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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 558-572
 Header Item Ministerial Correspondence
 Header Item Childcare Services
 Header Item Departmental Contracts
 Header Item Departmental Staff
 Header Item Student Grant Scheme
 Header Item Apprenticeship Programmes
 Header Item Apprenticeship Programmes
 Header Item Language Schools
 Header Item Third Level Costs
 Header Item Student Support Schemes

Tuesday, 6 October 2020

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 998 No. 5
Unrevised

First Page Previous Page Page of 120 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 558-572

Ministerial Correspondence

 558. Deputy Fergus O'Dowd Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd asked the Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman if he will acknowledge receipt of a document (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28734/20]

Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration (Deputy Roderic O'Gorman): Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman I can confirm for the Deputy that I have received the document referred to on the 30th September 2020, and it was acknowledged by my office on the same day.

Childcare Services

 559. Deputy Cathal Crowe Information on Cathal Crowe Zoom on Cathal Crowe asked the Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman if increased childcare supports will be rolled out to new mothers who are unable to return to work and are therefore down an entire salary due to the reduced number of childcare places amid the Covid-19 pandemic. [28884/20]

Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration (Deputy Roderic O'Gorman): Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman The reopening of the early learning and care and school-age childcare sector and the resumption of services has been positive to date.

By 5 October 4, 473 (99% of all services) has signed a funding agreement with my Department to operate a childcare funding scheme, and scheme and child registrations for ECCE, NCS, CCS and TEC are higher than the same period last year.

The HSPC published public health guidance for childcare setting on managing Covid in May 2020, and updated this guidance in July. There is no required capacity reduction owing to Covid, and services are able to comply with this public health advice with no or little reduction in numbers of places.

Covid has not, to date, resulted in higher numbers of childcare services closing permanently. Between January and end of August 2020 130 services notified Tulsa of their permanent closure. This compares to 133 service closures for the same period in 2019. Tusla have reported that 53 new services have opened this year to date, compared to 56 by the same time last year. The overall capacity of the childcare sector has grown by approximately 60% over the last 5 years and the average service size has grown from 33 in 2014, to 47 in 2019.

My Department funds a national network of County Childcare Committees who will advise parents on the childcare options available in their communities. Contact details for each CCC can be found on www.myccc.ie.

Departmental Contracts

 560. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman if he has engaged a third-party company in each of the years 2017 to 2019 and to date in 2020 to conduct online and or social media monitoring and-or provide reports on social media coverage of his Department; if so, the cost of same; and if the name of the social media platforms being monitored will be provided. [28910/20]

Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration (Deputy Roderic O'Gorman): Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman The Department has engaged a third-party company, Kantar Media, in each of the years 2017 to 2019 and to date in 2020 to provide the Department with a service that monitors both traditional and online media outlets. This takes the form of the provision of press cuttings from both print and online media.

  We do not have a contract with a third party company to conduct social media monitoring or to provide it with reports on social media coverage of the Department.

  Expenditure in the years 2017-2020, to date, on Kantar Media service is as follows:

2017 €6000
2018 €4300
2019 €3800
2020 €4200

Departmental Staff

 561. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman the number of staff in his Department on sick leave between March and September by month in 2019 and to date 2020; the pay arrangements that exist for staff on sick leave for an extended period of time; the number of sick days accounted for by his Department over the period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28928/20]

Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration (Deputy Roderic O'Gorman): Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman As requested, please find details in the table below of the number of staff in my Department on sick leave between March and September by month in 2019 and to date 2020 and the number of sick days accounted for by my Department over the period.

MONTH YEAR No of Staff on Sick Leave No of Sick Leave Days
March 2019 31 165.13
  2020 23 120
       
April 2019 33 209.21
  2020 3 61
       
May 2019 38 294.94
  2020 6 75
       
June 2019 32 272.82
  2020 6 61
       
July 2019 38 274.2
  2020 7 48
       
August 2019 26 178.71
  2020 5 61
       
September 2019 32 211.37
  2020 6 47.33


  Arrangements for paid sick leave in the Civil Service are set out in Circular 05/2018. The scheme provides for the payment of the following to staff during periods of absence from work due to illness or injury:

  - A maximum of 92 days on full pay in a rolling one year period

  - Followed by a maximum of 91 days on half pay in a rolling one year period

  - Subject to a maximum of 183 days paid sick leave in a rolling four year period

  Temporary Rehabilitation Remuneration (TRR) was formerly referred to as Pension Rate of Pay (PRP) and will be calculated and awarded in the same way. Employees need to have 5 or more years service to qualify for TRR. It will only be payable when there is a realistic prospect of an individual returning to work.

