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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 79-98
 Header Item School Transport
 Header Item School Transport
 Header Item School Transport
 Header Item School Curriculum
 Header Item Schools Building Projects
 Header Item State Examinations
 Header Item Schools Site Acquisitions
 Header Item Schools Building Projects
 Header Item State Examinations
 Header Item School Facilities
 Header Item Schools Building Projects
 Header Item School Transport
 Header Item Low Pay Commission
 Header Item Employment Rights
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment
 Header Item Social Welfare Benefits
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

Wednesday, 16 September 2020

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 997 No. 4
Unrevised

First Page Previous Page Page of 82 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 79-98

School Transport

 79. Deputy Noel Grealish Information on Noel Grealish Zoom on Noel Grealish asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley the details of the new school transport allowance which is payable to parents of children who are eligible for school transport but do not use this school transport due to Covid-19 concerns; when this allowance will be payable; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24294/20]

Minister for Education (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley School Transport is a significant operation managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of the Department of Education.  In the 2019/20 school year over 120,000 children, including over 14,200 children with special educational needs, were transported in over 5,000 vehicles on a daily basis to primary and post-primary schools throughout the country covering over 100 million kilometres at a cost of over €219m in 2019. 

  The purpose of my Department's School Transport Scheme is, having regard to available resources, to support the transport to and from school of children who reside remote from their nearest school. 

  Based on the public health advice published in early July, my Department had been planning for School Transport Scheme services for the 2020/2021 school year to fully operate, but with additional measures and hygiene requirements in place. The Department had been engaging intensively with Bus Éireann in regard to the logistics for the safe operation of School Transport Scheme services for the 2020/2021 school year. Funding has been provided to private transport providers who are contracted by Bus Éireann on behalf of the Department to operate the School Transport Scheme services in order to meet these requirements.

  Updated health advice was received from NPHET on the 18th August, which impacts on the operation of post-primary school transport services.  This advice stated that for secondary school students on school transport, strict distancing should be ensured in line with that on public transport along with the wearing of face coverings. 

  The Department has been engaging with Bus Éireann in respect of these plans, in order to implement measures so that any services that can operate from the start of the school year at 50% capacity will do so and over the coming period all other post-primary transport services will be re-organised and additional services will be provided as required to allow for physical distancing.

  Every effort continues to provide a safe transport service for when schools re-open.  However, if parents decide not to avail of transport services they may request a refund on the cost of their ticket for the 2020/2021 school year.

  For those children who are eligible for transport under the terms of the post-primary school transport scheme and whose parents decide not to use post-primary transport for the 2020/2021 school year, in light of the impact of most recent health advice, the Department will provide a grant to support them with the cost of private transport arrangements.  Parents were asked to inform the Department by Friday the 4th of September if they wished to avail of this option.

  Grants will be paid at the end of the school year following receipt of relevant documentation confirming the number of days the child/ren has attended school in the 2020/2021 school year. The grant is based on the distance a family resides from their school of eligibility, with a minimum daily rate of €2.60 and a maximum daily rate of €5.10. Grants are not available to children who are not eligible under the terms of the transport scheme.

School Transport

 80. Deputy Brendan Griffin Information on Brendan Griffin Zoom on Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley if she will request Bus Éireann to permit late post-primary school transport applicants to take up spare seats that currently exist on school services; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24351/20]

Minister for Education (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley School Transport is a significant operation managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of my Department. In the 2019/2020 school year over 120,000 children, including over 14,200 children with special educational needs, were transported in over 5,000 vehicles on a daily basis to primary and post-primary schools throughout the country covering over 100 million kilometres at a cost of over €219m in 2019.

The purpose of my Department's School Transport Scheme is, having regard to available resources, to support the transport to and from school of children who reside remote from their nearest school.

The closing date for payment for the 2020/2021 school year was Tuesday 4th August 2020.  All children who are eligible for school transport and who applied and paid by the deadline have been accommodated on school transport services where such services are in operation. 

The School Transport Scheme Family Portal was temporarily closed for applications and payments on the 20th August 2020.  This temporary closure was necessary to complete the work required to issue tickets to families who at that time remained due to be allocated a ticket for school transport services for the 2020/2021 school year. 

