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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 602-629
 Header Item Direct Provision System
 Header Item Mother and Baby Homes Inquiries
 Header Item Child and Family Agency
 Header Item Child and Family Agency
 Header Item Child and Family Agency
 Header Item Child and Family Agency
 Header Item Mother and Baby Homes Inquiries
 Header Item Departmental Schemes
 Header Item Departmental Strategies
 Header Item Parental Leave
 Header Item Adoption Data
 Header Item Adoption Services
 Header Item Early Childhood Care and Education
 Header Item Early Childhood Care and Education
 Header Item National Broadband Plan
 Header Item Cross-Border Co-operation
 Header Item Apprenticeship Programmes
 Header Item Student Universal Support Ireland
 Header Item Student Universal Support Ireland
 Header Item Third Level Costs
 Header Item Third Level Admissions
 Header Item Third Level Education
 Header Item SOLAS Training and Education Programmes

Wednesday, 3 March 2021

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 1004 No. 7
Unrevised

First Page Previous Page Page of 112 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 602-629

Direct Provision System

 602. Deputy Catherine Connolly Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman the median length of stay in direct provision and emergency accommodation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11856/21]

 603. Deputy Catherine Connolly Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman the number of persons living in direct provision and emergency accommodation who share a bedroom with a non-family member; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11857/21]

 612. Deputy Catherine Connolly Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman further to Parliamentary Question No. 552 of 10 February 2021, the way many accommodation centres for persons in the international protection process are currently unable to implement the national standards for accommodation centres; the analysis his Department has carried out into the continued use of these accommodation centres as direct provision accommodation given they have been identified as unable to implement the national standards; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12005/21]

 613. Deputy Catherine Connolly Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman further to Parliamentary Question No. 552 of 10 February 2021, his definition of independent living in the context of direct provision accommodation centres; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12006/21]

Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (Deputy Roderic O'Gorman): Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman I propose to take Questions Nos. 602, 603, 612 and 613 together.

There are now 30 accommodation centres in operation that can implement the National Standards by providing independent living facilities. The International Protection Accommodation Service defines independent living as accommodation which provides self-catering facilities including a foodhall and the availability of separate living room space for families to conduct normal family life outside of a bedroom environment. Laundry facilities for the use residents must also be available.

Compliance with the National Standards can only be measured through on-site assessment and due to the level 5 COVID-19 restrictions in place since early January it has not been possible to carry out inspections in accommodation centres until very recently.

My Department is currently in discussions with HIQA to bring them on board as an independent inspectorate. In the interim, when restrictions allow, the current system of inspections by staff from my Department as well as an external company QTS Limited will continue.

As the Deputy is aware, I published the White Paper on ending Direct Provision last Friday, 26 February. Under the proposed new system for accommodation and supports for applicants for International Protection, all single people whose protection claims are still being processed will move to accommodation in the community after 4 months in a state run Reception and Integration Centre. They will be offered either own-door accommodation or own-room accommodation, meaning that they will have their own room in a shared apartment or house, with living and cooking facilities shared with other applicants. It is envisaged that the new system will be introduced on phased basis and will be fully operational by December 2024.

Mother and Baby Homes Inquiries

 604. Deputy Patricia Ryan Information on Patricia  Ryan Zoom on Patricia  Ryan asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman when hard copies of the report of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes will be available in libraries; if they will be available in other public buildings such as Garda stations which open during level 5 restrictions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11906/21]

Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (Deputy Roderic O'Gorman): Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman I am cognisant of the Covid-19 level 5 public health restrictions currently in place whereby travel beyond 5km from home is restricted to essential journeys only. Public Libraries are closed to the public at this time. I have given a commitment that, when the public health situation permits, my Department will make printed copies of the Final Report of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes available to community facilities, such as public libraries. It is not possible to put a date on this action at present but further details of these arrangements will be publicised in due course. The public libraries, rather than essential services such as An Garda Síochána, will be best placed and more appropriate to facilitate persons to access to the report.

Since the report was published on-line, our priority has been to make a copy of the Report available at no cost to any survivor who requests one. My Department can be contacted at 01-6473200 from Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 6pm, or by emailing motherandbabyhomes@equality.gov.ie. Relevant details have been published on my Department's website and circulated through our contact list of survivors and advocates.

