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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 231-250
 Header Item Social Workers Register
 Header Item Childcare Costs
 Header Item Youth Services
 Header Item Asylum Seekers
 Header Item Student Universal Support Ireland
 Header Item Third Level Admissions
 Header Item Student Universal Support Ireland
 Header Item Third Level Staff
 Header Item Apprenticeship Programmes
 Header Item Third Level Fees
 Header Item Citizenship Applications
 Header Item State Pardons
 Header Item Child and Family Agency
 Header Item Child and Family Agency
 Header Item Probate Data
 Header Item Rights of People with Disabilities
 Header Item Rights of People with Disabilities
 Header Item Irish Prison Service
 Header Item Garda Districts

Thursday, 1 October 2020

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 998 No. 4
Unrevised

First Page Previous Page Page of 92 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 231-250

Social Workers Register

 231. Deputy Sorca Clarke Information on Sorca Clarke Zoom on Sorca Clarke asked the Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman the number of complaints made to CORU in respect of social workers by county in tabular form. [27721/20]

Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration (Deputy Roderic O'Gorman): Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman I wish to advise the Deputy that this is not a matter for my Department.  I ask her to refer to the Minister for Health, who may be in a position to advise on the matter.

Childcare Costs

 232. Deputy Pauline Tully Information on Pauline  Tully Zoom on Pauline  Tully asked the Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman the funding available in the childminding development grant; the number of applications received to date in 2020; the amount of funding approved by county in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27786/20]

Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration (Deputy Roderic O'Gorman): Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman The total funding that was available for the 2020 Childminder Development Grant round, which has now closed to applicants, was €250,000. The Childminder Development Grant provides up to €1,000 to assist childminders who are providing a childminding service in their own homes, to enhance quality and safety in the service through the purchase of small capital items, equipment, toys or minor adaptation costs. It may also give financial assistance to new or prospective childminders with their initial set-up costs.

  This year’s round sees a significant increase in the number of childminders who have been approved to receive the Childminder Development Grant in 2020, with 202 childminders awarded grants this year, a 50% increase from 2019, and a total value of €190,543.

  The amount of funding provided in each county is listed below:

City/County Childcare Committee area No. of Successful Applications Funding Approved
Carlow 4 €4,000
Cavan 8 €7,872
Clare 9 €6,811
Cork County 14 €13,124
Dun Laoghaire / Rathdown 2 €2,000
Donegal 5 €4,892
Dublin City 7 €6,705
Dublin South 5 €4,624
Fingal 6 €4,733
Galway 16 €15,194
Kerry 9 €8,374
Kildare 4 €4,000
Kilkenny 4 €3,204
Laois 3 €2,550
Leitrim 4 €4,000
Limerick 13 €12,989
Longford 2 €2,000
Louth 4 €3,765
Mayo 16 €15,407
Meath 13 €12,647
Monaghan 4 €4,000
Offaly 5 €4,900
Roscommon 3 €3,000
Sligo 8 €7,567
Tipperary 11 €10,909
Waterford 5 €4,868
Westmeath 4 €3,215
Wexford 5 €4,873
Wicklow 9 €8,320
Total 202 €190,543

Youth Services

 233. Deputy Denise Mitchell Information on Denise Mitchell Zoom on Denise Mitchell asked the Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman his plans to increase funding to youth services in budget 2021; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27835/20]

Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration (Deputy Roderic O'Gorman): Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman The allocations under Budget 2021 are being considered by Government in the context of the annual Estimates process for 2021. As this process is ongoing, it would not be appropriate for me to comment at this stage. 

In recent years, funding for the provision of youth services has increased on an annual basis. Between 2016 and 2020 the annual current youth funding available to my Department has increased from €51.9m to €61.79.

It is now more critical than ever that our young people are supported as they experience the social, economic, physical and mental health impacts of the pandemic. In recognition of the vital role played by youth work in providing such support to young people, funding levels have been maintained throughout the current challenging period.  This has enabled the youth sector to continue to provide supports to young people, particularly to marginalised, disadvantaged and vulnerable young people. 