The School Transport Scheme Family Portal has now re-opened.  However, parents/guardians making an application/payment at this time for the 2020/2021 school year are reminded that the closing date for payments for the 2020/21 school year was Tuesday 4th August 2020.  While it is possible to submit a payment, payments made at this time are now late. Late applicants and/or families who pay late are not guaranteed a seat and will only be allocated a seat if capacity is available once seats are allocated to those families who applied and paid on time for transport services for the 2020/2021 school year.

In addition, payments for Post-Primary seats completed or made after 4th August 2020 will be only considered when 50% capacity, required by new Covid19 public health guidelines, is achieved on each route. The timeframe for this will vary from route to route and may take a number of weeks to complete.

In the event of not securing a ticket where no capacity exists, or on cancellation, a full refund will be issued. 

School Transport

 81. Deputy Brendan Griffin Information on Brendan Griffin Zoom on Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley if she will request Bus Éireann to factor five concessionary applicants who did not secure seats on a post-primary school transport route (details supplied) in County Kerry when rolling out the 50% capacity on this route; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24353/20]

Minister for Education (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley School Transport is a significant operation managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of my Department. In the 2019/2020 school year over 120,000 children, including over 14,200 children with special educational needs, were transported in over 5,000 vehicles on a daily basis to primary and post-primary schools throughout the country covering over 100 million kilometres at a cost of over €219m in 2019.

The purpose of my Department's School Transport Scheme is, having regard to available resources, to support the transport to and from school of children who reside remote from their nearest school.

The closing date for payment for the 2020/2021 school year was Tuesday 4th August 2020.  All children who are eligible for school transport and who applied and paid by the deadline have been accommodated on school transport services where such services are in operation. 

Children who are not eligible for school transport, but who completed the application process on time are considered for spare seats that may exist after eligible children have been facilitated; such seats are referred to as concessionary seats.

Concessionary transport may vary from year to year and cannot be guaranteed for the duration of a child’s post primary school education cycle.  Where the number of applications for transport on a concessionary basis exceeds the number of seats available, Bus Éireann determines the allocation of the tickets and refunds payments made on behalf of those concessionary applicants for whom no seats remain.

The School Transport Scheme Family Portal was temporarily closed for applications and payments on the 20th August 2020.  This temporary closure was necessary to complete the work required to issue tickets to families who at that time remained due to be allocated a ticket for school transport services for the 2020/2021 school year. 

The School Transport Scheme Family Portal has now re-opened.  However, parents/guardians making an application/payment at this time for the 2020/2021 school year are reminded that the closing date for payments for the 2020/21 school year was Tuesday 4th August 2020.  While it is possible to submit a payment, payments made at this time are now late. Late applicants and/or families who pay late are not guaranteed a seat and will only be allocated a seat if capacity is available once seats are allocated to those families who applied and paid on time for transport services for the 2020/2021 school year.

In addition, payments for Post-Primary seats completed or made after 4th August 2020 will be only considered when 50% capacity, required by new Covid19 public health guidelines, is achieved on each route. The timeframe for this will vary from route to route and may take a number of weeks to complete.

In the event of not securing a ticket where no capacity exists, or on cancellation, a full refund will be issued. 

School Curriculum

 82. Deputy Eoghan Murphy Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley if she will add CPR and first aid to the senior school curriculum. [24360/20]

Minister for Education (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley There are no plans at present to introduce First Aid into the curriculum. The curriculum in second level schools must meet an extensive range of needs in catering for the cognitive, emotional, imaginative, aesthetic, social, physical and moral development of students, and in preparing them for the demands of citizenship, lifelong learning and social and economic participation. Key messages arising from evaluations of the curriculum relate to overload, and the need to make more time and space for active learning and the acquisition of core skills.

The Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE) curriculum, which is currently mandatory for Junior Cycle students, is focused on promoting the health and well-being of children. Teachers can include CPR/first-aid in their SPHE programme, however, it is not a mandatory component. Personal safety is currently addressed in a variety of ways in the primary and post primary curricula. For example, SPHE aims to develop student’s skills for keeping safe and to make students aware of appropriate responses to various threats to personal safety. This provides schools with opportunities to prioritise first aid if they consider this to meet the needs of their students.

At Junior Cycle, the curriculum is made up of a combination of full subjects and short courses.  Short courses are designed for 100 hours of engagement over the three years of Junior Cycle. Some short courses will be designed centrally by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) and others by schools themselves or other bodies, using the template provided by the NCCA.  It is therefore open to a school or other body to develop a short course in first aid training, for use in schools. 

