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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 125-144
 Header Item School Transport
 Header Item Schools Building Projects
 Header Item School Facilities
 Header Item School Staff
 Header Item School Transport
 Header Item Ministerial Briefing
 Header Item Community Employment Schemes
 Header Item Community Employment Schemes
 Header Item Carer's Allowance
 Header Item Community Employment Schemes
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic Supports
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment
 Header Item Fuel Allowance
 Header Item Company Liquidations
 Header Item Maternity Leave
 Header Item Carer's Allowance
 Header Item Adoption Services
 Header Item Early Childhood Care and Education

Thursday, 17 September 2020

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 997 No. 5
Unrevised

First Page Previous Page Page of 83 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 125-144

School Transport

 125. Deputy John McGuinness Information on John McGuinness Zoom on John McGuinness asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley if school transport for three children (details supplied) will be expedited; and the reason for the delay. [24589/20]

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.

  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 the Department's School Transport Scheme for Children with Special Educational Needs is, having regard to available resources, to support the transport to and from school of children with special educational needs arising from a diagnosed disability.

  In general, children with special educational needs are eligible for school transport if they are attending the nearest school that is resourced to meet their special educational needs.   Eligibility is determined following consultation with the National Council for Special Education through its network of Special Education Needs Organisers (SENO). 

  The children referred to by the Deputy are eligible for school transport under the terms of the above scheme, and I am pleased to advise that a service to cater for the pupils referred to by the Deputy commenced on the 14th September 2020.

Schools Building Projects

 126. Deputy Brendan Smith Information on Brendan Smith Zoom on Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley when a proposed building project (details supplied) will proceed to the next stage; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24604/20]

Minister for Education (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley I can confirm that my Department is in receipt of an application for capital funding, under the Additional School Accommodation (ASA) scheme, from the school authority referred to by the Deputy.  Supplementary information has been requested from the school authority and once this has been received, and the assessment completed, a decision will be conveyed directly to the school authority.

School Facilities

 127. Deputy Brendan Smith Information on Brendan Smith Zoom on Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley the progress to date in respect of the provision of new facilities at a school (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24606/20]

Minister for Education (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley I can confirm that the school authority referred to by the Deputy has made an application to my Department for capital funding for additional school accommodation.  The application is currently being assessed and a decision will be conveyed to the school authority shortly. 

School Staff

 128. Deputy Verona Murphy Information on Verona Murphy Zoom on Verona Murphy asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley when a person (details supplied) will receive a teaching number to allow them to take-up offered employment. [24612/20]

Minister for Education (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley Under the Teaching Council Acts 2001-2015 the Teaching Council is the body with statutory authority and responsibility for the regulation of the teaching profession in Ireland including the registration of teachers in the State. 

The person referred to by the Deputy should liaise directly with the Teaching Council and follow their guidance regarding their registration. The Council inform me that they have been in contact with the applicant on this matter.

School Transport

 129. Deputy Verona Murphy Information on Verona Murphy Zoom on Verona Murphy asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley when a school transport scheme will be completed by her Department that takes Covid-19 social distancing into account for post-primary students; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24613/20]

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.

Based on the public health advice published in early July, my Department has been planning for School Transport Scheme services for the 2020/2021school year to fully operate, but with additional measures and hygiene requirements in place. The Department has 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.

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.

My Department is engaging with Bus Éireann in respect of these plans, 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. The timeframe for implementation

will vary from route to route.

Bus Éireann is conducting a full assessment to see where re-organisation or re-scheduling of services is possible. In addition, Bus Éireann has recently invited applications from operators who wish to be considered for the provision of additional post-primary services that may be required.

As of the 11th September 2020 there were 2206 mainstream Post Primary routes in operation. 20% of these routes are operating at 50% capacity while in the region of 52% of SEN post-primary services are operating at 50% capacity with planning being undertaken by Bus Éireann to implement the remaining routes on a rolling basis.  This process will take into account procurement guidelines and compliance with driver vetting and safety procedures consistent with the operation of school transport services.  

Ministerial Briefing

 130. Deputy Holly Cairns Information on Holly Cairns Zoom on Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Education Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley if the briefing for Ministers she received on commencing her role will be made publicly available. [24672/20]

Minister for Education (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley My Department provided a comprehensive briefing document to me on my appointment as Minister. The Deputy may wish to note that, in accordance with established practice, the briefing document provided to me will be published on the Department's website shortly.