I am committed to supporting this important sector, which has enormous value both to the many young people involved and from a broader social and economic viewpoint. 

Asylum Seekers

 234. Deputy Carol Nolan Information on Carol Nolan Zoom on Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman the funding provided to his Department to support the work of the dedicated separated children seeking asylum team in Tusla in each year since 2016; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28073/20]

Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration (Deputy Roderic O'Gorman): Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman The Deputy is referring to an operational matter for Tusla, the Child and Family Agency. I have therefore referred the matter to Tusla, and asked that a direct response be provided to the Deputy.

Student Universal Support Ireland

 235. Deputy Robert Troy Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris his views on whether it is right that persons in receipt of a SUSI grant who live 45 km or more from the college they attend are being refused the non-adjacent grant (details supplied). [27795/20]

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science (Deputy Simon Harris): Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris The student grant scheme, administered by SUSI, provides maintenance grants to students who meet the prescribed conditions of funding, including those relating to nationality, residency, previous academic attainment and means.

Student maintenance grants are payable at either the adjacent or non-adjacent rate. The distance to be measured is the shortest non-tolled most direct route from the student’s residence to the institution attended. The adjacent rate of maintenance grant is payable in the case of students whose normal residence is 45km or less from the approved institution which he or she is attending. The non-adjacent rate of maintenance grant is payable in all other cases.

The measurement of the distances relating to the award of adjacent or non-adjacent rates of student grant is a matter for SUSI, the grant awarding authority. The distance measurement for student grant rates is governed by Article 27(3)(a) and (b) of the Student Grant Scheme 2020. This provides that the relevant distance will be measured in line with agreed guidelines.

The guidelines require that the shortest most direct route between the applicant's normal residence and the institution being attended should apply. In determining the shortest most direct route, the awarding authority shall establish:

- the method for measuring a route; and

- the factors to be taken into account in establishing and measuring a route.

SUSI has progressively introduced a number of measures that are intended to make the Student Grant Scheme more efficient for students. One of these measures was the introduction of Eircode which has helped to reduce processing times for applicants.

The distance is always measured from the student's normal residence to the campus the student is attending and never the reverse. The distance is always measured avoiding tolls.

The decision on eligibility for student grant assistance is a matter, in the first instance, for the centralised student grant awarding authority SUSI (Student Universal Support Ireland) to determine. 

If an individual applicant considers that she/he has been unjustly refused a student grant, or that the rate of grant awarded is not the correct one, she/he may appeal, in the first instance, to SUSI. Where an individual applicant has had an appeal turned down in writing by SUSI and remains of the view that the scheme has not been interpreted correctly in his/her case, an appeal may be submitted to the independent Student Grants Appeals Board within the required timeframe. Such appeals can be made by the appellant on line via www.studentgrantappeals.ie.

Apart from the Student Grant Scheme, the Deputy will be aware of the recently announced €168m funding package for the return to education. This package includes a €10m access support package for higher education students. I have approved the allocation of €8.1m of this funding to top up the Student Assistance Fund (SAF). The SAF assists students in a sensitive and compassionate manner, who might otherwise be unable to continue their third level studies due to their financial circumstances. Institutions have the autonomy to maximise the flexibility in the Student Assistance Fund to enable HEIs to support students during the COVID-19 situation. Details of this fund are available from the Access Office in the third level institution attended.

Tax relief at the standard rate of tax may be claimed in respect of tuition fees paid for approved courses at approved colleges of higher education including approved undergraduate and postgraduate courses in EU Member States and in non-EU countries. Further information on this tax relief is available from a student's local Tax office or from the Revenue Commissioners website, www.revenue.ie.