There are also opportunities within Transition Year in which a flexible menu of learning modules can be provided by schools within the context of a framework for the programme set out by the Department. As part of this, it is open to schools to provide first aid training if they wish to do so.

Schools are encouraged to engage with community groups and a wide range of stakeholders to provide for extra-curricular learning opportunities such as first-aid training or to give talks to students. It is the policy of this Department not to endorse any products or programmes produced by external parties for use in schools, irrespective of whether these are for commercial purposes or are freely available to schools. It is the responsibility of each individual school to select the materials and resources that it will use to support its implementation of the curriculum. 

Schools Building Projects

 83. Deputy Eoghan Murphy Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley the timeline for the tendering, constructing and opening of the new school on Harcourt Terrace, Dublin 2. [24361/20]

Minister for Education (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley My Department is currently reviewing the building project to which the Deputy refers in the context of construction sites restarting and projects at tender stage progressing.  Department officials will be in contact with the school shortly with regard to the next stage for this project.

State Examinations

 84. Deputy Denis Naughten Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley the statistical standardisation process used for leaving certificate results in 2020; if she will publish the data used in the standardisation process and the algorithm used; if she will address concerns expressed that some schools with a historically high level of better grades did not perform as well in leaving certificate 2020 in order to ensure that socio-economic status was not taken into account in other schools when assigning calculated grades; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24387/20]

Minister for Education (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley The decision to adopt a model of Calculated Grades by my Department was a direct result of COVID-19, which prevented the state from running the conventional Leaving Certificate Examinations.

  The design of the Calculated Grades model was informed by advice from a Technical Working Group comprising experts drawn from the State Examinations Commission, the Inspectorate of the Department of Education and Skills, the Educational Research Centre and international external expertise.

  The focus of the Calculated Grades process has at all times been on the student and not on the system and my recent decision, announced on 1 September, to remove the school-by-school historical data from the national standardisation process underpins this commitment, ensuring that the performance of this cohort of students is not constrained by how their school has historically performed at Leaving Certificate.

  Schools provided an estimated percentage mark and a rank order (the student's place in the class group) for each student’s subjects.  We know from research that teachers are very good at making judgements about their students in the local context of the school.  Schools approached this task in a very professional manner, in line with detailed guidelines about the process, but inevitably some schools were overly harsh in their estimations while others were overly generous. This is to be expected given that there is no national standard on which to base an estimated mark.  But to be fair to the class of 2020, the teacher judgements made at the level of the school had to be adjusted so that a common national standard was applied.

  The process of national standardisation was applied to the school information in order to ensure comparability between the standards applied by individual schools and the national standard.  This standardising process happens every year and would have happened in 2020 had the Leaving Certificate examinations been run as normal.

  The national standardisation process has led to some school estimates staying the same; some being increased; and some being reduced.  The overall data on school estimated marks showed that there was a very significant rise in estimated grades against what would normally be achieved nationally. This level of grade increase based on the school estimates would have been unrealistic. For example, based on the school data there would have been 13.8% H1 grades this year when in a normal year there is 5.8%. Even with the standardisation process the rate of H1s this year is over 9%.    

  In the absence of the Leaving Certificate examinations in 2020 every effort has been made to make the system as fair as possible for as many students a possible. The statistical model used was blind to demographic characteristics (e.g. school type, student gender, etc.) either at the level of the student or the school. The standardisation process means that the same standard has been applied uniformly across all schools. This means anyone using the certificate to make a judgement between two people who hold this certificate, either now or in the future, can place equal value on the same grade in the same subject, without regard to where they went to school, as they would in a normal year.

  The standardisation model has been subject to a high degree of human oversight by the National Standardisation Group with a number of safeguards built in to ensure fair results for students.

  Technical details of the Calculated Grades model and standardisation process were published on the date of issue of the results and are available at https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/2ed9b-leaving-certificate-2020-calculated-grades-technical-reports/.

Schools Site Acquisitions

 85. Deputy Denis Naughten Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley if a site has been selected for a school (details supplied); when planning will be sought for the site; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24391/20]

Minister for Education (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley A potential site option has been identified and discussions are ongoing with the landowner with a view to acquiring this site.                  

  Due to the commercially sensitive nature of site acquisitions generally, it is not possible to comment further at this stage.

