Header Item Written Answers Nos. 112-121
 Header Item Student Grant Scheme Appeals
 Header Item Residential Institutions Redress Scheme
 Header Item Residential Institutions Redress Scheme
 Header Item Schools Building Projects Administration
 Header Item School Curriculum
 Header Item Special Educational Needs Service Provision
 Header Item Special Educational Needs Service Provision
 Header Item Public Procurement Contracts
 Header Item Flood Relief Schemes Funding

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 830 No. 3

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Written Answers Nos. 112-121

Student Grant Scheme Appeals

 112. Deputy Tom Fleming Information on Tom Fleming Zoom on Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn if he will expedite a student grant appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7338/14]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn Officials in my Department have confirmed that the student referred to by the Deputy has appealed the decision of the awarding authority to the independent Student Grants Appeals Board. The appeal was received by the Board on 21st January 2014 and will be heard within the timeframe set out in the Student Support Act 2011. The student will be notified directly of the outcome of the appeal.

Residential Institutions Redress Scheme

 113. Deputy Clare Daly Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn if persons are being employed under JobBridge or any other labour activation scheme in relation to operating Caranua; and his views on whether it is appropriate that unqualified persons would work in such a sensitive area with persons who are extremely vulnerable as a result of the abuse they suffered. [7345/14]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn Caranua is the service name used by the Residential Institutions Statutory Fund, which is an independent statutory body under the aegis of my Department. From enquiries made by my officials to Caranua I understand that it has not provided any internships under the JobBridge initiative or any other labour activation scheme. I agree that care should be taken to ensure that Caranua employees are in a position to deal effectively and sensitively with those survivors who are vulnerable as a result of the abuse they suffered as children.

Residential Institutions Redress Scheme

 114. Deputy Clare Daly Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn the reason the Linden Home in Blackrock was excluded from the residential institutions redress scheme; and the steps that are open to former residents to obtain redress.  [7365/14]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn The Schedule to the Residential Institutions Redress Act, 2002 included 123 specified institutions and section 4 of the Act enabled the Minister for Education and Science to provide for the insertion into the Schedule of

"any industrial school, reformatory school, orphanage, children's home, special school which was established for the purpose of providing education services to children with a physical or intellectual disability or a hospital providing medical or psychiatric services to people with a physical or mental disability or mental illness in which children were placed and resident and in respect of which a public body had a regulatory or inspection function."

Two Orders were made specifying 16 additional institutions, in November 2004 and July 2005, bringing the total number of scheduled institutions to 139. Since then, no further institutions have been added to the Schedule. Following the publication of the Ryan Report in May 2009, there were a range of demands for the redress scheme to be extended, including demands to include specific institutions and categories of institutions. However, the Government of the time decided against the inclusion of any further institutions within the scheme. The decision not to extend the scheme has meant the exclusion of a range of institutions which could have been considered for inclusion.

The closing date for receipt of applications by the Redress Board was 15th December, 2005. The Board could however accept late applications in exceptional circumstances, up until September 2011. The Board is currently finalising the remaining applications it received. I understand that requests to include Linden Convalescent Home in the Schedule were considered by my Department and refused on the basis that the Home did not come within the terms of section 4.

Schools Building Projects Administration

 115. Deputy Terence Flanagan Information on Terence Flanagan Zoom on Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn if he will list all stages for schools buildings projects; the average length of time it takes a school in each stage; the total average from stage 1 to the building of the school; if there are any proposed changes to the process; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [7405/14]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn At present, there are five stages of architectural planning involved in the delivery of major school projects. The stages reflect the Capital Works Management Framework developed by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. The stages and indicative timelines are as follows: Stage 1 – Preliminary (2 to 5 months); Stage 2 - Design (which is divided into Stage 2a - Developed Sketch Scheme and Stage 2b - Detailed Design) (9 to 12 months); Stage 3 - Tender Action, Evaluation and Award (5 to 8 months); Stage 4 – Construction (12 to 24 months); and Stage 5 - Handover of Works and Final Account (12 months minimum).

The period of time it takes to progress through each of these stages varies from project to project depending on its size and complexity. Design Teams are appointed to progress major projects through the stages of architectural planning. In normal circumstances once a Design Team has been appointed, the project should be progressed expeditiously to the completion of Stage 2b i.e. the preparation of Tender Documents. The responsibility for the progression of the project from Stage to Stage (in accordance with the Project Brief and the Department's Design Guidelines) rests with the Design Team in agreement with the client, subject to the project timelines and the availability of funding. The written authorisation of the Department to proceed is always required prior to progression to stages 3 (tender) and 4 (contract award and construction).