Third Level Admissions

 236. Deputy Brendan Howlin Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris if there is a mechanism to address a person's situation (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27838/20]

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science (Deputy Simon Harris): Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) are autonomous with regard to management of their academic affairs including admissions procedures. The CAO process applications for undergraduate courses on behalf of the HEIs Decisions on admissions are made by the HEIs who then instruct the CAO to make offers to successful candidates. As such, neither I nor my Department have a role in the operation of the CAO.

The CAO system is a system that works on the assumption that grades obtained in the Leaving Certificate by candidates determine their points. It is on this basis that the CAO system allocates places to applicants including those from different years. To ensure impartiality, the automatic CAO points systems have been created in a way that does not allow for different treatment to be applied to different sub-groups.

In order to help mitigate the impact of the changes to the grading system I announced the creation of an additional 2,225 places on high-demand courses in Higher Education Institutions. These places were provided in order ensure that as many students as possible could be accommodated on a course of their choice, given the unprecedented circumstances they are facing. These additional places meant that as of Round Two 63,338 applicants have received a CAO offer, more than in any previous year.

Nonetheless, there were fluctuations in CAO points this year, as there are every year. The changes in points depend not only on the grades received by applicants but also on the number of applicants, and the number of places available. As we are in the midst of a global pandemic and economic flux, there is more volatility than usual this year due to factors such as reduced opportunities in the economy, students seeking to defer or re-apply in subsequent years and uncertainty around students travelling internationally both to and from Ireland.

I appreciate how difficult a time it has been for students and parents, but I would like to stress the range of options available both in further education and training and apprenticeships, but also in pathways in higher education. For those whose route into higher education may not be what they originally planned, once they have a place there may be a pathway back to their preferred option.

Student Universal Support Ireland

 237. Deputy Emer Higgins Information on Emer Higgins Zoom on Emer Higgins asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris the support available to students of families who would qualify for SUSI grants if it were not for the residency condition. [27777/20]

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science (Deputy Simon Harris): Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris Under the terms of the student grant scheme, grant assistance is awarded to students who meet the prescribed conditions of funding, including those relating to nationality, residency, previous academic attainment and means.

With regard to the residency criterion, in order to be eligible for a grant, a "student", as defined in Section 14 of the Student Support Act 2011, must demonstrate that he/she has been resident in the State for at least three years out of the five year period ending on the day before the start of his/her approved course of study. Similar and in some cases more restrictive residency criteria apply in other member States e.g. in the UK a student has to be resident for the three years immediately preceding his/her commencement in college.

The three out of five year rule takes cognisance of students who wish to take time out to travel or work abroad. Such students can still meet the residency requirement if they have not been outside the State for more than two of the previous five years.

It is also possible for students, who did not meet the residency requirement at the commencement of their studies, to have their eligibility reviewed if they meet the residency requirement during the course of their studies.

Apart from the Student Grant Scheme, the Deputy will be aware of the recently announced €168m funding package for the return to education. This package includes a €10m access support package for higher education students. I have approved the allocation of €8.1m of this funding to top up the Student Assistance Fund (SAF). The SAF assists students in a sensitive and compassionate manner, who might otherwise be unable to continue their third level studies due to their financial circumstances. Institutions have the autonomy to maximise the flexibility in the Student Assistance Fund to enable HEIs to support students during the COVID-19 situation. Details of this fund are available from the Access Office in the third level institution attended.

Tax relief at the standard rate of tax may be claimed in respect of tuition fees paid for approved courses at approved colleges of higher education including approved undergraduate and postgraduate courses in EU Member States and in non-EU countries. Further information on this tax relief is available from a student's local Tax office or from the Revenue Commissioners website, www.revenue.ie.

Third Level Staff

 238. Deputy Paul Murphy Information on Paul Murphy Zoom on Paul Murphy asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the use of postgraduates in precarious positions for teaching and other duties is increasing in NUIG and that the university expects postgraduate workers to carry out unpaid teaching; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that postgraduates at NUIG have declared their intention to refuse to carry out work which is not remunerated at the existing collectively bargained rate; and the steps he will take to meet the demands of postgraduate workers (details supplied). [27778/20]

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science (Deputy Simon Harris): Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris Universities are autonomous institutions within the meaning of the Universities Act 1997 and the management of their academic affairs, including the delivery of their courses are matters for the individual institutions. However, the Department of Further & Higher Education, Research Innovation and Science would encourage both sides to engage to resolve this matter.