Schools Building Projects

 86. Deputy Denis Naughten Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley the status of a new school development (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24392/20]

Minister for Education (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley The project referred to by the Deputy is at an advanced stage of architectural planning, Stage 2(b)  Detailed Design, which includes the applications for Planning Permission, Fire Cert and Disability Access Cert and the preparation of tender documents.

A number of Brief Change requests have been received in recent years in relation to this project. The most recent Brief Change Request was submitted by the Board of Management and its Design Team in March 2020. On 9th April 2020 an approval in principle to this Brief Change Request, which is subject to further clarifications from the Design Team and Galway County Council, issued from the Department.

The Design Team is currently working on completing a revised Stage 2(b) report incorporating the above Brief Change into the tender documentation.  As soon as this is complete the report will be submitted to the Department for review. The Department expects this report to be submitted shortly.

Upon receipt and review of the Stage 2(b) report the Department will be in contact with the school regarding the further progression of the project.

State Examinations

 87. Deputy Denis Naughten Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley if she will introduce an appeals system for the 2020 leaving certificate students which allows the calculated grades given to be challenged; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24399/20]

Minister for Education (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley The results of the Leaving Certificate 2020 Calculated Grades were made available to all students who opted to receive them at 9.00 am on 7 September via the Calculated Grades Student Portal. I would like to congratulate all students for their achievements in what has been a very trying time for them due to the impact of COVID-19 on their education.

  The Calculated Grades Student Portal has reopened on 14 September at 9.00 am to allow students to view their estimated percentage mark and calculated mark. Students may wish to have access to and consider this data if they are considering an appeal of their Calculated Grade.

  Students who are disappointed with the Calculated Grades they have received in one or more subjects will have the opportunity to submit an appeal.

  The appeals process is a process review focussed on looking for errors in the transmission and processing of student data through the process.

  It is not possible to appeal the information (estimated percentage mark or rank order) provided by the school.  Due to the nature of the Calculated Grades system the professional judgement of the school is outside of the appeals process.

  It should further be noted that the design of the statistical model and the application of the national standardisation process is also outside of the scope of the appeals process. 

  The appeals process has opened on 14 September and students can access this via the Calculated Grades Student Portal. Students will have until 5.00 pm on 16 September to submit an appeal.

  The appeal process will include three stages:

  Stage 1: Checks will be undertaken on the forms completed by the school and that the information was transferred correctly from the forms to the data collection system.

  Stage 2: There will be a review to ensure that the data was correctly received and processed through the systems used in the national standardisation process conducted by the Department.

  Data checks will include a check to ensure that the rank order of the class group for the subject and level taken has been preserved in the standardisation process and that students placed on the same school-estimated mark in the same subject and at the same level taken by the school are conferred with the same calculated mark.

  Stages 1 and 2 will be taken together.

  Stage 3: Students unhappy with the outcome of the above process can invoke a separate process to have their appeal reviewed by independent Appeals Scrutineers. These Scrutineers are independent of the Department.

  The Independent Appeals Scrutineers will check to ensure the correct procedures were followed throughout the appeals process. The Scrutineers will have access to the records and documentation considered at Stages 1 and 2. 

  Students who consider that their case has not been processed correctly can make a complaint to the Ombudsman or, in the case of students under 18 years of age, the Ombudsman for Children.

  If following the appeals process students  remain dissatisfied with the outcome, students  will be able to sit the 2020 written Leaving Certificate exams. Subject to health advice, these will begin on 16 November. Further details about these exams will be provided by the State Examinations Commission (SEC) at a later stage. Those who sit the examinations  will be credited with the higher subject grade achieved between the Calculated Grade and the written exam.

School Facilities

 88. Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin Information on Aodhán Ó Ríordáin Zoom on Aodhán Ó Ríordáin asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley if her attention has been drawn to the difficulties reported by a school (details supplied) in getting increased broadband capacity; if funding is available for this and other schools to expand such capacity; if there is a delay caused by a tendering process; and if there are multiple schools affected or if the issue is particular to an individual school. [24401/20]

Minister for Education (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley Through the Schools Broadband Access Programme the Department provides for the supply of internet connectivity for all recognised primary and post primary schools, and some 98% of schools are included in this scheme. The Department's High Speed Broadband Programme, provides all recognised post-primary schools, high speed broadband with a minimum broadband speed of 100mbs. There are 58 special schools also included in this programme, managed for the Department by HEAnet. 