Community Employment Schemes

 131. Deputy Willie O'Dea Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the position regarding the implementation of the Labour Court recommendation that community employment supervisors should be entitled to a pension or gratuity; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24499/20]

 133. Deputy Cathal Crowe Information on Cathal Crowe Zoom on Cathal Crowe asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the position regarding community employment scheme supervisor pensions. [24454/20]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys I propose to take Questions Nos. 131 and 133 together.

As the Deputy will be aware, Community Employment (CE) supervisors and assistant supervisors have been seeking for several years, through their union representatives, the allocation of Exchequer funding to implement a 2008 Labour Court recommendation relating to the provision of a pension scheme.

CE sponsoring authorities are the legal employers of their CE supervisors, CE assistant supervisors and CE participants; the Department’s role continues to be that of CE funder.

The issue was examined by a Community Sector High Level Forum, chaired by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. A number of Departments including my own Department were represented on this group, as were the unions and Pobal.

A detailed scoping exercise was carried out with input from the Irish Government Economic and Evaluation Service (IGEES) on the potential costs of providing Exchequer support for the establishment of such a pension scheme for employees across the Community and Voluntary sector in Ireland. This exercise estimated a potential cost to the State of between €188 million and €347 million per annum depending on the numbers involved. This excluded any provision for an immediate ex-gratia lump sum payment of pension as sought, which could entail a further Exchequer cost of up to €318 million.

Officials from my Department held a series of meetings with CE supervisor union representatives to consider a range of proposals, mindful of the wider environment and the financial implications of any such proposals. Discussions were also undertaken with my Department officials and their counterparts in the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER). These discussions are ongoing.

Community Employment Schemes

 132. Deputy Matt Shanahan Information on Matt Shanahan Zoom on Matt Shanahan asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys if her Department currently liaises with the Department of Community and Rural Development and the Islands in terms of the recruitment of community employment workers by rural community groups; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24436/20]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys In order to qualify for Community Employment (CE), a number of conditions must be met, including being in receipt of a qualifying social welfare payment for a specific period.  The focus of CE is on those who are long-term unemployed and the programme is monitored on an on-going basis to ensure that the CE schemes are meeting the needs of both the communities, including rural communities,  and the CE participants. 

  In keeping with the Government’s Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business, recruitment of new CE participants for all CE schemes, including rural CE schemes, recommenced in early July, 2020.   

  Eligible candidates are identified within my Department by Case Officers and are referred to CE schemes where it is considered to be a suitable activation measure.  

  CE sponsor organisations are encouraged to promote awareness of the benefits of CE in their local communities, ensuring that CE vacancies are well publicised.  They can advertise their vacancies free of charge on the Department's JobsIreland website www.jobsireland.ie.

  If the Deputy is referring to the recruitment of CE participants on a particular CE scheme he can forward the details and my Department officials will liaise directly with the relevant CE scheme to provide the necessary assistance.

  Question No. 133 answered with Question No. 131.

Carer's Allowance

 134. Deputy Dara Calleary Information on Dara Calleary Zoom on Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys her plans to address the means test for carer’s allowance; if she considers it a fair assessment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24480/20]

 135. Deputy Dara Calleary Information on Dara Calleary Zoom on Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys her plans to address the income disregard for carer’s allowance; if consideration has been given to the consequences of the measure for working families; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24481/20]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys I propose to take Questions Nos. 134 and 135 together.

The main income supports for carers provided by my Department are Carer’s Allowance, Carer’s Benefit, Domiciliary Care Allowance and the Carer’s Support Grant. The projected expenditure on Carer’s Allowance in 2020 is approximately €919 million. Combined spending on all these payments to carers in 2020 is expected to exceed €1.3 billion.

Carer's Allowance is a means tested payment made to people whose income falls below certain limits, and who are looking after certain people in need of full-time care and attention.

The system of social assistance supports provides payments based on an income need. The means test plays a critical role in determining whether or not an income need arises as a consequence of a particular contingency – such as disability, unemployment or caring. This ensures that the recipient has a verifiable income need and that resources are targeted to those who need them most.

Current disregards for Carer’s Allowance are €332.50 per week for a single person and €665 per week for a couple, making the means test for carers the least onerous within the social protection system.