The Department also has an abridged version of the Report, containing the main chapters such as the Executive Summary, Recommendations, and of course, the key chapters containing Survivors’ own stories, for any survivor who requests one. These are also available for survivors through the same mechanisms.

Child and Family Agency

 605. Deputy Kathleen Funchion Information on Kathleen Funchion Zoom on Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman the way Tusla handled data protection applications from January 2014 to May 2018, including but not limited to applications from adopted persons, from persons who had been boarded out or from any person whose files and personal information were now in the possession of the agency. [11919/21]

Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (Deputy Roderic O'Gorman): Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman As the matter raised by the Deputy is an operational matter for Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, I have asked Tusla to respond directly to the Deputy on this matter.

Child and Family Agency

 606. Deputy Kathleen Funchion Information on Kathleen Funchion Zoom on Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman the way that Tusla handled subject access requests from 25 May 2018 to date including but not limited to applications from adopted persons, from persons who had been boarded out or from any person whose files and personal information were now in the possession of the agency since GDPR regulations came into force. [11920/21]

Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (Deputy Roderic O'Gorman): Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman As the matter raised by the Deputy is an operational matter for Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, I have asked Tusla to respond directly to the Deputy on this matter.

Child and Family Agency

 607. Deputy Kathleen Funchion Information on Kathleen Funchion Zoom on Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman the way Tusla handled subject access requests from persons including but not limited to applications from adopted persons, from persons who had been boarded out or from any person whose files and personal information were now in the possession of the agency since GDPR regulations came into force from 23 October 2020 to date when the previous advice from the Attorney General on GDPR rights not being applicable to those persons was refuted by the Data Protection Commissioner. [11921/21]

Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (Deputy Roderic O'Gorman): Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman As the matter raised by the Deputy is an operational matter for Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, I have asked Tusla to respond directly to the Deputy on this matter.

Child and Family Agency

 608. Deputy Kathleen Funchion Information on Kathleen Funchion Zoom on Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman the way Tusla has amended its policies, procedures and staff training regarding SARs from persons including but not limited to applications from adopted persons, from persons who had been boarded out or from any person whose files and personal information were now in the possession of the agency since GDPR regulations came into force from 23 October 2020 to date since their GDPR rights have been vindicated by the Data Protection Commission, the Attorney General and other legal experts. [11922/21]

Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (Deputy Roderic O'Gorman): Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman As the matter raised by the Deputy is an operational matter for Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, I have asked Tusla to respond directly to the Deputy on this matter.

Mother and Baby Homes Inquiries

 609. Deputy Kathleen Funchion Information on Kathleen Funchion Zoom on Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman the reason for the difference between the estimated cost and actual cost of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes and Certain Related Matters; the breakdown of the estimated spend versus actual spend disaggregated by staff, overheads and other costs in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11924/21]

Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (Deputy Roderic O'Gorman): Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman In accordance with the provisions of the Commissions of Investigation Act 2004, the relevant Department is required to produce a statement of costs when establishing a Commission. In the case of the Mother and Baby Homes Commission, the then Government noted that pay and non-pay costs for the inquiry, and associated additional demands on the Department, were estimated to cost €21.5m. A statement of costs was published in Iris Oifigiuil on this basis. This statement was updated when the Commission was granted extensions of time to complete its final report.

  The estimate of €21.5m was developed in consultation with the chair designate prior to the Commission being established in law. My understanding is that a good deal of flexibility was built into the initial estimates, so that financial constraints would not limit the workings of the Commission. It is essential to note that the estimate was developed in advance of the Commissioners being appointed, and the subsequent operational decisions of the independent Commission in the performance of its statutory functions.

  From its establishment, actual expenditure of approximately €11.9m was directly incurred by the independent Commission. Funding was allocated annually to support salaries, professional fees and other operational costs relating to the work of the Commission and its engagement with former residents and other witnesses. The Commission was provided with a delegated sanction to directly recruit and appoint the staff, experts and specialists it deemed necessary to assist its investigations.