The primary broadband scheme operates off existing infrastructure on the whole and the providers on the Primary Broadband Framework access this infrastructure to deliver the service to the schools. The Department does not put in place such infrastructure. The policy of my Departments is to offer the best quality connectivity to all schools in line with the technical solutions available in the market and financial constraints. Broadband capacity can vary due to geographical location and local infrastructure, and thus impact on the service that can be provided.

The post-primary school referred to by the Deputy has a high speed broadband connection of 100 Mbp/s which is uncontended and symmetrical, meaning this is a dedicated service to the school. Given that this is an uncontended service; the school should have 100Mb/s connectivity. Schools are advised to contact the Broadband service desk In the first instance, in order to rule out any issues with the internal infrastructure of the school, be it the wireless or wired network and also to record their bandwidth upgrade request as appropriate. The Department's dedicated broadband service desk which is managed on its behalf by the Professional Development Service for Teachers - Technology in Education can be contacted by phoning 1800334466.  

HEAnet is currently conducting an extensive upgrade programme for post primary schools as a result of which some 47% of schools have been upgraded to speeds greater that 200Mbp/s. A further 380 post-primary schools are now due to be upgraded, and on completion of this process, over 80% of schools will have a connection of 200 Mbps/s or higher. The school referred is included in this cohort due for upgrade over the coming school year.

The delivery of high quality internet connectivity for all schools is a key objective of my Department. Good school connectivity is essential for the embedding of technologies in teaching and learning and for the implementation of new subjects like Computer Science. Currently, my Department spends some €13m on the provision of internet connectivity to schools annually.

Schools Building Projects

 89. Deputy Sean Sherlock Information on Sean Sherlock Zoom on Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley when a tender (details supplied) will be published on e-tenders. [24404/20]

Minister for Education (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley The building project referred to by the Deputy is being delivered under my Department’s Design and Build Programme which tenders to pre-established frameworks of D&B contractors.  

The Deputy will be aware that planning permission has been secured for the project and the Departments Project Management team are currently working on the preparation of the tender documents for the tender and appointment of a Contractor.

In addition, many of the planning conditions attached to the planing permission require the specification and constrution of a significant road network to make the school sites accessible. This road will be delivered by a third party developer. My Department has liaised with the Local Authority and is currently engaged with the third party developer in preparation of a coordinated set of specifications and construction programme which, in accordance with the planning conditions, will be required to be agreed with the Local Authority prior to commencement of construction on-site for either the roads or the schools.  

In parallel with this process, my Department is currently at the second stage of putting in place  the required Framework of Design and Build Contractors to which Design and Build projects can be tendered. Once that framework is established, it is intended that the project for the Carrigtwohill campus will be tendered directly to that framework as early as possible in quarter one of 2021. This process does not require a further tender notice on the etenders web-site.

The ETB and the school authorities will be kept informed as these parallel processes are progressed. 

School Transport

 90. Deputy Jackie Cahill Information on Jackie Cahill Zoom on Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley if parents can access the new allowance for driving their children to school if in receipt of a concessionary bus ticket; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24430/20]

Minister for Education (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley School Transport is a significant operation managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of the Department of Education.  In the 2019/20 school year over 120,000 children, including over 14,200 children with special educational needs, were transported in over 5,000 vehicles on a daily basis to primary and post-primary schools throughout the country covering over 100 million kilometres at a cost of over €219m in 2019. 

  The purpose of my Department's School Transport Scheme is, having regard to available resources, to support the transport to and from school of children who reside remote from their nearest school. 

  Based on the public health advice published in early July, my Department had been planning for School Transport Scheme services for the 2020/2021 school year to fully operate, but with additional measures and hygiene requirements in place. The Department had been engaging intensively with Bus Éireann in regard to the logistics for the safe operation of School Transport Scheme services for the 2020/2021 school year. Funding has been provided to private transport providers who are contracted by Bus Éireann on behalf of the Department to operate the School Transport Scheme services in order to meet these requirements.

  Updated health advice was received from NPHET on the 18th August, which impacts on the operation of post-primary school transport services.  This advice stated that for secondary school students on school transport, strict distancing should be ensured in line with that on public transport along with the wearing of face coverings. 

