Header Item Written Answers Nos. 224-247
 Header Item Severe Weather Events Response
 Header Item Social and Affordable Housing Provision
 Header Item Library Services Staff
 Header Item State Bodies Data
 Header Item Planning Issues
 Header Item Local Authority Housing Provision
 Header Item Planning Issues
 Header Item Local Authority Housing Data
 Header Item Local Authority Assets
 Header Item Local Authority Housing Maintenance
 Header Item Animal Breeding Regulations
 Header Item Urban Renewal Schemes
 Header Item Homeless Persons Data
 Header Item Social Insurance Data
 Header Item Back to Education Allowance Eligibility
 Header Item Back to Education Allowance Eligibility
 Header Item Employment Support Services
 Header Item Illness Benefit Applications
 Header Item Programme for Government Initiatives

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 924 No. 1
Unrevised

First Page Previous Page Page of 91 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 224-247

Severe Weather Events Response

 224. Deputy Pat Buckley Information on Pat Buckley Zoom on Pat Buckley asked the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney his plans to assist local councils with extra resources for preventative measures if the same level of flooding occurs again this winter and if there is an emergency plan in place for same. [29405/16]

Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney My Department is not involved in funding flood prevention works. Flood prevention and flood mitigation are the responsibility of the Office of Public Works which operates a Capital Programme and a Minor Works Scheme that provide funding for the construction of flood protection and flood prevention works.    

  Following last winter’s flooding my Department made €18m additional funding available to local authorities to support them in meeting the costs associated with the flood response and clean-up activities arising. This funding was provided to local authorities in acknowledgement of the exceptional nature of the work undertaken in protecting homes and property from flooding and in the post-flooding clean-up works.

  Local authorities are designated as the Lead Agency for responding to severe weather events, including flooding. The response to all emergencies is appropriately locally-led in the first instance. The generic response arrangements are detailed in A Framework for Major Emergency Management (2006). Specific guidance for responding to severe weather events is outlined in A Guide to Flood Emergencies (2013) and A Guide to Severe Weather Events (2010). Local authorities have in place severe weather sub-plans based on this guidance material.

  Met Éireann alerts local authorities directly when severe weather is forecast and such warnings are received by a severe weather assessment team within a local authority. The severe weather assessment team take the appropriate action to scale a response and to ensure resources are in place to support a response. During last winter’s flooding, this approach helped to anticipate and prepare for the response required by local authorities.

  In their role as Lead Agency, local authorities carry out a number of functions during the response stage of flooding events and deal with recovery issues in conjunction with other responsible agencies. The local authority role includes:   

  - Coordinating an inter-agency response;

  - Continuously monitoring forecasts/ alerts/ warnings to scale the appropriate response measures;

  - Operating Flood Defences and deploying sand-bag defences;

  - Clearing debris and fallen trees;   

  - Flood Rescue and pumping water (fire service); and   

  - Public Communication.   

  When required, local authorities liaise with the other Principal Response Agencies (HSE, An Garda Síochána) and, where necessary, activate inter-agency structures to manage the response.

  The procedures for coordination of emergencies, such as flooding events, at national level are set out in Guidelines for Coordinating a National Level Emergency/ Crisis Response, published by the Office of Emergency Planning in the Department of Defence, in 2011. This document also sets out the designated lead Government Department for 41 risk scenarios identified for Ireland.   

  Where a situation merits, national level support can be brought to bear and the ‘lead Government Department’ will lead the coordination of the national level response. The purpose of this is to bring “whole of Government” support to bear in assisting the local response if required, to manage the national level issues and to ensure that information is provided to the public.   

  As lead Government Department for the response to severe weather, my Department convened and chaired a National Coordination Group on Severe Weather during last winter’s flooding events on the basis of the Guidelines referred to above. In accordance with standing procedures, all aspects of these severe weather events, including response and coordination at national levels, are being reviewed and any lessons identified will be incorporated into future operating procedures.

Social and Affordable Housing Provision

 225. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if he will provide affordable and non-speculative social housing units through the development of models such as the limited equity associations and long-term fixed leasing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29471/16]

Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney The Government has published Rebuilding Ireland: Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness, which is available at the website www.rebuildingireland.ie . The Plan sets out a practical and implementable set of actions that aim to increase the supply of homes to 25,000 units per annum by 2020, thereby creating a functioning and sustainable housing system. This cross-Government plan is divided into five pillars, each targeting a specific area of the housing system for attention.