  A breakdown of the Commission's spending to date is as follows:

Year Pay (€m) Non-Pay (€m) Total (€m)
2015 0.844 0.651 1.495
2016 1.114 0.959 2.073
2017 1.109 1.045 2.154
2018 1.078 1.152 2.230
2019 0.873 1.242 2.115
2020 0.576 1.003 1.579
2021* 0.118 0.122 0.234
Totals 5.712 6.174 11.886
  *until 19 February 2021

  In addition, my Department separately incurred costs of approximately €2.6 million to the end of February 2021 in supporting this work and responding to the Commission's interim reports. This includes the processes to complement the Commission's work by facilitating former residents of these institutions to engage on the issues of concern to them and their families.

Departmental Schemes

 610. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman if the parent’s leave which was promised in Budget 2021 will come into effect in April 2021; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11935/21]

Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (Deputy Roderic O'Gorman): Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman The Parent’s Leave and Benefit Act 2019 introduced two weeks of paid Parents' Leave for each parent to be taken in the first year after the birth or adoptive placement of a child.

  Under proposals approved by Government in December 2020, each parent will be given an additional three weeks of paid Parents' Leave, and the period in which it can be taken will be extended to the first two years after the birth or adoptive placement of a child.

  The drafting of the legislation needed to make this change is well advanced and it will be introduced at the earliest opportunity. The aim is that this legislation will be enacted by the beginning of April 2021.

  Payment of Parents’ Benefit is a matter for the Minister for Social Protection.

Departmental Strategies

 611. Deputy Patrick Costello Information on Patrick Costello Zoom on Patrick Costello asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman if he will report on the commitment in action 61 of the National Migrant Integration Strategy for all Departments and agencies to provide intercultural awareness training; if staff in each Department and agency have been offered this training; the proportion of staff in each Department and agency that have done this training in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11993/21]

Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (Deputy Roderic O'Gorman): Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman My Department is currently compiling the information requested by the Deputy and a response will be issued directly as soon as possible.

  Question Nos. 612 and 613 answered with Question No. 602.

Parental Leave

 614. Deputy Brendan Griffin Information on Brendan Griffin Zoom on Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman if the plans to extend parent's leave from two weeks to five weeks for each parent of all children born or adopted on or after 1 November 2019 will be in place for April 2021; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12062/21]

Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (Deputy Roderic O'Gorman): Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman The Parent’s Leave and Benefit Act 2019 introduced two weeks of paid Parents' Leave for each parent to be taken in the first year after the birth or adoptive placement of a child.

  Under proposals approved by Government in December 2020, each parent will be given an additional three weeks of paid Parents' Leave, and the period in which it can be taken will be extended to the first two years after the birth or adoptive placement of a child.

  The drafting of the legislation needed to make these changes is well advanced and it will be introduced at the earliest opportunity. The aim is that this legislation will be enacted by the beginning of April 2021.

Adoption Data

 615. Deputy Cathal Crowe Information on Cathal Crowe Zoom on Cathal Crowe asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman the number of adoption applications relating to children in care; and the duration these applications have been waiting for decision in tabular form. [12065/21]

Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (Deputy Roderic O'Gorman): Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman This PQ has been referred to Tusla as it relates to an operational matter.

Adoption Services

 616. Deputy Cathal Crowe Information on Cathal Crowe Zoom on Cathal Crowe asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman if his Department will recruit additional social workers in order that backlogged applications for children in care to be adopted can be advanced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12066/21]

Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (Deputy Roderic O'Gorman): Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman I wish to advise the Deputy that my officials have asked Tusla to respond directly to you on this matter.

Early Childhood Care and Education

 617. Deputy Réada Cronin Information on Réada Cronin Zoom on Réada Cronin asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman if he will consider extending the ECCE scheme in order that all young children will have a place in education and will not be left in limbo (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12072/21]

Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (Deputy Roderic O'Gorman): Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman The availability and general provision for school places is a matter for the Department of Education.

  The Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme is a universal two-year pre-school programme available to all children within the eligible age range. The programme runs from September to June each year, aligned with the primary school calendar.

  A child must have reached 2 years and 8 months of age on or prior to 31 August of the relevant programme year to be eligible for the September start date and a child cannot turn 5 years and 6 months of age during the course of the ECCE programme year.

  There are no plans to change the eligibility criteria for this Programme.