A couple earning a joint annual income of up to €37,500 (net of PRSI and other allowable deductions) can qualify for maximum payment and, given the tapered withdrawal approach, retain a payment of just under half-rate while earning €49,750. A single person may retain a full-rate payment while having an annual income of just under €19,000, and retain a payment of just under half-rate while having an annual income of €25,400.

Changes to schemes are considered in an overall budgetary and policy context and from an evidence based perspective. Some 92% of the current recipients of Carer’s Allowance have no means or means of less than €7.60 per week and would not benefit by an increase in the disregard. Carers who would benefit from an increased disregard would be in higher income households.

I am very much aware of the key role that family carers play in our society and I will continue to keep the range of supports available to carers under review; however, any changes to scheme criteria would have implications for overall spending and would have to be considered in a budgetary context.

Community Employment Schemes

 136. Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn Information on Pádraig Mac Lochlainn Zoom on Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys when the interdepartmental review of the community employment schemes will be published. [24510/20]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys The Community Employment (CE) programme is a community centred labour market initiative established for the purposes of social inclusion and activation, to help long-term unemployed people and other vulnerable groups to enter the workforce by breaking their experience of unemployment.   

  In early 2019, the Government agreed to establish an Interdepartmental Group (IDG) to explore how social inclusion schemes might be organised going forward.

  A number of meetings of the IDG took place and a series of follow-up meetings were undertaken with the relevant Departments. There was also a stakeholder consultation process which resulted in a number of submissions that were included in the wider review.

  The final Interdepartmental Group report is currently with my Department for consideration and will be submitted to Government in due course.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

 137. Deputy Cian O'Callaghan Information on Cian O'Callaghan Zoom on Cian O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys if her attention has been drawn to the number of employees (details supplied) on reduced pay and hours without access to claim short-time work support payments; if the matter has been raised with affected employees or employers; the steps she is taking to address anomalies; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24513/20]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys My Department has already 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 them 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 Deputy.

Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment

 138. 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 reason newly approved applicants for the pandemic unemployment payment are not being given an initial payment which includes arrears due from the date on which their application was received rather than being informed that arrears will be paid at an unspecified date down the line and in a context in which there is no appeal or investigation of the approved claim (details supplied). [24517/20]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys My Department receives information from Revenue in relation to payments made under the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS).  This includes a customer’s PPSN, customer’s wage payment frequency (monthly, fortnightly or weekly paid) and the date of the EWSS payment.

A Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) will not pay if the date of a customer’s last EWSS payment from Revenue was within a certain period prior to the PUP payment date.  This is based on the customer’s salary/wage payment frequency.

My Department is aware that a small number of employers, having initially registered for the EWSS, are no longer paying their employees this way.  An EWSS registered employee, who is no longer engaged with the EWSS may not receive a PUP for a period of time after the last payment run is processed by their employer, as the scheme is set up to block the issuing of PUPs to avoid duplication of payments during a validation period.  This period is based on the salary payment frequency of the employee.  A person cannot receive a PUP and a EWSS payment concurrently.

The person concerned initially submitted a PUP application on 28/08/2020.  This application was refused as according to Departmental records the employer was registered for EWSS.  In the interim, the person concerned was awarded an Exceptional Needs Payment on 10/09/2020 for €350. A PUP was subsequently awarded and the person concerned received her first PUP on 15/09/2020.

The PUP is paid as a flat week, and it is not possible to include arrears.  My Department is aware that many people are due some arrears and that each person’s case is unique. This means that each application must be reviewed to accurately calculate any arrears.  The intention is that all arrears will be paid in the coming months.   

I trust that this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Fuel Allowance

 139. Deputy Johnny Mythen Information on Johnny Mythen Zoom on Johnny Mythen asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys if the fuel allowance will be increased due to the increases in electricity, home heating oil, smokeless fuel and carbon tax and the situation in which persons will have to spend much more time indoors heating their homes in winter 2020/2021 due to Covid-19 restrictions. [24532/20]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys The Government is committed to protecting vulnerable households from the impact of energy costs through a combination of supports, energy efficiency awareness initiatives and investment in programmes, in order to improve the energy efficiency of the housing stock. 

Firstly, under the Supplementary Welfare Allowance scheme, a special heating supplement may be paid to assist people in certain circumstances with special heating requirements.  In addition, exceptional needs payments may be made to help meet an essential, once-off cost which an applicant is unable to meet out of his/her own resources.  