The Department understands that NUI Galway offers an accredited blended-learning training course on demonstrating/tutoring to assist in improving teaching skills, and that their PhD students are required to make contributions of on average some 5 hours per week over 24 weeks, over three academic years, without extra payment.

A range of activities can be included such as taking tutorial groups, demonstrating at practical classes, co-supervising undergraduate projects and student mentoring. Hours may be included that are spent in class preparation, advising, monitoring student projects, and correcting projects, notebooks or essays and will vary according to School/Discipline norms, and the allocation of teaching contribution is managed at academic unit level. Students in receipt of research grants comply with the terms of their funding award.

Contributing to teaching is an integral part of the training of a research Master’s or PhD student. Teaching contribution assists in the acquisition of generic and transferable skills, as described in the National Framework for Doctoral Education and in the PhD Graduate Skills Statement from the Irish Universities Association.  NUIG states that while contributing to teaching is part of the training of a research Master’s or PhD student, the core component of the research programmes is the advancement of knowledge through original research.

Apprenticeship Programmes

 239. Deputy Michael Collins Information on Michael Collins Zoom on Michael Collins asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris if he will address a matter (details supplied) regarding apprenticeships; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27957/20]

Minister of State at the Department of Education and Skills (Deputy Niall Collins): Information on Niall Collins Zoom on Niall Collins The Department, SOLAS and the education and training providers are actively working to facilitate learning and assessment for apprentices during this period of uncertainty, while maintaining the quality and integrity of the apprenticeship programme. 

Since the closure of on-site training in March, craft apprenticeship providers have moved to transform the delivery of apprenticeship assessments which has allowed craft apprentices to complete their theory based modules during the summer period.  A number of apprenticeship programmes have moved fully online or have been modified to allow for greater flexibility between on-the-job and off-the-job elements of the programmes.  Unfortunately, it has not been possible to deliver this flexibility in programme provision or assessment in the practical elements of craft apprenticeships due to the need to access workshops and equipment.

Due to the closure of ETB Training Centres, TU Dublin and the Institutes of Technology, it was not possible for SOLAS to schedule apprentices for off-the-job training in recent months.  Off-the-job training recommenced on the 1st September, however attendance on site is subject to significant restrictions in terms of safeguarding the health of apprentices and staff during the pandemic and unfortunately this has reduced overall capacity for apprenticeship training by 30% across the entire spectrum of operations.

It is not in the interests of apprentices, employers or providers to allow waiting lists for off-the-job training to increase and SOLAS is continuing to work with each of its delivery partners to schedule and devise innovative approaches to apprenticeship training.  This does, however, take time and apprentices will be notified of these changes as they are rolled out.

Apprentices should receive further updates on their training schedule and associated concerns from their local ETB Authorised Officers over the next number of weeks. They should also visit www.apprenticeship.ie for updates on apprenticeship operations aligned to the SOLAS COVID-19 response.

Third Level Fees

 240. Deputy Denis Naughten Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris if it will be ensured that college registration fees are reduced in line with the reduction in face-to-face contact with students by lecturers and blended learning; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27977/20]

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science (Deputy Simon Harris): Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris Under the Department’s free fees schemes, the Exchequer provides funding toward the tuition fee costs of eligible undergraduate Higher Education students with students paying the student contribution. The student contribution fee is currently set at €3,000 per annum and can be paid in instalments.  The State pays the contribution in full or part, through SUSI, for approximately 44% of students eligible for free fees.