  For individual parents experiencing difficulties in securing a school place, the Tusla Education Support Service can assist. Regional contact details are available at www.Tusla.ie

Early Childhood Care and Education

 618. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman if he will consider and or has evaluated the merit of offering an additional year of ECCE to children that may not be offered a place in primary school in the 2021-2022 academic year in view of increased demand on schools due to parents holding back children from commencing primary school due to the pandemic in 2020.  [12098/21]

Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (Deputy Roderic O'Gorman): Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman The availability and general provision for school places is a matter for the Department of Education.

  The Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme is a universal two-year pre-school programme available to all children within the eligible age range. The programme runs from September to June each year, aligned with the primary school calendar.

  A child must have reached 2 years and 8 months of age on or prior to 31 August of the relevant programme year to be eligible for the September start date and a child cannot turn 5 years and 6 months of age during the course of the ECCE programme year.

  There are no plans to change the eligibility criteria for this Programme.

  For individual parents experiencing difficulties in securing a school place, the Tusla Education Support Service can assist. Regional contact details are available at www.Tusla.ie

National Broadband Plan

 619. Deputy Sean Sherlock Information on Sean Sherlock Zoom on Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman if he has engaged with National Broadband Ireland on any aspect of broadband provision in the past six months; and the outcome of any engagement. [12114/21]

Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (Deputy Roderic O'Gorman): Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman I have not engaged with National Broadband Ireland in the past six months.

Cross-Border Co-operation

 620. Deputy Ruairí Ó Murchú Information on Ruairí Ó Murchú Zoom on Ruairí Ó Murchú asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris his engagements with the Northern Executive in relation to cross-Border third-level opportunities in the context of the Shared Island Fund. [11806/21]

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science (Deputy Simon Harris): Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris I am committed to engaging in a collaborative relationship with the Northern Ireland Executive on areas of mutual interest and my Department is working closely with the Shared Island Unit in the Department of the Taoiseach on this work.

I have met with Minister Dodds, and we discussed a number of areas of interest for cross-border collaboration between our two Departments. Senior officials from the two Departments have also engaged in constructive discussions. My Department is also represented on the North-South Senior Officials Group on North-South Infrastructure and Investment which involves a range of Government Departments and and officials from the Northern Ireland Executive and which is taking forward work on north-south research and education issues.

I hope to meet again with Minister Dodds in the near future to continue our discussions on co-operation.

Apprenticeship Programmes

 621. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris further to Parliamentary Question No. 679 of 24 February 2021, if he will clarify the situation further in respect of apprentice trade examinations (details supplied); if exams will be on-site and paper based; and if not, if they will be online only. [12101/21]

Minister of State at the Department of Education and Skills (Deputy Niall Collins): Information on Niall Collins Zoom on Niall Collins SOLAS, the Higher Education Authority (HEA) and education and training providers are working to plan a phased return of craft apprentices to complete essential practical elements of Phase 2, 4 and 6 training and to undertake assessments.

The phased return to on-site practical provision within further and higher education and training institutions will help ensure the safe return of apprentices, instructors, lecturers and support staff in line with public health guidelines and is being undertaken in consultation with staff. Apprentices who are currently assigned to off-the-job training will complete their period of off-the-job training some weeks later than originally planned to facilitate a carefully planned and phased approach.

SOLAS and the HEA contacted apprentices, employers and relevant apprenticeship training providers on Friday, 26th February to update them on the current situation. Apprentices were also notified that their training provider and SOLAS will contact them with details in relation to when they are scheduled to return onsite to complete their practical training and assessment once the position is clear in relation to their class.

Student Universal Support Ireland

 622. Deputy Brendan Griffin Information on Brendan Griffin Zoom on Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris his views on a matter in relation to SUSI reform (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10972/21]

 624. Deputy Pádraig O'Sullivan Information on Pádraig O'Sullivan Zoom on Pádraig O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris if a course (details supplied) will be included in SUSI reform; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11028/21]

 625. Deputy James Lawless Information on James Lawless Zoom on James Lawless asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris his plans to include graduate entry medicine in the SUSI reform; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11086/21]

 632. Deputy Catherine Connolly Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris his plans to include graduate entry medicine in the promised SUSI review given that students of this course must pay high fees but are not eligible for SUSI funding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11350/21]

 641. Deputy Pádraig O'Sullivan Information on Pádraig O'Sullivan Zoom on Pádraig O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris the progress being made on the review of the SUSI scheme; the changes that have been identified; if the new criteria for the scheme will be available to students making their applications in 2021; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11667/21]

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science (Deputy Simon Harris): Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris I propose to take Questions Nos. 622, 624, 625, 632 and 641 together.