Secondly, my Department also pays an electricity or gas allowance under the Household Benefits scheme, at an estimated cost of €194 million in 2020.   

Thirdly, Fuel Allowance is a payment of €24.50 per week for 28 weeks (a total of €686 each year) from October to April, to an average of c. 352,000 low income households, at an estimated cost of €261.35 million in 2020.  The purpose of this payment is to assist these households with their energy costs.  The allowance represents a contribution towards the energy costs of a household.  It is not intended to meet those costs in full.  Only one allowance is paid per household.  In Budget 2020, the Allowance was increased by €2 per week to €24.50 per week, at an additional annual cost of €21 million.  This increase was funded via a ring-fenced allocation from the circa €90m being raised from the Carbon Tax increase of €6 per tonne (to €26 per tonne) in 2020.  It was the largest single allocation and its purpose was to protect the most vulnerable.  Additionally, because of the Covid-19 emergency, the Fuel Allowance 2019/2020 season was extended by four weeks from 10 April to 8 May 2020, in order to help protect the vulnerable during lockdown, at an additional cost to the Exchequer of €31.5m.  This extension meant that the 2019/2020 Fuel Season ran to the latest end date of any season in the last 30 years.

The Deputy will appreciate that provision of income support is only part of the answer in terms of addressing energy costs.  One of the best ways to tackle energy costs in the long term is to improve the energy efficiency of the dwelling through proper building and household insulation.  In this regard, a total of €52.8 million was also made available in Budget 2020 to retrofit the homes of people in or at risk of energy poverty, through the Warmer Homes Scheme.  This represents the biggest ever allocation for the Warmer Homes Scheme – more than double the initial allocation for 2019.  €13 million of this funding is ring-fenced revenue arising from the increase in the carbon tax.  This reduces the energy required to adequately heat a home, thus reducing a household’s exposure to increases in energy costs.

In terms of the forthcoming budget, the Government will consider how it can support people on low incomes and those on social welfare payments.  The Deputy will be aware that in the context of carbon tax, one of the key pillars of the Government's response is to provide for an avoidance of fuel poverty and to provide allowances, from the funds that would be generated, to enable people to deal with the impact of increased expenditure that they have to incur in their daily lives.  Obviously, any such measures, including any possible increase in Fuel Allowance, can only be considered while taking account of the overall budgetary context and the availability of financial resources. 

I trust that this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Company Liquidations

 140. Deputy Gary Gannon Information on Gary Gannon Zoom on Gary Gannon asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the status of the implementation of the Duffy Cahill report; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24585/20]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys The Duffy Cahill report, which was commissioned by the Government in the aftermath of the Clery's closure, highlighted how the issues raised by the event and the subsequent legal cases are highly complex.

The Duffy-Cahill Report was sent to the Company Law Review Group (CLRG) in 2016 for its consideration as part of the work of that group in advising the Minister for Business Enterprise and Innovation on any changes that it considered necessary with respect to the protection of employees and unsecured creditors.  (The CLRG is a statutory body comprising members drawn from regulatory, legal, business and employee interests).

The CLRG, as part of its deliberations, also considered related amendments proposed by Deputy Nash (then Senator Nash) to the Companies (Accounting) Bill in April/May 2017.

The CLRG's ‘Report on the Protection of Employees and Unsecured Creditors’ was presented to the Minister for Business Enterprise and Innovation in June 2017 and published on the website of the CLRG.  It did not include the implementation of the Duffy-Cahill Report or the Senator Nash proposals in its recommendations.

It is clear that the implementation of the recommendations in the Duffy-Cahill Report give rise to a host of complex issues and that any proposal to progress them would require further careful consideration involving consultation with many stakeholders.

A commitment has been made in the Programme for Government to review the Companies Acts with a view to addressing the practice of trading entities splitting their operations between trading and property, with the result that the trading business goes into insolvency and the assets are taken out of the original business.  This will be progressed by the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment. 

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Maternity Leave

 141. Deputy David Stanton Information on David Stanton Zoom on David Stanton asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the eligibility of those on maternity leave and in receipt of a maternity benefit payment to end maternity leave early to enable them to submit an application for the pandemic unemployment payment ahead of the upcoming application deadline of 17 September 2020; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24599/20]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys The Government has decided to extend the application date for the Pandemic Unemployment Payment to the end of the year.  The payment was due to close to new applications on the 17th September 2020 but it has been decided to extend this period at this time. 