I am very conscious of the impact of the pandemic has had on our students. In July I announced the provision of additional student assistance including a doubling of the Student Assistance Fund, and a €15 million technology fund for devices for students in further and higher education to assist with difficulties in accessing technology to facilitate their course work in a blended capacity.  These supports will be distributed through the colleges and further education providers.

The Programme for Government undertakes to provide a long term sustainable funding model for higher education.  In addition the range of student supports operated by SUSI will be subject to review. An important objective will be to ensure access to and continued participation in higher education by students from disadvantaged backgrounds. 

The delivery of further and higher education in the context of Covid-19 will cost the providers more not less.  The Government has provided additional funding in the amount of €168m to support the return of students to further and higher education and the additional funding provided for student supports will be of assistance to many students particularly those with the least financial resources. 

I will continue to work with further and higher education providers, agencies and key stakeholders including student representatives to mitigate the additional pressures faced as a result of covid-19.  Consideration of the student contribution will be in the context of annual estimates discussions and programme for government commitments.

Citizenship Applications

 241. Deputy Martin Browne Information on Martin Browne Zoom on Martin Browne asked the Minister for Justice Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee the way in which the six-week absence rule is calculated in view of the fact that applicants are being given conflicting information as to whether it is the entire period that is counted once it is over six weeks or just the number of days over the six weeks. [27796/20]

 249. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard J. Durkan Zoom on Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee if the six-week period is deducted in its entirety from the reckonable residency calculation; if not, if only the days in excess of the six-week yearly period is reckoned in cases in which a person has been absent from the State for more than the allowable six weeks in a year when calculating reckonable residency for an application for citizenship; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27837/20]

Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee I propose to take Questions Nos. 241 and 249 together.

The Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, provides the statutory periods of residence required in the State, and that the final year be continuous residence. However, it has long been recognised that many people may travel abroad for a holiday, or may have some unexpected or unavoidable reason to travel abroad. 

In this regard, it is considered, that a reasonable and generous period of up to 6 weeks be allowed to provide for absences from the State for normal holidays and other short term and temporary nature absences, such as for business meetings or a family wedding or bereavement or medical emergency while abroad, and that such short term nature absence from the State would not impact on the statutory residence requirement. However, in the absence of any additional information in relation to extended absences, absences totalling 6 weeks or more in any year will be deducted in their entirety from the reckonable residence in the State.

As each application is judged on its individual merits, a decision on an application can only be made when it has been submitted and subsequently considered. Therefore, it is essential that applicants provide all relevant information to allow for a fully informed decision and to consider whether exceptional or compelling circumstances exist with regard to any absences from the State in the period preceding the submission of the application.

State Pardons

 242. Deputy Brendan Griffin Information on Brendan Griffin Zoom on Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Justice Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee the status of efforts to pardon a person (details supplied); if the continuation of the process initiated by her immediate predecessor will be prioritised such that a pardon will be granted and closure can be given to their relatives; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27703/20]

Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee I want to thank the Deputy for raising this matter with me, which I know he has previously raised with my predecessor as Minister.

  The case in question has received detailed consideration by officials in my Department and a relevant academic has been engaged to provide expert opinion on the matter.

  I will write to the Deputy directly with a further update.

Child and Family Agency

 243. Deputy Sorca Clarke Information on Sorca Clarke Zoom on Sorca Clarke asked the Minister for Justice Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee the number of referrals made by gardaí to Tusla by county in 2018, 2019 and to date in 2020, in tabular form. [27722/20]

Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee I have requested information from the Garda Commissioner in relation to this matter but it was unfortunately not possible to compile it in the time available.

  I will write to the Deputy directly with the information requested, when it is available.

The following deferred reply was received under Standing Order 51  

I refer to Parliamentary Question Number 243 which was for answer on 1 October 2020 where you requested the number of referrals made by Gardaí to Tusla by County in 2018, 2019 and to date in 2020, in tabular form.”

  As you may recall, the information you requested could not be obtained in the time available and I undertook to contact you again when the information was to hand.