  Critical Illness Provisions (CIP) is in place in recognition of the fact that, sometimes, a longer period of sick leave can be required to address a critical illness or serious physical injury, there is provision for the following to apply in exceptional circumstances:

  - A maximum of 183 days on full pay in a rolling one year period

  - Followed by a maximum of 182 days on half pay in a rolling one year period

  - Subject to a maximum of 365 days paid sick leave in a rolling four year period

  There will be access to TRR under the CIP as follows:

  - 365 days on TRR

  - a further period not exceeding 730 days may be granted in cases where the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) has confirmed that there is a reasonable prospect of return to work. Such cases must be directly linked to the critical illness and will normally follow a continuous period of long term sick leave. This is subject to six monthly reviews.

Student Grant Scheme

 562. 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 the reason carer’s benefit is included as reckonable income as part of a SUSI application when carer’s allowance is not; and the reason the carer's support grant is included in reckonable income if the person is in receipt of carer’s benefit but is disregarded if he or she is in receipt of carer’s allowance (details supplied). [28320/20]

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science (Deputy Simon Harris): Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris The principal support provided by the Department of Education and Skills in financial terms is the student grant scheme, which makes available means-tested financial assistance to students in further and higher education. Under the terms of the student grant scheme, grant assistance is awarded to students on full-time courses who meet the prescribed conditions of funding including those which relate to nationality, residency, approved course, previous academic attainment and means.

  I can confirm that Carer’s Allowance and Carer’s Benefit are eligible payments for the special rate of maintenance grant. In addition Carer’s Allowance, the Carer’s Support Grant (where paid to recipients of the Carer’s Allowance and Domiciliary Care Allowance) and the Domiciliary Care Allowance are classified as an “income disregards” and these payments are not included in calculating reckonable income.

  If an individual applicant considers that she/he has been unjustly refused a student grant on the grounds of his/her initial classification as an independent or dependent student, 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, outlining the position may be submitted by the applicant to the independent Student Grants Appeals Board at www.studentgrantappeals.ie within the required timeframe.

  The Student Assistance Fund (SAF) provides financial assistance to students experiencing financial difficulties while attending third level. Students can be assisted towards their rent, childcare costs, transport costs and books/class materials. The SAF is open to full-time registered students on courses of not less than one year's duration leading to an undergraduate or postgraduate qualification.

Apprenticeship Programmes

 563. Deputy Ged Nash Information on Ged Nash Zoom on Ged Nash asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris the number of applications received and approved under the apprenticeship incentivisation scheme since March 2020, by county in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28657/20]

 564. Deputy Ged Nash Information on Ged Nash Zoom on Ged Nash asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris the timeframe for the development and completion of the apprenticeship action plan 2021 to 2025; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28658/20]

 565. Deputy Ged Nash Information on Ged Nash Zoom on Ged Nash asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris the number of apprentices enrolled and participating on each of the 57 apprenticeship programmes in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28659/20]

 566. Deputy Ged Nash Information on Ged Nash Zoom on Ged Nash asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris the number of apprentices enrolled and participating on each of the 57 apprenticeship programmes in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28660/20]

 567. Deputy Ged Nash Information on Ged Nash Zoom on Ged Nash asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris the number of women and men, respectively, enrolled and participating on each of the 57 apprenticeship programmes in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28661/20]

 568. Deputy Ged Nash Information on Ged Nash Zoom on Ged Nash asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris the number of apprentices aged 16 to 17, 18 to 21, 22 to 24, 25 to 29 and over 30 years of age in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28662/20]

Minister of State at the Department of Education and Skills (Deputy Niall Collins): Information on Niall Collins Zoom on Niall Collins I propose to take Questions Nos. 563 to 568, inclusive, together.

  Apprentice participation by gender and age [16 to 17, 18 to 21, 22 to 24, 25 to 29 years and over 30 years of age] are set out in the tabular statements below.

  The Programme for Government committed to publishing an updated Apprenticeship Action Plan which will look at new ways of structuring, funding, and promoting apprenticeships to cover the period 2021-2025. Stakeholders were invited to review a consultation paper which set out the current governance and operational structures of the apprenticeship system in July 2020.

  58 submissions were received from stakeholders such as employer groups, representative groups, education providers and individual apprentices and members of the public. The submissions are currently being analysed to assess emerging themes and issues arising. This consultation is being supplemented with feedback from SME employers through the Regional Skills Fora and an apprentice questionnaire which will issue during October. Further engagement on major findings and emerging themes will be held as necessary in November.

  Drafting will be undertaken in parallel with the work outlined above and will be finalised in late November and early December for consideration by the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science and the Minister for Skills and Further Education.

  As of 2nd October 466 applications (not approved payments) for the apprenticeship incentivisation scheme were received in respect of 859 apprentices. A total of €124,000, as of Friday 25th September, were paid to employers. Details of applications that have currently been processed for payment county by county are set out in an attached tabular statement.