  I trust that this clarifies the position for the Deputy 

Carer's Allowance

 142. 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 a decision has been made on a further appeal for a carer’s allowance by a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24609/20]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that an Appeals Officer, having fully considered all the evidence, disallowed the appeal of the person concerned by way of summary decision.

  Under social welfare legislation the decision of an Appeals Officer is final and conclusive and may only be reviewed by an Appeals Officer in the light of new evidence or new facts.  I am advised that the person concerned subsequently submitted additional evidence and that the Appeals Officer agreed to review the appeal decision on foot of this additional evidence.   However, the Appeals Officer did not find any new facts or fresh evidence which warranted a revision of the earlier decision.  The person concerned has been notified of the outcome of the review. 

  The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions in relation to social welfare entitlements.

  I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Adoption Services

 143. Deputy Kieran O'Donnell Information on Kieran O'Donnell Zoom on Kieran O'Donnell asked the Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman further to Parliamentary Question No. 799 of 8 September 2020, if further documentation (details supplied) in relation to the matter will be examined; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24463/20]

Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration (Deputy Roderic O'Gorman): Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman At the outset, I must clarify that, as Minister, I cannot involve myself in individual adoption cases.

As the Deputy will be aware, the Adoption Act 2010 provides that Declarations of Eligibility and Suitability to adopt are valid for 24 months, and may be extended for an additional 12 months. There is no provision in the adoption acts for a further extension. Before a new Declaration can be issued, there must be a new assessment of the prospective adoptive parents.

I am aware that there are a number of families who have received Declarations of Eligibility and Suitability to adopt, and for whom, unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted on the adoption process. This is particularly the case where people are seeking to adopt from abroad, and where travel restrictions are imposed by other countries.

I am aware that considerable efforts are being made to arrange travel for these families, and this situation is actively being kept under review, with close engagement between my officials and the Adoption Authority of Ireland.

On the issue of expiry of Declarations of Eligibility and Suitability, it is my intention to contact Tusla and the Adoption Authority of Ireland, and request them to closely monitor cases where a Declaration is close to expiry, and the prospective adoptive parents are due to travel. I will also request Tusla and the Adoption Authority to expedite the process of re-assessment and issuing of a new declaration, within the provisions of the legislation.  Finally, I would advise prospective adoptive parents to remain in contact with the Adoption Authority and Tusla in relation to Declarations which are close to expiry and the potential need for re-assessment.  

Early Childhood Care and Education

 144. Deputy Brendan Howlin Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman the estimated amount it would cost if ECCE capitation rates increased by 3% with effect from September 2021; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24580/20]

Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration (Deputy Roderic O'Gorman): Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman The estimated cost of this measure for September 2021 to 31 December 2021 is €4.07m.

  €297m euro has been allocated to the Early Childhood Care and Education programme in 2020.

  The Early Childhood Care and Education programme runs for 38 weeks each programme year. The standard capitation rate paid to providers is €69 per child, per week, and the  higher capitation rate paid is €80.25 per child, per week. The programme currently provides 15 hours of free early learning and care per week.

  There are sixteen payable weeks in the period between September and December. The below table displays the projected financial impact of increasing the capitation rates from September 2021 as per the question; this includes the 16 week cost in 2021.

Change Cost (€m) in 2021 Increase (€m)
No Change €297.00  
3% capitation from Sep 2021to 31 December €300.74 €3.74


  As AIM funding is intrinsically linked to ECCE capitation, an increase in capitation has an impact on AIM Level 7 costs. AIM Level 7 is awarded on a weekly basis (generally €195 per week). If a 3% increase in ECCE capitation was provided, there should be a corresponding 3% rise in AIM Level 7 costs.

  Circa €26m has been allocated to the AIM Level 7 programme in 2020 based on current applications and registrations. The additional cost of AIM Level 7 is set out below.

  Associated AIM costs
Change Cost (€m) in 2021 Increase (€m)
No Change €26.00  
3% capitation from Sep 2021 to 31 December 2021  €26.33 €0.33


  These workings capture the impacts the increase would have from September to December based on current 2020 allocation, as 2021 allocation have yet to be finalised.


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