  The requested information has now been responded to by An Garda Síochána and accordingly, please note that Tusla has statutory responsibility for the care and protection of victims of domestic, sexual or gender-based violence.

   I am informed by the Garda authorities that the table attached at Appendix 1 sets out the number of referrals made by Gardaí to Tusla by Garda Division for the years requested by the Deputy.

  I trust this information is of assistance.

 APPENDIX 1 - N  umber of referrals made by Gardaí to Tusla by Garda Division*

Garda Division
2018
2019
2020
Cavan/Monaghan 708 833 579
Clare 447 667 612
Cork City 1435 1363 919
Cork North 1105 1340 764
Cork West 634 627 437
DMR East 497 553 627
DMR North Central 724 532 456
DMR North 1807 2340 2429
DMR South Central 443 674 852
DMR South 1414 1447 1290
DMR West 1164 1524 1521
Donegal 714 965 795
Galway Div 846 987 845
Kerry 440 634 461
Kildare Div 901 908 911
Kilkenny/Carlow 890 903 701
Laois/Offaly 1031 972 957
Limerick 727 778 635
Louth Div 605 647 655
Mayo 564 741 566
Meath Div 1096 1445 1148
Roscommon/Longford Div 649 639 707
Sligo/Leitrim 549 539 442
Tipperary 1023 1066 835
Waterford Div 535 688 788
Westmeath Div 676 919 723
Wexford Div 1308 1286 1165
Wicklow Div 535 482 423
Total 23,467 26,499 23,243




  * This query was run against the PULSE database on 30 September 2020 to return any incident of type ‘Formal Notification to Tusla’ reported nationwide since 1 January 2018. Crime counting rules were not applied.

Child and Family Agency

 244. Deputy Sorca Clarke Information on Sorca Clarke Zoom on Sorca Clarke asked the Minister for Justice Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee the number of complaints made to GSOC regarding non referrals to Tusla by gardaí by county in tabular form. [27723/20]

Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee I have contacted GSOC in relation to the information sought and will write directly to the Deputy when a response is available.

The following deferred reply was received under Standing Order 51

  The following information is being made available to you pursuant to section 81 (4)(a)(x) of the Garda Síochána Act 2005, as Amended.

  The following table sets out the number of cases where the complainant referred to or alleged that gardaí had not referred the matter to Tusla, covering the period of 2018 – 2020 to date in relation to the above question.

County No.
Kildare 1
Tipperary 1
Dublin 5




   Please do not hesitate to contact us should you require any further information.

Probate Data

 245. Deputy James Lawless Information on James Lawless Zoom on James Lawless asked the Minister for Justice Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee the waiting times for the granting of probate in the Probate Office; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27764/20]

Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee The Probate Office is an office of the High Court and management of the courts is the responsibility of the Courts Service which is independent in exercising its functions under the Courts Service Act 1998.

However, in order to be of assistance to the Deputy, I have had enquiries made and the Courts Service has informed me that the waiting times for solicitors applications in the Dublin Probate Office is eight weeks. The office experienced a four fold increase in applications for probate from people represented by solicitors during the last week of August, in advance of the introduction of the new Revenue online system for filing the Revenue Affidavit, which is an essential part of every application for probate.   It is expected that the new online system for filing the Revenue Affidavit will reduce the waiting times for all applications.

The Deputy will be aware that the restrictions on movement introduced earlier this year, in response  the Covid-19 pandemic, led to the initial cancellation of all interviews with personal applicants for probate. Arrangements were made, with the support of the Courts Service’s Health and Safety function, to resume interviews with personal applicants from Monday 21st September 2020. The office is currently processing a backlog of personal applications and hope to have that backlog cleared within a week or two. Waiting times will then be back to pre-Covid 19 restriction levels.