  Pillar 2, entitled Accelerate Social Housing, provides for a number of actions to increase the level and speed of delivery of social housing and other State supported housing. Significant funding of €5.35 billion is committed over the period of the plan, reflecting the increased level of ambition, to deliver 47,000 social housing units, through build, refurbishment, acquisitions and leasing, between now and 2021.   

  Rebuilding Ireland recognises the key contribution that approved housing bodies (AHBs) can make to the delivery of housing supports in Ireland, building on their track record in terms of both housing provision and management. The AHB sector has evolved in a short timeframe from the traditional grant-funded model to greater use of a loan finance approach, reflecting the prevailing arrangements in other jurisdictions, and maximising the off-balance mechanisms. Working with the Housing Finance Agency, 15 AHBs with certified borrower status are currently progressing projects across the country. This is a significant contribution and the Government remains committed to enabling the sector to play a central role in the effort to meet social housing needs.     

  Over the lifetime of the Action Plan, AHBs will build approximately 4,700 units and acquire or directly lease over 20,700 units using a mix of exchequer capital support, private finance or other borrowings. All of these units will be secured for social housing use using robust long-term leasing type arrangements known as Payment and Availability Arrangements (PAA) that are usually between 20 to 30 years.   

  The Government is also committed to a range of other structural, funding and policy supports to increase delivery by AHBs. Among these measures is the establishment of an Innovation Fund to support the development by AHBs of innovative financial models, such as Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs) or mutual bodies, to further enhance the contribution of the sector to the delivery of additional social housing and maximise the opportunity to leverage off-balance sheet funding opportunities.   

  These actions complement activities that are already underway within the AHB sector to support long-term strategic thinking and facilitate collaboration, alliances and mergers within the sector. The establishment of a Regulator for the sector, on a full statutory basis, will be a key step in supporting its continued evolution and rationalisation.

  Question No. 226 answered with Question No. 200.

Library Services Staff

 227. Deputy Fergus O'Dowd Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd asked the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the position regarding the obligation on applicants for positions as librarians in county libraries to be fluent in the Irish language; if the obligation has been removed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29546/16]

Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney In July 2016 new qualifications for library staff were declared that removed the obligation for candidates to be fluent in Irish, in order to be considered for library posts.

In 2015 a working group was set up to revise the qualifications for professional and non-professional public library grades. The working group consisted of members of my Department, County Librarians (also members of the Library Association of Ireland), and senior human resources staff from various local authorities as well as representatives from the Libraries Development Unit (formerly An Comhairle Leabharleanna) in the Local Government Management Agency.

The output from this group was the production of updated draft qualifications, for all library grades, which were declared earlier this year.

The revised qualifications reflect the changes in educational requirements within the profession over the last 20 years. For more senior staff within the library profession, the revised qualifications place more emphasis on managerial skills in common with analogous professional grades. The qualifications also reflect the career structure and path from Grades 3 to 9, again in line with analogous professional grades.

The revised qualifications removed the requirement from previous qualifications whereby a successful candidate had to be proficient in Irish. The recommendation from the working group was that this created an unnecessary barrier to entry for those unable to speak Irish or those who never had the opportunity to learn the language.

State Bodies Data

 228. Deputy Joan Burton Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton asked the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the health and safety framework of each commercial and non-commercial State agencies; when the health and safety policy of each was last reviewed; when the safety statement of each was last reviewed; if each body has a health and safety committee and the date this committee was last elected; if each has a health and safety representative and the date this person was last elected; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29554/16]

 229. Deputy Joan Burton Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton asked the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the gifts or hospitality given to employees to attend overseas sporting or musical events during 2015 in respect of all commercial and non-commercial agencies; the locations of such visits; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29555/16]

Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney I propose to take Questions Nos. 228 and 229 together.

  The details requested in relation to bodies under the aegis of my Department are a matter for the individual bodies concerned. Arrangements have been put in place by each Agency to facilitate the provision of information by State Bodies directly to members of the Oireachtas.   The contact email address for each agency is as follows:   

State Body Contact email address
Housing Finance Agency oireachtas.enquiries@hfa.ie
The Housing Agencypublicreps@housingagency.ie
Irish Water Safety oireachtas@iws.ie
Irish Water oireachtasmembers@water.ie
An Bord Pleanala Oireachtasqueries@pleanala.ie
Residential Tenancies BoardOireachtasMembersQueries@rtb.ie
Pobaloireachtasqueries@pobal.ie
The Local Government Management Agencycorporate@lgma.ie.

