by the Bar Council at the Four Courts complex has been by way of historical licence agreements with the Commissioners of Public Works that currently remain in place.  Due to the nominal amount of rent set out in the licence agreements, the OPW is not in receipt of rent from the Bar Council.  

The management and provision of facilities at the Four Courts is a matter for the Courts Service to determine and there are no plans at present to alter the current licensing arrangements.

Flood Relief Schemes

 100. Deputy Pádraig O'Sullivan Information on Pádraig O'Sullivan Zoom on Pádraig O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath the timeline for the resumption of the Glashaboy flood relief scheme, Glanmire, County Cork; the details of the latest delay; the estimated timeline for the resumption and completion of works; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13251/20]

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Michael McGrath): Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath The Office of Public Works, under the provisions of the Arterial Drainage Acts, has submitted the proposal for the Glashaboy Flood Relief Scheme, accompanied by an Environmental Impact Assessment Report (EIAR) and Natura Impact Statement (NIS), to the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform for formal Confirmation.

On foot of the European Union (Environmental Impact Assessment) (Arterial Drainage) Regulations 2019, which were published in Iris Oifigiúl on 27 September 2019, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform has undertaken an environmental assessment of the proposed scheme in line with required legislative requirements. This involved an independent assessment of the EIAR / NIS and a public consultation process.

On the 5 May 2020, the Office of Public Works received correspondence from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform that the independent assessment is now complete. This correspondence has requested, pursuant to section 7(B) sub-section 4 of the 2019 European Union (Environmental Impact Assessment) (Arterial Drainage) Regulations, certain items of further information that are required to complete the process. My Office is currently preparing the additional information requested - which generally relates to further detail on the processes followed and assessments undertaken in developing the scheme - to be submitted to the Department in order that the assessment can be completed and the scheme confirmed by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform.  This information is currently scheduled to be provided to the Department no later than October 2020.

The procurement and appointment of a Contractor will be progressed for this scheme following formal Ministerial Confirmation.  The flood relief scheme will be funded from within the allocated €1 billion for flood risk management over the period 2018-2027. Provision for the cost of the Scheme is included in the Office of Public Works' multi annual capital allocation.

OPW is committed to funding this project and attends monthly steering meetings to offer every assistance to Cork City Council to ensure a contractor is engaged, and the works commence, as soon as possible.

Departmental Staff

 101. Deputy Jennifer Whitmore Information on Jennifer  Whitmore Zoom on Jennifer  Whitmore asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath if his Department has established a working from home policy for its employees; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13552/20]

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Michael McGrath): Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath In March of this year my department produced the document, DPER principles for remote working during the COVID-19 Crisis, which contains key principles for the large number of staff of the department that have been provided with remote working facilities as part of our response to COVID-19.

Since then, my department has developed guidelines for civil service organisations (Working from Home during COVID-19 – Guidance for Civil Service Organisations), which is intended to assist civil service organisations as long as necessary to address the health and safety risks of COVID-19.  These guidelines have issued recently.

My department has also commenced work on the development of a remote working policy which will address remote working in the longer term for the civil service.

Garda National Immigration Bureau

 102. Deputy Violet-Anne Wynne Information on Violet-Anne Wynne Zoom on Violet-Anne Wynne asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath if the Office of Public Works plans to refurbish the Garda immigration unit based at Shannon Airport; if so, when the work will commence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13610/20]

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Michael McGrath): Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath In consultation with An Garda Siochana, the Office of Public Works has designed new accommodation for An Garda Siochana at Shannon Airport, including the relocation of immigration desks.  In order to progress these works further, preliminary structural work needs to be undertaken by Shannon Airport Authority. The Office of Public Works is awaiting confirmation from Shannon Airport Authority in relation to these works in order to progress this project.

Flood Prevention Measures

 103. Deputy Violet-Anne Wynne Information on Violet-Anne Wynne Zoom on Violet-Anne Wynne asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath the reason a person (details supplied) did not satisfy the criteria for the voluntary homeowner's relocation scheme in 2016; the actions that will be taken to assist them; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13613/20]

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Michael McGrath): Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath In April 2017, the Government agreed the administrative arrangements for a once-off Voluntary Homeowners Relocation Scheme for those primary residential homes that flooded during the flooding event in Winter 2015/2016. The scheme was only applicable to a homeowner’s primary residence that flooded i.e. flood water entered and significantly damaged the building as a result of the flood event between 4th December 2015 and 13th January 2016 such that rendered it uninhabitable.

As the homeowners property referred to by the Deputy is located within the area to be defended by the proposed Springfield, Clonlara Flood Alleviation Scheme, the residence does not meet the criteria for this scheme.