  The Department has been engaging with Bus Éireann in respect of these plans, in order to implement measures so that any services that can operate from the start of the school year at 50% capacity will do so and over the coming period all other post-primary transport services will be re-organised and additional services will be provided as required to allow for physical distancing.

  Every effort continues to provide a safe transport service for when schools re-open.  However, if parents decide not to avail of transport services they may request a refund on the cost of their ticket for the 2020/2021 school year.

  For those children who are eligible for transport under the terms of the post-primary school transport scheme and whose parents decide not to use post-primary transport for the 2020/2021 school year, in light of the impact of most recent health advice, the Department will provide a grant to support them with the cost of private transport arrangements.  Parents were asked to inform the Department by Friday the 4th of September if they wished to avail of this option.

  Grants will be paid at the end of the school year following receipt of relevant documentation confirming the number of days the child/ren has attended school in the 2020/2021 school year. The grant is based on the distance a family resides from their school of eligibility, with a minimum daily rate of €2.60 and a maximum daily rate of €5.10. Grants are not available to children who are not eligible under the terms of the transport scheme.

Low Pay Commission

 91. Deputy Neasa Hourigan Information on Neasa Hourigan Zoom on Neasa Hourigan asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys if she has requested the Low Pay Commission to examine universal basic income; the current plans for the design, implementation and evaluation of a universal basic income project; the way in which external bodies and individuals can contribute to the design, implementation and evaluation of this project; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24357/20]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys The Programme for Government states that the Low Pay Commission is to examine Universal Basic Income, informed by a review of previous international pilots, and resulting in a universal basic income pilot in the lifetime of the Government.

This matter will be progressed in line with the Programme for Government commitment and a referral to the Low Pay Commission will be made in due course.  The precise modalities for the design, implementation and evaluation of the project, including consultation mechanisms, will be determined by the Commission in conjunction with the Department.

Employment Rights

 92. Deputy Sorca Clarke Information on Sorca Clarke Zoom on Sorca Clarke asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys if she has met or plans to meet with meat factory owners to address the concerns that have come to light due to Covid-19 regarding pay and living conditions of workers in their business; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24330/20]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys Ireland has a comprehensive suite of employment rights legislation that protects all employees, including migrant workers, who are legally employed on a contract of service basis.  This is specifically set out in Section 20 of the Protection of Employees (Part-Time Work) Act 2001.  Anyone employed under a contract of employment has access to those protections, including entitlement to the National Minimum Wage (NMW).  The Workplace Relations Commission is charged with employment rights investigations and compliance.  Where an individual believes they are being deprived of employment rights applicable to employees they may refer a complaint to the Workplace Relations Commission.  The Workplace Relations Customer Service Section can be contacted at Lo-call: 1890 80 80 90 or via its website www.workplacerelations.ie.

There is no specific employment right in relation to the provision of accommodation.  The National Minimum Wage Act 2000 permits deduction for lodgings if employees are in receipt of the NMW and are provided accommodation by their employer.  Individual local authorities are responsible for enforcing minimum standards relating to private rented accommodation.

Any misclassification of workers as being self-employed when their terms and conditions are such that they are, in reality, employees, would be a matter of concern.  Such misclassification improperly reduces contributions to the Social Insurance Fund and excludes workers from their full PRSI entitlements as well as some employment rights protections.  My Department is actively engaged in reducing the prevalence of the misclassification of workers’ employment status across many sectors, including the meat processing sector.  If a worker wishes to have a decision made in relation to whether they are a self-employed worker or an employee for the purposes of PRSI contributions, they should apply to Scope Section in the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection – Scope@welfare.ie.

It should be noted that occupational health and safety legislation in Ireland applies to all workers on a premises, regardless of employment contract status.  The Health and Safety Authority, as well as the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine has responsibility for inspection and compliance in that context.

I am given to understand that, as well as the options for individual remedies set out above, there is already a significant level of inspection and compliance work ongoing in the meat sector that should help to address some concerns that have come to light in this sector due to Covid-19.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment

 93. Deputy Brendan Griffin Information on Brendan Griffin Zoom on Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys if the closing date of 17 September 2020 for pandemic unemployment payment applications will be extended to allow seasonal workers who may need to reapply after the summer period; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24219/20]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys The Government has given approval to keep the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) open to new applications until the end of 2020.  The payment was due to close to new applications on the 17th September 2020.  It is also open to those who were in receipt of PUP and who returned to work, to reapply for PUP, should they be made unemployed before the end of the year.

Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment

 94. Deputy John Lahart Information on John Lahart Zoom on John Lahart asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the reason a person (details supplied) was awarded a pandemic unemployment payment and then subsequently had it withdrawn; the reason subsequent requests for information by this Deputy to the pandemic unemployment payment team have been declined; if there is an ongoing examination of the application; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24249/20]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys The records of my Department show the person concerned submitted an application for a Jobseeker's Benefit payment dated 12/3/2020.  In this application he confirmed his last day worked was 28/2/2020 and that his employment had ended.  His loss of employment was not due to the Covid-19 pandemic.  The person concerned also provided a letter from his former employer confirming this information.  A Jobseeker's Benefit payment was awarded from 12/3/2020.  According to Departmental records, the person concerned withdrew his Jobseeker’s Benefit payment on 10/6/2020.

The person concerned subsequently made an online application for the Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP).  The Department's records show the Deputy was advised that this claim was being awarded.  However as the person concerned did not lose his employment due to the pandemic this advice to the Deputy was incorrect and this error is regretted.

I trust this clarifies the matter.

Social Welfare Benefits

 95. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the different social insurance benefits payees of each of the different PRSI class are entitled to, in tabular form. [24259/20]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys The information requested by the Deputy, including the benefits available to voluntary contributors, is contained in the following table.

PRSI Class A B C D E H J K M P S Voluntary Contributions
Adoptive Benefit X       X X         X  
Carer’s Benefit X X X X X X            
Guardian’s Payment (Contributory) X X X X X X         X X
Health and Safety Benefit X       X X            
Illness Benefit X       X X       X*    
Invalidity Pension X       X X         X  
Jobseeker's Benefit X         X       X*    
Jobseeker's Benefit (Self-Employed)                      
Maternity Benefit X       X X         X  
Occupational Injuries Benefit X X*   X     X   X**      
Parent’s Benefit X X X X X X         X  
Partial Capacity Benefit X                   X  
Paternity Benefit X       X          
State Pension (Contributory) X       X X         X X*** 
Treatment Benefit X       X X        
Widows’, Widowers’ and Surviving Civil Partner’s (Contributory) Pension  X X X X         X X


  * Class B and P - limited benefit.

  ** Class M - limited circumstances. 

  *** Not applicable to former Class B, C and D contributors.

  In addition to the above benefits, the Pandemic Unemployment Payment is available to employees who lost their employment and to self-employed workers who lost their income on or after 13 March 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.  The Enhanced Illness Benefit, introduced from 9 March 2020, is also available to employed and self-employed workers for Covid-19 absences from work.

  I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

 96. Deputy Jennifer Whitmore Information on Jennifer  Whitmore Zoom on Jennifer  Whitmore asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys if the anomalies affecting a number of Aer Lingus employees (details supplied) will be addressed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24268/20]

 97. Deputy Paul Murphy Information on Paul Murphy Zoom on Paul Murphy asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the benefits workers are entitled to claim when they are not working but are still on their employers' books and their employer is in receipt of the employment wage subsidy scheme; and the related hours and wage thresholds. [24283/20]

 98. Deputy Paul Murphy Information on Paul Murphy Zoom on Paul Murphy asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the benefits workers on reduced working hours are entitled to claim when their employer is in receipt of the employment wage subsidy scheme; and the related hours and wage thresholds. [24284/20]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys I propose to take Questions Nos. 96 to 98, inclusive, together.

The Department has advised that subject to satisfying the relevant eligibility criteria, employees may claim casual (i.e. part-time) jobseeker payments or Short-Time Work Support payments for days of unemployment, even where their employer is claiming the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme for days of employment.  The normal scheme rules and application processes apply, including completion of the relevant forms by the employer to certify days of employment and unemployment.  Officials from the Department have engaged with the employer concerned and advised of this position.  Applications for support from this date are being prioritised. 

The position regarding any retrospective entitlement to jobseekers payments prior to the introduction of the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme will depend on meeting the eligibility conditions, including satisfying the Department with regard to days of unemployment.  There applications are assessed on an individual basis having regard to the facts of each case and the rules of the schemes concerned.

Any legal obligations that the employer may have to their employee as regards terms, conditions or entitlements of their employment, including pay, is a matter for the employer.

I trust that this clarifies the matter for the Deputies.


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