Under the terms of the Student Grant Scheme, grant assistance is awarded to students attending an approved course in an approved institution who meet the prescribed conditions of funding, including those relating to nationality, residency, previous academic attainment and means.

To satisfy the terms and conditions of the Student Grant Scheme in relation to progression, a student must be moving from year to year within a course, having successfully completed the previous year or be transferring from one course to another where the award for the subsequent course is of a higher level than the previous course.

Students pursuing GEM programmes do so as second degree courses and consequently are not eligible for free fees funding or for student grants. However, in order to widen access to GEM programmes, and give assistance towards the financial burden on each student pursuing these programmes, the fees of participating EU students are partly subsidised by the State via the Higher Education Authority (HEA).

Institutions participating in the graduate medical programme have been requested to provide accompanying services and supports to facilitate the participation of disadvantaged students in the programme. Details of these services and supports are available from the relevant institution.

The Programme for Government contains commitments to, among other things, review SUSI eligibility criteria, adjacency rates and postgraduate grant supports.

The review of the Student Grant Scheme has just commenced and is due to report in Summer 2021. My Department is overseeing the implementation of the review through a steering group with student representation as well as representation from SUSI. Stakeholders in the student grant system will be invited to provide contributions via a formal submission process in the coming weeks. These submissions will be considered in the context of the parameters of the Programme for Government commitments, whilst recognising that the scheme operates in the context of competing educational priorities and limited public funding. The aim of the student grant scheme is to make a contribution to the cost of going to college; covering the full cost has never been a feasible option. At this point I cannot pre-empt the outcome of the review to indicate when any proposed changes will come into effect.

The Student Grant Scheme and Student Support Regulations for the 2021/22 academic year will be published towards the end of March/early April 2021. The opening of SUSI's online grant application system will coincide with the publication of the scheme. Grant applications are submitted online via www.susi.ie. Further information in relation to student grant assistance is also available from this website. The telephone number for SUSI’s Helpdesk is 0761 087 874.

Students on graduate entry medicine courses may be eligible to apply to the Student Assistance Fund for financial support. The SAF guidelines provide that students with a previous higher education qualification at the same NFQ level, or who, in the past, attended higher education without ultimately obtaining a qualification, may be considered for support on a case-by-case basis and subject to available funding.

In addition, tax relief at the standard rate of tax may also be available in respect of tuition fees paid for approved courses at approved colleges of higher education. Further information on this tax relief is available from a student's local Tax Office or from the Revenue Commissioners website, www.revenue.ie

Budget 2021 provided for enhanced postgraduate supports from next year including the fee grant amount rising from €2,000 to €3,500 and the income threshold for eligibility for these grants to increase from €31,500, now €54,240. This is an initial step in meeting part of the Government’s commitments regarding SUSI grant support.

Student Universal Support Ireland

 623. Deputy Sean Sherlock Information on Sean Sherlock Zoom on Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris if pandemic unemployment payments to parents of applicants will be exempted from SUSI considerations. [11022/21]

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science (Deputy Simon Harris): Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris Under the Student Grant Scheme, grant assistance is available to eligible students attending an approved course in an approved institution who meet the terms and conditions of funding, including those relating to residency, means, nationality and previous academic attainment.

The decision on eligibility for a student grant is a matter, in the first instance, for SUSI to determine. For the 2020/21 academic year, student grant applications will be assessed based on gross income from all sources for the period 1st January 2019 to 31st December 2019.

The Social Welfare (Covid-19) (Amendment) Act 2020 establishes the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment as a social insurance benefit scheme separate from other social protection statutory schemes including the Supplementary Welfare Allowance and Jobseeker Allowance and Jobseeker Benefit schemes.