This Flood Alleviation Scheme is being progressed by Clare County Council (CCC) with support from the OPW. The engineering design consultants have finalised the Stage I options report and updated the planning report for the scheme in light of updated survey information and consultations with relevant stakeholders and with CCC and the OPW. When the flood waters in the area receded in early April, this enabled completion of the onsite inspection and walkover survey required to finalise the Environmental Assessment and report. Planning drawings have also recently been finalised. CCC has been in contact with land owners affected by the proposals and has consulted with local residents. The Council has indicated that they expect to submit the proposed scheme for planning approval in July subject to completion of all documentation.

Community Employment Schemes

 104. Deputy David Cullinane Information on David Cullinane Zoom on David Cullinane asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath when the community sector high level forum last met; the plans there are for it to meet again to resolve the ongoing issues it was set up to examine; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13696/20]

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Michael McGrath): Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath This issue relates to a claim by community employment supervisors and assistant supervisors who have been seeking, through their union representatives, the allocation of Exchequer funding to implement a 2008 Labour Court recommendation relating to the provision of a pension scheme.

The matter was the subject of extensive discussion at the Community Sector High Level Forum which was reconvened to examine certain issues pertaining to the Community Employment sector and in particular to ensure that the matter was fully examined having regard to both costs and precedent in the context of the wider Community and Voluntary sector.  These discussions provided a clear understanding to each of the parties of their respective positions in relation to this matter and the formal engagement process between the parties was accordingly concluded on this basis. The membership of this Forum includes public service management and union representatives.

It will be appreciated that the implications arising from this claim  extend well beyond the CE Supervisors and Assistant Supervisors cadre and impact across the entire Community and Voluntary sector. It is accordingly appropriate that the wider sector implications should be fully taken into account in considering the cost implications arising from this  issue.

Taking this important consideration into account it is accordingly the position that a  detailed scoping exercise was carried out by my Department in 2017 in order to comprehensively examine and assess the full potential implications of the issues involved.

The scoping exercise clearly illustrated that this matter presents very significant issues for the Exchequer, with a potential cost exposure for the State of between €188 million per annum and €347m depending on the size of the sector which is difficult to ascertain, were consequential demands to be made to fund employer pension contributions for all similar State funded Community and Voluntary organisations whose employees are in a similar position to the Community Employment scheme supervisors.  This excludes any provision for immediate ex-gratia lump sum payment of pension for those imminently retiring, as sought, which could, depending on the size of the sector, give rise to a further Exchequer cost exposure of up to €318 million.

To fund an employer pension contribution for CE Supervisors and Assistant Supervisors alone would cost the State an estimated €6m per annum, excluding any provision for immediate ex-gratia lump sum payments, estimated at a further €19.2m before administration/implementation costs.

While CE supervisors and assistant supervisors represent only a very small part of the wider community and voluntary sector, any explicit provision of State funding for such a scheme in respect of those employees would inevitably give rise to claims for similar schemes and funding provision on the part of those  many thousands of workers in the broader sector.  My Department has to have regard to the full potential Exchequer exposure associated with setting such a precedent.

It continues to be the position that state organisations are not the employer of the particular employees concerned and accordingly it is not for the State to provide funding for occupational pension scheme provision.

As a newly appointed Minister, I intend to give careful consideration to this issue and I will engage directly with the relevant stakeholders in the period ahead. 

Special Educational Needs

 105. Deputy Sean Fleming Information on Sean Fleming Zoom on Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley the position regarding the July provision; when this is expected to commence; if all information has been provided to deal with the issues to enable it be provided; the level of take-up of the scheme compared to previous years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13192/20]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley My Department published details of Summer Provision 2020 – Reconnecting with Education including a programme for children with complex special educational needs.

  The programme is a significant expansion on the July Provision programme of previous years with the eligibility criteria widened to include approximately 9,000 additional primary aged children with complex needs.

  To date 231 schools have indicated that they intend to run a school based programme involving approximately 3,700 children.  9,781 families have registered for the home based summer programme involving 9,820 children.   

In-school or home-based supports by teachers and SNAs will help to prevent regression among children with complex   special educational needs. 

  The eligibility criteria includes the following categories of children:

  1. Pupils with a diagnosis of Autism

  2. Pupils with severe and profound learning difficulties

  3. Any child in special school   or a special class in a Primary School

  4. Children transitioning into a special class or special school from early year’s settings

  5. Pupils in primary school mainstream classes who present with the following disabilities:

  - Children with Down syndrome

  - Children who are Deaf or most severe hard of hearing

  - Children who are blind or have a most severe visual impairment

  - Children who have a moderate general learning disability

  - Children with severe emotional behavioural difficulties

  Funding for summer provision is not available to in respect of children who are not covered by the programme criteria. A child must meet at least one of the eligibility criteria.