More details on the procedures governing each of these stages are available on my Department's website at http://www.education.ie/en/School-Design/Procedures-and-Cost-Plans/Procedures-and-Cost-Plans.html. The procedures were last revised in 2012.

School Curriculum

 116. Deputy Terence Flanagan Information on Terence Flanagan Zoom on Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn his plan regarding the removal of religion from the school curriculum; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7424/14]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn I have no intention of taking religion off the school curriculum. In fact, Religious Education is one of the seven curricular areas in the primary curriculum. Primary schools have been give suggested weekly times for the seven areas including 2.5 hours for religion. Individual schools and teachers use their discretion on the implementation of the suggested times, having regard to the needs of their pupils and their school.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

 117. Deputy Terence Flanagan Information on Terence Flanagan Zoom on Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn his plans to include Down's syndrome as a low-incidence disability so that it qualifies for resource teaching hours; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [7429/14]

 118. Deputy Terence Flanagan Information on Terence Flanagan Zoom on Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn the cost of including Down's syndrome as a low-incidence disability so that it qualifies for resource teaching hours; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [7430/14]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn I propose to take Questions Nos. 117 and 118 together.

I wish to firstly explain to the Deputy that, regardless of the manner in which the resource hours are allocated to schools, resource teaching/learning support is available for all pupils with Down syndrome. I wish to explain also that pupils with Down syndrome attending mainstream schools may receive additional teaching support in primary schools, either under the terms of the General Allocation Model (GAM) of teaching supports, if the pupil's educational psychological assessment places the pupil in the mild general learning disability/high incidence disability category, or through an allocation of individual additional resource teaching hours which are allocated by the National Council for Special Education (NCSE), if the child is assessed as being within the low incidence category of special need, as defined by my Department's Circular Sp Ed 02/05.

Pupils with Down syndrome may therefore be allocated resources under the category of mild general learning disability, or under the categories of moderate general learning difficulty or Assessed Syndrome, in conjunction with another Low Incidence disability. There is not currently a distinct disability category of Down syndrome for resource allocation purposes. As such, it is not possible to advise of the number of children with Down syndrome who will be attending school for the 2013/14 school year and accordingly my Department is not in a position to cost the inclusion of Down Syndrome as a low incidence disability.

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) has a formal role under the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs (EPSEN) Act, 2004 in advising me in relation to any matter relating to the education of children and others with disabilities. My Department requested that the NCSE consider the issue of whether Down Syndrome should be reclassified as a low incidence disability in all instances, regardless of assessed cognitive ability, in the context of its preparation of comprehensive advice on how the educational system supports children with special educational needs in schools.

The NCSE report on Supporting Children with Special Educational Needs in Schools has now been published and is available on the NCSE website www.ncse.ie. The report recommends that under the new resource allocation model proposed by the NCSE in its report, children should be allocated additional resources in line with their level of need, rather than by disability category.

The NCSE has recommended that in the short-term, pupils with Down syndrome who are in the Mild General Learning Disability (Mild GLD) category should continue to be supported by schools' Learning Support allocation in the same way as other pupils with a Mild GLD.

The NCSE policy advice did not recommend that an exception should be made for children with Down syndrome who are in the Mild GLD range, over other children who are in the mild range and who also may have other co-morbid conditions. However, the NCSE report states that it is confident that the introduction of a new allocation model will overcome the difficulty posed by all children with mild general learning disabilities, including children with Down syndrome, who have additional difficulties and who can be supported according to their level of need and in line with their learning plan process. In the meantime, schools are reminded that they can differentiate the level of learning support granted to ensure that available resources are used to support children in line with their needs.

The NCSE has established a Working Group to develop a proposal for consideration for a new Tailored Allocation Model, which is set out as one of the principal recommendations of the report. I understand that the Working Group will report its findings before the end of spring 2014.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

 119. Deputy Terence Flanagan Information on Terence Flanagan Zoom on Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn his plans to increase the maximum number of resource teaching hours provided to each pupil; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7431/14]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn The Deputy will be aware that this Government is committed to the protection of frontline services for pupils with special educational needs and has maintained and increased provision for this area for this school year, despite requirement to make expenditure reductions elsewhere. There are now over 10,700 additional teachers in schools supporting children with special educational needs, which is more than at any time previously. This is in comparison to 10,305 posts for the 2012/13 school year and 9,950 such posts for the 2011/12 year.

For the 2013/14 school year, there are 5730 resource teaching posts allocated to schools by the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) to support pupils with low incidence special educational needs. This should be compared to an NCSE allocation of 5265 posts in the previous year, or 5175 posts in 2010. For the current school year, in order to meet growing demand from schools for low incidence special educational needs support, 480 additional new resource teaching posts were made available for schools, in order to maintain allocations at their current rate. So the Government has been increasing the overall number of resource teaching posts available in recent years.