For student grant purposes the Covid-19 payment has been treated as reckonable income for the SUSI means assessment process since it was introduced in March 2020. This means that the Covid-19 payment is treated in a similar fashion to other Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection payments such as Jobseekers Benefit/Allowance, thus ensuring a consistency of approach and an equitable treatment of students and their families in the SUSI means assessment process.

All applications are assessed nationally with reference to the terms and conditions of the relevant student grant scheme. The terms and conditions of funding are applied impartially to all applicants. However, if a student or party to their application experiences a change in circumstances that is not a temporary change and is likely to continue for the foreseeable future, they can apply to have their application assessed under the change in circumstances provision of the relevant Student Grant Scheme. The income of all parties to the application will be assessed or reassessed on the current year (2020) and they may also be asked to provide evidence of the current year’s (2020) income.

However, as the Deputy is aware, the Programme for Government commits to a review into the impact of SUSI regarding the impact of Covid and this is currently underway.

  Question Nos. 624 and 625 answered with Question No. 622.

Third Level Costs

 626. Deputy Rose Conway-Walsh Information on Rose Conway-Walsh Zoom on Rose Conway-Walsh asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris if the full economic costings per discipline across the third-level sector will be provided; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11113/21]

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science (Deputy Simon Harris): Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris The information requested in not readily available in the format requested by the Deputy.

  In 2016, the Higher Education Authority (HEA) appointed an independent Expert Panel to review thecurrent allocation model for funding higher education and to make recommendations on the most appropriate funding model for the future. The completed review recommends reforms to the HEA funding distribution model. A key recommendation of the RFAM report is the development of a Costing Model applied consistently across Higher Education Institutes (at present, there is some differentiation in the costing approach as between the Universities and the Technological Universities; Institutes of Technology). Deloitte were appointed by HEA in 2019 to undertake a scoping exercise on an appropriate model. In 2021, the HEA working with DES, DPER, the IUA and THEA will commence development of a conceptual framework on the journey towards adoption of a Universal Costing System applying across the entire Higher Education Sector. This will be an important milestone to help underpin a new strategic funding policy for the sector

  Officials in my Department have consulted with the Higher Education Authority who provided the following information in relation to the current costings per discipline:

  The university sector collects full economic costing data . The IoT/TU sector collects unit cost data which involves a different methodology to Full Economic Costing (FEC).

  The full economic cost of each student enrolled as an undergraduate student will vary depending on the discipline. - e.g. laboratory based disciplines ( science, engineering, etc ) will have a greater cost (c. €10,000-€11,000 per undergraduate student) than non-lab disciplines (arts, business, etc, which is c. €7,000 per undergraduate student). Health related disciplines (e.g. medicine and dentistry) will be significantly higher than non-lab disciplines.

  An average cost for a student (taking all disciplines into account) would currently be in the region of €9,000 - €10,000 per student per year.     

  The latest university FEC data (2016/17) indicates that the cost of postgraduate taught students will vary depending on the discipline. The average cost for a laboratory-based postgraduate taught student is c. €15,000 per student per year.    An average cost for a non-laboratory postgraduate taught student is c. €12,000 per student per year. The full economic cost of postgraduate research students will also vary depending on discipline.   An average cost for a laboratory-based postgraduate research student is c. €18,000 per student per year. An average cost for a non-laboratory postgraduate research student is c. €21,000 per student per year.

Third Level Admissions

 627. Deputy Marc MacSharry Information on Marc MacSharry Zoom on Marc MacSharry asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris if a student (details supplied) who sat the leaving certificate exams in November and December 2020 and gained an additional 70 points as a result, will be offered a higher preference course on their CAO application 2020 despite accepting the offer of a lower preference course in the absence of the additional 70 points they now have; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11134/21]

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science (Deputy Simon Harris): Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris The CAO process applications for undergraduate, and some postgraduate, courses on behalf of the Higher Education Institutions (HEIs). Decisions on admissions, including deadlines for submissions of applications, are made by the HEIs who then instruct the CAO in this matter.

Students whose November Leaving Certificate results entitled them to a higher preference offer based on their 2020 CAO application will receive a deferred offer to start their course in the 2021/22 academic year. Such offers are part of the 2020 application cycle, and therefore will be based on the 2020 CAO points.