  If a Parent is in doubt about their child’s eligibility, they should consult their child’s school or contact my Department. Contact details are available on my Departments website https://www.education.ie/en/Parents/Services/summerprovision/summer-education-programme-2020.html

  All special schools and primary schools with special classes are invited to provide the school based summer provision for their students.  This programme will run for a minimum of two weeks and can extend up to four weeks where the schools, teachers and Special Needs Assistants are willing to participate. 

  Home-based provision will be available where a child’s local school is not providing a programme or does not have the capacity to accommodate a child in a planned programme this year. In this situation my Department will provide grant funding towards the engagement by Parents of a registered teacher / SNA to provide home based support for 10 hours a week for 4 weeks.

  A dedicated online registration system for families of children with complex special needs to access Summer Provision is now available on Gov.ie/summerprovision

  Parents are asked to register their participation online, providing some outline information of the extent of their participation in the programme e.g. number of weeks.

  Once registered, the parent or the school is free to plan and organise the programme in accordance with the Departments guidance. There is also some flexibility on the timing of the running of the programme. 

  The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) has published information to assist Parents in sourcing the services or a Tutor or SNA for the 2020 Summer Provision The information is available on the NSCE website at https://ncse.ie/information-for-parents-on-private-home-tutor-services-advertising-platforms-for-the-2020-summer-provision-scheme

  A programme for DEIS schools for this Summer was also announced.

  Full information on summer provision and its various strands, including guidance information for parents, is available at Gov.ie/summerprovision

Third Level Staff

 106. Deputy Joan Collins Information on Joan Collins Zoom on Joan Collins asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley her plans to increase the number positions in universities for the academic year 2020-2021 across professions (details supplied); and the intake for these professions in each of the years 2017 to 2019 and to date in 2020. [13297/20]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley The Higher Education Authority collects data on student enrolment in higher education institutions (HEIs). Attached is the latest HEA disaggregated data of the type sought by the Deputy in the relevant period.  

  It should be  noted that HEIs are autonomous with regard to management of their academic affairs including admissions procedures. The Central Applications Office (CAO) processes applications for undergraduate, and some postgraduate, courses on behalf of the HEIs.  Decisions on admissions, including the number of places offered, are made by the HEIs which then instruct the CAO to make offers to successful candidates. The Department does not have any role in the operation of the CAO.

  The Department was engaged in the development of the National Framework for Health and Social Care Workforce Planning published in November 2017. Current and future demands for health and social care workers are examined under this framework and appropriate supply responses formulated with HEIs where necessary in order to ensure the delivery of an integrated approach to workforce planning.

Specific Professions

Third Level Education

 107. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley when a decision will be made on the provision of in-college summer courses for postgraduate students particularly those parts of courses that do not lend themselves to being done online; if there have been discussions with the HEA in relation to the matter; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12704/20]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley To assist with the development of plans for the re-opening and operation of higher education in an environment that may require social distancing and other public health requirements, the Department of Education and Skills is engaging with relevant stakeholders from the higher education sector. This work is ongoing, and it is hoped that a communication for the sector will be published in the coming weeks.

However Higher Education Institutions are autonomous institutions and are entitled to regulate their own academic affairs and administrative processes. Decisions on how courses will operate will be made by each institution, and arrangements will vary between institutions and between courses. Therefore the HEIs themselves are best placed to provide answers on in-college summer courses. 

Special Educational Needs

 108. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley if each school will be allocated at least the same number of SNA hours for the 2020-2021 academic year they had for 2019/2020; if so, the reason a school (details supplied) was notified of a loss of SNA hours; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12705/20]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley On 2 April I announced the deferral of the roll out of the new frontloaded model of SNA allocations to mainstream classes which was to be introduced in the 2020/21 school year as part of the phased roll out of the School Inclusion Model (SIM). 

The 2019/20 mainstream class SNA allocations were frozen on 24 April 2020, the date circular 30/2020 issued, and automatically rolled over to the 2020/21 school year. This means that no school received a mainstream SNA allocation for 2020/21 of less than that which they had for the 2019/20 school year on the date the circular issued.

SNA allocations for special classes and special schools are not impacted by this model of allocation and continue to be allocated, by the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) in the normal way. There is a prescribed special class to SNA ratio.

Circumstances may arise where this level of support is not sufficient to meet the care needs of the cohort of students enrolled. In such circumstances, the school may apply to the NCSE for access to additional care supports, clearly outlining the reason why the additional support is necessary.

As this question relates to a particular school, I have referred the question to the NCSE for their direct reply. I do not have a role in making determinations in individual cases.


Last Updated: 28/04/2021 14:35:10 First Page Previous Page Page of 92 Next Page Last Page