The Deputy may also be aware that the NCSE recently published comprehensive policy advice on Supporting Students with Special Educational Needs in Schools. The advice recommends that under a new resource allocation model proposed by the NCSE in its report, children should be allocated additional resources in line with their level of need, rather than by disability category.

I have, as suggested by the Report, requested the NCSE to establish a Working Group to develop a proposal, for consideration, for a new allocation model for resource teaching supports for children with Special Educational Needs based on the profiled educational needs of children in schools, and which will aim to ensure that resources are directed to those children and schools who need them most. I understand that the Working Group will report its findings before the end of Spring 2014.

Public Procurement Contracts

 120. Deputy Denis Naughten Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin if a local authority can include as part of its agreement with a contractor a formal requirement for the company or developer to recruit a percentage of its staff within the local authority area; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [7280/14]

 127. Deputy Denis Naughten Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin if a public body can as part of its procurement process include a formal requirement for the company or developer to commit to try and recruit and procure services within a local area; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [7281/14]

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Brendan Howlin): Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin I propose to take Questions Nos. 120 and 127 together.

  Under EU rules on public procurement public works, supplies and service contracts above certain thresholds must be advertised on the Official Journal of the EU and awarded on the basis of objective and non-restrictive criteria. The aim of these rules is to promote an open, competitive and non-discriminatory public procurement regime which delivers best value for money. It would be a breach of these rules for a public body to favour or discriminate against particular candidates and there are legal remedies which may be used against any public body infringing these rules. Requiring a company either foreign or domestic to employ a person or purchase goods or services from a specific geographical location would be against European Procurement rules and EU Treaty principles in relation to trade and the free movement of labour.

  The European Commission has issued guidance on this issue which stressed that when incorporating social considerations into the procurement process one of the key challenges is ensuring compliance with the EU Treaty Principles and the Procurement Directives. EU rules primarily envisage that social considerations may be included as contract performance conditions, provided they are not discriminatory and are included in the tender notice or contract documentation and relate to the performance of the contract. For example, EU rules state that contract performance conditions may, in certain circumstances, be intended to favour on-site vocational training; the employment of people experiencing particular difficulty in achieving integration; or, the protection of the environment. In such cases this type of clause would have a relatively narrow application.

  In terms of impact, challenges arise from the need to ensure that:

- value for money is not adversely affected;

- additional costs are not placed on domestic suppliers relative to other potential suppliers (making indigenous suppliers less competitive and therefore be damaging in the long run);

- displacement is avoided (such a policy could adversely impact those currently employed); and,

- the targeted benefit is capable of being measured and monitored during execution of the contract.

  Finally, it is important to remember that open tendering is a two way street and that it provides Irish companies with opportunities to compete abroad. The public procurement market in the EU is valued in excess of €2.4 trillion. In this regard, it is worth pointing out that the open market regime offers opportunities for Irish companies to win business abroad and reliable EU studies indicate that many Irish businesses are successful in this regard.

Flood Relief Schemes Funding

 121. Deputy Patrick O'Donovan Information on Patrick O'Donovan Zoom on Patrick O'Donovan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin his plans to protect an area (details supplied) in County Wexford from further coastal erosion and flooding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7298/14]

Minister of State at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Brian Hayes): Information on Brian Hayes Zoom on Brian Hayes The investigation and addressing of coastal erosion and flooding problems in Wexford, including the location referred to by the Deputy, are matters for Wexford County Council in the first instance. If the Council decides that upgrading of existing defences or construction of new defences is required, it is open to it to apply for funding to the Office of Public Works (OPW) under the Minor Flood Works and Coastal Protection Scheme. Any such application would be considered in light of applications from local authorities generally and having regard to the OPW's overall availability of resources.

  Wexford County Council submitted an application in 2012 under the Office of Public Works Minor Works Scheme for coastal protection works at St. Kieran's Wall, Bannow Bay. The OPW wrote to the Council in March, 2013 requesting further information on this application, including a requirement for a revised cost-benefit analysis. This has not been provided to date.

  With regard to existing defences, the OPW wrote on 10th January to City and County Managers in coastal areas indicating that it will accept applications under the Scheme for funding to assist with repairs to built flood defences and coastal protection structures which have been damaged by the recent storms. This is a once-off measure to reinstate built coastal defences to their pre-storm condition. The specific application form for this entitled Coastal Storm Damage Flooding Questionnaire 2014  is available on OPW's website www.opw.ie under Flood Risk Management. The work for which funding is sought will be carried out by the Local Authorities.

  It is also open to the Council to carry out works using its own resources.


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