If a students' improved results does not bring them into consideration for a higher preference choice based on their 2020 CAO application they may choose to submit an application for 2021, if they have not already done so. Although the initial deadline for CAO applications has passed, the late application facility will be open from 5th March to 1st May, allowing students to apply for all non-restricted courses.

Third Level Education

 628. Deputy Matt Shanahan Information on Matt Shanahan Zoom on Matt Shanahan asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris the steps being taken to increase the places available for sought after third-level courses such as medicine; the level of deferred student results being carried over from 2020 to 2021 CAO applications; the way an increase in applications for available course placements is being planned for (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11152/21]

 644. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire Information on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire Zoom on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris if the offers given out after results were issued to students who sat the leaving certificate exams in November 2020 constituted additional places in these third-level institutions; and if not, if they were within the general number of places available for entry in September 2021. [11947/21]

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science (Deputy Simon Harris): Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris I propose to take Questions Nos. 628 and 644 together.

I am conscious of the impact that Covid-19 has had on the leaving certificate class of 2021, and will take action as necessary to ensure that a full range of further and higher education options are available to them.

According to figures released by the CAO a total of 632 offers were identified as a result of the 2020 Leaving Certificate Written Examination. In the 2020 CAO application cycle a total of 96,426 offers were made to 63,858 candidates. If the same number of offers is made this year then the 632 offers made to the November Leaving Certificate candidates will represent less than 1% of the offers made.

I am aware of the high number of CAO applications this year, and my officials are engaging regularly with representatives from the higher education sector in relation to the 2021/22 academic year and demand for places. Information will become available next month on the types of applicants in the current year, and the courses they are choosing which will assist us in planning for the current year.

My officials have spoken with representatives from the higher education sector regarding any changes to the deferral or non-progression rate among students in this year compared to previous years. Deferrals are granted at the discretion of the Higher Education Institutions and the sector has indicated that there was no significant increase or decrease in the number of deferrals in 2020 in comparison to previous years.

Funding was provided in Budget 2021 to both sustain additional undergraduate places and address demographic growth pressures. These places are in addition to the 1,330 additional places commencing in 2021, funded through the Human Capital Initiative Pillar 2, which will be on undergraduate courses in areas of identified skills needs.

I know how difficult a time it has been for students and parents, and my Department will continue to closely assess demand for higher education places and take action as necessary to ensure that this year's Leaving Certificate students have a range of pathways into further and higher education.

SOLAS Training and Education Programmes

 629. Deputy Jennifer Murnane O'Connor Information on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor Zoom on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris when provision will be made for Safepass courses which have been suspended due to the Covid-19 pandemic to be resumed; his plans to assist workers with an expired Safepass who are unable to return to work in sectors such as the construction industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11158/21]

Minister of State at the Department of Education and Skills (Deputy Niall Collins): Information on Niall Collins Zoom on Niall Collins Under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (Construction) Regulations 2013, craft and general construction workers, persons undertaking on-site security work and persons or classes of persons as may be prescribed by the Minister are required to hold a safety awareness registration card (Safe Pass card). In March 2020 the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation amended these regulations to extend the expiry dates of valid Safe Pass cards due to expire after the 1st March 2020 for the duration of the Covid-19 emergency period.

Provision of Safe Pass courses had been suspended for the second time in two years with the shutdown of the construction sector in January. Given the continuation of essential construction activity SOLAS, who administer the Safe Pass Programme, have been advised that limited resumption of Safe Pass training may take place to meet the needs of new workers accessing critical projects. Training activity should be in accordance with the COVID-19 safety arrangements developed by SOLAS and limited to the level absolutely necessary and time-critical. In addition the following requirements are to be met by SOLAS:-

1. ensure training is limited to workers engaged in essential construction work,

2. ensure training is limited to those not currently holding valid cards, and

3. approve the running of Safe Pass courses on a case by case basis based on 1 and 2 – training providers must inform SOLAS in advance of their plans to run a course and demonstrate the immediate requirement for the training.

SOLAS is continuing to work on the development of an alternative delivery model for Safe Pass training which is equitable with existing Safe Pass, CSCS and QSCS course delivery in being accessible to all eligible workers, providing real time course participant supports and ensuring assessment integrity.


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