  Apprentices Age Breakdown

Age band Pre 2016 Post 2016 Total
16 - 17 1318 11 1329
18 - 21 10417 524 10941
22 - 24 2435 406 2841
25 - 29 1472 434 1906
30 + 581 684 1265
Total 16223 2059 18282


  Live Apprentice population at end of September 2020 - All Trades
  Male Female
Auctioneering and Property Services 89 94
Auctioneering and Property Services 89 94
BioPharmaChem 22 32
Laboratory Analyst 16 18
Laboratory Technician 6 14
Construction 4357 20
Brick and Stonelaying 191  
Cabinet Making 2  
Carpentry and Joinery 1733 6
Geo Driller 14  
Painting and Decorating 103 5
Plastering 90  
Plumbing 1950 6
Stonecutting and Stonemasonry 17  
Wood Manufacturing and Finishing 257 3
Electrical 7542 82
Aircraft Mechanics 187 15
Electrical 6323 52
Electrical Instrumentation 396 8
Electronic Security Systems 154 2
Industrial Electrical Engineer 82 1
Instrumentation 52 2
Refrigeration and Air Conditioning 348 2
Engineering 2279 36
Engineering Services Management 9  
Farriery 20  
Industrial Insulation 51  
Mechanical Automation & Maintenance Fitting 623 8
Manufacturing Engineer (Level 7) 88 6
Manufacturing Technology (Level 6) 95 12
Metal Fabrication 789 1
OEM Engineer 17 1
Pipefitting 174  
Polymer Processing Technology 46 4
Sheet Metalworking 144 1
Toolmaking 223 3
Financial Services 300 315
Accounting Technician 105 172
Insurance Practitioner 153 124
International Financial Services Associate 17 8
International Financial Services Specialist 25 11
Hair 2 8
Hairdressing 2 8
Hospitality and Food 205 38
Butcher 40 2
Chef de Partie 53 15
Commis Chef 109 21
Sous Chef 3  
ICT 247 59
Cybersecurity 27 7
Network Engineer Associate 60 8
Software Developer Associate 91 41
Telecommunications and Data Network Technician 69 3
Logistics 85 33
Lean Sigma Manager 20 10
Logistics Associate 61 21
Supply Chain Manager 3 2
Supply Chain Specialist 1  
Media 5 2
CGI Technical Artist 5 2
Motor 2254 26
Agricultural Mechanics 144  
Construction Plant Fitting 250  
Heavy Vehicle Mechanics 515 3
Motor Mechanics 1205 20
Vehicle Body Repairs 140 3
Printing & Paper 2 0
Print Media 2  
Recruitment 2 3
Recruitment Executive 2 3
Sales 68 75
Retail Supervision 58 69
Sales 10 6
Total 17459 823
Grand Total    18282


  Apprenticeship Incentivisation Scheme - Processed Payments
County Applications
Carlow 4
Cavan 2
Clare 3
Cork 19
Donegal 5
Dublin 31
Galway 6
Kerry 5
Kildare 7
Kilkenny 1
Laois 4
Leitrim 2
Limerick 2
Longford 2
Louth 1
Mayo 2
Meath 4
Monaghan 1
Offaly 3
Roscommon 1
Tipperary 5
Waterford 6
Westmeath 2
Wexford 12
Wicklow 4
Grand Total 134

Apprenticeship Programmes

 569. Deputy Ged Nash Information on Ged Nash Zoom on Ged Nash asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris his views on the introduction of a national access to apprenticeship programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28663/20]

Minister of State at the Department of Education and Skills (Deputy Niall Collins): Information on Niall Collins Zoom on Niall Collins A total of 300 learners availed of dedicated pre-apprenticeship training in 2019, growing to 580 places in 2020. SOLAS, in partnership with the HEA and with the support of the Apprenticeship Council, intends to continue developing access pathways with all providers, including TU Dublin, during 2020 and into the 2020-2021 academic year.

  Technological University Dublin has developed an Access to Apprenticeship programme. This innovative pilot programme supports the transition of young people (16-24 years old) from areas of socio-economic disadvantage into craft apprenticeships. To date over 118 young men and women have progressed into apprenticeships through this program.

  In addition to pre-apprenticeship programmes, initiatives underway to boost apprenticeship across tertiary education include:-

  - The apprenticeship “jobs market” platform (www.apprenticejobs.ie) is designed to increase visibility of opportunities for all potential apprentices. It is free to use by employers who are approved by SOLAS to train apprentices and potential apprentices. To date 963 Employers have registered with the    platform.

  - A new online facility for approving new apprenticeship employers went live in October 2019 to streamline the application process for employers wishing to take on apprentices.