Rights of People with Disabilities

 246. Deputy Pauline Tully Information on Pauline  Tully Zoom on Pauline  Tully asked the Minister for Justice Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee the timeframe for the first report to the United Nations on the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27787/20]

Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee My Department is coordinating the compilation of Ireland’s first State report to the Committee on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

This function will shortly be transferring to the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth. Ireland's State Report was scheduled for submission earlier this year, two years following the ratification of the Convention.  However, an extension of that deadline has been requested through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

The drafting of the State Report is at an advanced stage and once completed, the public consultation stage will commence. The aim is to submit the State Report to the UN by the end of 2020. However, Covid 19 has had some impact on the process, particularly in respect of the time and process needed to run a robust and meaningful public consultation.

Rights of People with Disabilities

 247. Deputy Pauline Tully Information on Pauline  Tully Zoom on Pauline  Tully asked the Minister for Justice Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee the legislative barriers that remain in place arising from the ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; the progress that has been made to bring forward the necessary legislation since June 2020; when she plans to ratify the optional protocol to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27788/20]

Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee The Programme for Government contains a commitment to enshrining disability rights by finalising the legislation necessary to meet the terms of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (“the Convention”). The approach being taken is one of progressive realisation, with work continuing on the reforms needed for an optimum level of compliance with the Convention's requirements.

The National Disability Inclusion Strategy (NDIS) 2017 – 2021 provides a mechanism for joined-up working to deliver on Ireland’s commitments to implementing the UNCRPD. Minister Rabbitte chairs the Steering Group, which oversees and monitors the implementation of the Strategy, the most recent meeting of which took place on the 29th of September 2020. This Group has an important role in guiding progress in this area. The Group recently carried out a mid-term review of the Strategy which examined how the Strategy is aligned with the articles of the Convention and how the Strategy could be revised and built upon in order to continue progressive realisation of the aims of the Convention. Arising from the mid-term review, a commitment was made that the Department of Justice and Equality will develop a CRPD implementation plan, that will include monitoring structures and metrics as appropriate.

Of particular relevance to Article 12 of the Convention is the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015, which provides a modern statutory framework to support decision-making by adults with capacity difficulties. The Act was signed into law on 30 December 2015 but has not yet been fully commenced.  The 2015 Act will abolish the current Wards of Court system by repealing the Lunacy Regulation (Ireland) Act 1871. Part 6 of the 2015 Act provides that adults currently in wardship will transition to the new decision-making support arrangements provided for in the Act on a phased basis over 3 years from the commencement of Part 6 of the Act. New administrative processes and support measures, including the setting up of the Decision Support Service within the Mental Health Commission (a body under the Department of Health), must be put in place before the substantive provisions of the 2015 Act can be commenced. The Decision Support Service is working towards being operational and running effectively by ensuring that the necessary staff resources, processes, IT system, expert panels, codes of practice and regulations will be in place.

In addition to the practical measures outlined, the Deputy will be aware of a number of legislative developments to support the implementation of the Convention.

In the first instance my colleague the Minister for Health is progressing Heads of a Bill to provide legislative clarity on the issue of deprivation of liberty. A report of a recent public consultation on these draft legislative provisions is nearing completion, and every effort is being made to progress this legislation as quickly as possible.

The Disability (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2016, which contains key legislative amendments needed for compliance with the Convention. The Bill includes provisions to establish the monitoring framework required by Article 33 of the Convention to promote, protect and monitor implementation of the Convention. It requires the involvement and participation of civil society, in particular, persons with disabilities, in the monitoring process.

The Bill provides for the amendment of:

- the Juries Act to accommodate (i) deaf persons who need the services of a sign language interpreter and (ii) persons with mental illness being subject to a functional capacity test;

- the Electoral Act to repeal the prohibition on a person of unsound mind from standing for election to the national and European parliament;

- the Disability Act to (i) change the status of NDA staff from public to civil servants, in line with all other bodies in the Justice Vote, (ii) to provide information and advice including statistics to the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) and (iii) to bring An Garda Siochana within its scope;

- the Equal Status Act to elaborate the principle of refusal of “reasonable accommodation” on grounds of cost;

- the IHREC Act to create a statutory basis for IHREC to (i) keep under review the law and practice relating to the protection of persons with disabilities, and (ii) to that end appoint an advisory committee, and (iii) apply to the Court of Appeal to appear as amicus curiae (friend of the court).