  - The Generation Apprenticeship competition was rolled out at second level for the first time in 2020 with 156 second level schools, Youthreach Centres and Community Training Centres taking part (see www.gacomp.ie).

  - Broader approaches to widening access to apprenticeships also include developing links between Youthreach and Community Training Centre (CTC) provision.

Language Schools

 570. Deputy Michael McNamara Information on Michael McNamara Zoom on Michael McNamara asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris if supports will remain in place for language schools to allow the industry to protect itself and recover over the next 12 to 18 months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28722/20]

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science (Deputy Simon Harris): Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris English language education (ELE) in Ireland is a broad and diverse sector with the vast majority of activity undertaken by private sector providers. I am aware of the challenges that are being encountered in the ELE sector and the substantial impact that the Covid-19 outbreak has had on its students, teachers and providers.

  As part of the response to the pandemic, my Department established a specific Working Group for this sector. This group is comprised of representatives of relevant Government Departments and representatives of both students and English language education providers.

  As part of this process, the representative bodies for ELE providers have engaged with the Working Group surrounding their proposals for supports to aid the recovery of this sector. In this forum, the providers have been advised of the measures introduced by Government to support businesses at this time as part of the wider Covid-19 response. These measures initially included the temporary wages subsidy scheme (TWSS) to facilitate employers to keep employees on the payroll during the initial period of the Covid-19 pandemic in order to retain this link for when business increases after the crisis. This temporary scheme has now been superseded by the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS). The EWSS will continue to provide payroll support to businesses, including eligible ELE providers, until 31 March 2021 and also provides for a reduction in Employers PRSI.

  Further to the above, the ELE provider representatives have been advised of the eligibility of businesses in this sector to apply, where appropriate, for further business supports made available by the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation via Enterprise Ireland and through its network of Local Enterprise Offices. A full list of these supports and related information is available for providers here: https://dbei.gov.ie/en/What-We-Do/Supports-for-SMEs/COVID-19-supports/.

  My Department will continue to engage with ELE provider representatives as this sector moves towards its full re-opening and continues on a path to recovery.

Third Level Costs

 571. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris the steps that will be taken to assist parents and students who have paid for accommodation (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28090/20]

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science (Deputy Simon Harris): Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris I am conscious of the challenges faced by students regarding student accommodation this year due to financial pressures and the blended learning format of the 2020/21 academic year. Throughout the last number of months my Department has been engaging with representatives from the higher education sector to address the challenges faced by students in this difficult time. My Department, in consultation with these key stakeholders will continue to monitor the situation relating to student accommodation closely.

Refund or cancellation policies in student accommodation should be set out in the license agreement signed at the beginning of the academic year. In the first instance students should engage with their accommodation provider to see if an arrangement can be reached in regard to a refund.

If this is not possible, under the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2019 students have access to the Dispute Resolution Services of the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB). While I would wish for private providers to show flexibility to students in this matter, it is not within my remit to issue instruction in relation to the private rental market.

Student Support Schemes

 572. Deputy Mark Ward Information on Mark Ward Zoom on Mark Ward asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris the supports available to students who have been denied SUSI because they did not meet the criteria; if other supports are available to persons who are still struggling to pay fees; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28118/20]

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science (Deputy Simon Harris): Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris The main support available to students is the statutory based Student Grant Scheme where students are studying for the first time or are progressing to study at a higher level e.g. progressing to postgraduate study. To qualify for grant support, a student has to meet various criteria such as means, residency, nationality and progression.

As part of the package of COVID supports for the higher and further education sector approved by Government on 22 July 2020, my Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science has allocated €15 million of capital funding for a once-off Covid-19 Grant to support disadvantaged students in accessing ICT devices. This grant is being made available to further and higher education institutions. The institutions are using the grant funding to purchase devices to support disadvantaged students, including students who belong to a National Access Plan target group, who are encountering challenges in accessing devices for online and blended learning. The distribution of the devices will be via appropriate lending schemes, the associated terms and conditions, will be a matter for each individual further or higher education provider.

Students in third-level institutions experiencing exceptional financial need can apply for support under the Student Assistance Fund. This Fund assists full-time and part-time students, in a sensitive and compassionate manner, who might otherwise be unable to continue their third level studies due to their financial circumstances. Details of this fund are available from the Access Office in the higher education institution (HEI) attended. Institutions have the autonomy to maximise the flexibility in the Student Assistance Fund to support students during the Covid 19 pandemic.

The package of Covid 19 supports referred to above also includes a further €10m in access supports for students. I have approved the allocation of €8.1m of this funding to top up the Student Assistance Fund (SAF) with remaining funding used to support students via the access services in the higher education institutions.

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.


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