The Bill was at Committee Stage when it lapsed with the dissolution of the Dáil and Seanad in January 2020. A decision is now required as to whether the lapsed Bill should be revisited, or if a new Bill should be drafted. This will be a decision for the new Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration once the transfer of functions from the Minister for Justice and Equality has taken place.

The monitoring framework for implementation of the Convention will include both the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) and the NDA and will be governed by a formal Memorandum of Understanding. This will ensure the direct participation of persons with disabilities and the organisations representing them in monitoring how the Convention is implemented in Ireland.

While the Government priorities remain focused on addressing the remaining legislative measures to be taken to give full effect to the Convention, the Programme for Government also reiterates the commitment to ratify the Optional Protocol after the first reporting cycle.

Irish Prison Service

 248. Deputy John Brady Information on John Brady Zoom on John Brady asked the Minister for Justice Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee if a recruitment moratorium is in place for the Irish Prison Service at present; if so, when new recruits will fill their positions; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27814/20]

Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee I am informed by the Irish Prison Service that at present, there is no recruitment moratorium in place and that the recruitment process has been ongoing since 2017 having regard to such factors as service needs and retirement levels.

The Deputy will wish to be aware that new recruits into the organisation take up their positions on a scheduled basis, throughout the course of the year, subject to the number of vacancies at any given time and a candidates position in the order of merit of the respective recruitment competition. 

86 candidates took up the role of RPO in 2017,  182 in 2018, 215 in 2019 and 65 have taken up the role to date in 2020.  There are two further classes planned before year end and it is hoped another 36 RPOs will progress through those classes bringing the total RPOs recruited for 2020 to 101.

  Question No. 249 answered with Question No. 241.

Garda Districts

 250. Deputy Niall Collins Information on Niall Collins Zoom on Niall Collins asked the Minister for Justice Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee if her attention has been drawn to the situation in which policing in an area (details supplied) is delivered by Garda stations in two separate Garda divisions; if her attention has been further drawn to the difficulties this can create; if the matter will be investigated; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27846/20]

Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee As the Minister of State will be aware, under the provisions of the Garda Síochána Act 2005, the Garda Commissioner is responsible for the management and operations of An Garda Síochána.  This includes the effective and efficient deployment of the resources available to An Garda Síochána taking into account crime trends and policing priorities.  The assignment of divisional boundaries is an operational matter for which the Commissioner is primarily responsible.  I, as Minister, have no direct role in these matters.

I am advised by the Garda authorities that the area in question is covered by both the Tallaght Garda Sub-District in the DMR South Division and the Clondalkin Garda Sub-District in the DMR West Division, with the majority of the residential areas served by members attached to Tallaght Garda Sub-District, with the industrial units falling within Clondalkin Garda Sub-District.  Current policing policy is predicated on the prevention of public order offences and the prevention of crime including crimes of violence against persons and property.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that there are regular patrols in both areas by uniform and plain-clothes personnel, including the Community Policing and Garda Mountain Bike Units, District Detective Unit and Drug Unit personnel, which are supplemented by the Burglary Response Units and Roads Policing Units. In addition, regular meetings are held between Gardaí and the local Residents Associations.

I am assured that Local Garda Management closely monitor the aforementioned patrols and other operational strategies in place, in conjunction with crime trends and policing needs of the communities in these areas to ensure optimum use of Garda resources and that current structures in place meet the requirements needed to deliver an effective and efficient policing service to the residents concerned. The situation is kept under constant review.

I understand that a collaborative policing plan is in the process of being implemented by Local Garda Management responsible for both the Tallaght and Clondalkin areas.


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