Planning Issues

 230. Deputy Peter Burke Information on Peter Burke Zoom on Peter Burke asked the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney his plans to introduce legislation to extend planning permission for developments that are approaching their planning expiry after a second extension; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29578/16]

Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney Section 42 of the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended, provides that a planning authority may, on application and in certain circumstances, extend once only the duration of an existing planning permission for a maximum period of 5 years, subject, at the authority’s discretion, to compliance with certain conditions.

The Government’s Rebuilding Ireland Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness includes a commitment to give further consideration to amending section 42 of the 2000 Act to provide for a further extension of the duration of current permissions that have already benefitted from one extension of duration. Legislative amendments to give effect to this commitment are included in the General Scheme of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2016, which was approved by Government on 27 September 2016 for priority drafting.

The General Scheme of the Bill proposes to amend existing provisions to provide that a further extension of duration of permission may be granted by a planning authority where it is satisfied the development has not been completed, due to circumstances beyond the control of the developer. This provision shall be limited to housing developments of 20 or more units and where the application for a further extension is made prior to the expiry of the current extended permission. The additional period granted shall not exceed 5 years or extend beyond the end date of the Action Plan, viz. i.e. 31 December 2021.

This Bill is a priority for the Government and I intend to advance its publication and enactment as quickly as possible.

Local Authority Housing Provision

 231. Deputy Sean Fleming Information on Seán Fleming Zoom on Seán Fleming asked the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the locations in which his Department gives approval for projects to go to tender and in which tender documents specify alternative evidence could be provided where a company turnover does not match that specified in the tender document in respect of the local authority housing construction programme that is directly funded by his Department; the evidence which is accepted by the contracting authority; if his attention has been drawn to the different levels of evidence accepted by different local authorities; the procedures in place to examine the alternative evidence provided under the tender documents in respect of projects which are funded by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29697/16]

 232. Deputy Sean Fleming Information on Seán Fleming Zoom on Seán Fleming asked the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if he will outline the position where his Department is funding local authority house building programmes, the required level of turnover that is specified in the tender documents relative to the estimated contract price by local authorities; the mechanisms in place to ensure there is a level of consistency in these matters throughout local authorities; if he is satisfied that where some local authorities have a much higher level of turnover required to participate in a tender process they are not excluding small and medium sized enterprises from participating in the process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29698/16]

Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney I propose to take Questions Nos. 231 and 232 together.

  The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform is responsible for national policy on public procurement, including construction procurement, and details in this regard can be found on www.constructionprocurement.gov.ie.

  Issues in relation to the reform of public sector construction procurement, including issues relating to the national minimum turnover levels that tenderers must satisfy, are, therefore, a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform.

Planning Issues

 233. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin Information on Eoin Ó Broin Zoom on Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney his views on the various allegations detailed to him by a person (details supplied) in a county council that allege another person was acting fraudulently; his plans to address the allegations; if he is satisfied that his Department and the county council concerned have responded adequately to the very serious allegations raised previously by this whistleblower; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29701/16]

Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney My Department appointed Senior Counsel on a non-statutory basis on 2 September 2015 to prepare a review report in relation to planning matters in Donegal. This follows the Order made by the High Court on 14 June 2013, quashing that part of my Department’s Planning Review Report (2012) relating to Donegal, arising from a settlement between my Department and the party concerned who had brought judicial review proceedings in respect of that part of the Report.

Senior Counsel was due to submit a review report to my predecessor by 31 October 2015; however, further interactions and clarifications being sought with regard to the scope and nature of the review have resulted in delays to concluding the review. I am currently considering these matters, with a view to providing the necessary clarifications to enable Senior Counsel to complete his independent review as soon as possible within the coming months.

The complainant has recently submitted a separate complaint which is currently being considered by my Department and a separate response will issue to him shortly on this issue.

Local Authority Housing Data

 234. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin Information on Eoin Ó Broin Zoom on Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the total number of local authority voids returned to stock in each year from 2010 to 2015 and to date in 2016; the target for the total to be returned to stock by the end of 2016; the total remaining voids expected at the end of 2016; the plan from 2017 onwards to return these voids to stock by local authority area; and the total cost and projected cost of bringing these units back into stock annually from 2010. [29702/16]

Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney The routine turnaround of vacant social housing stock is a matter for each local authority and is carried out under their on going maintenance programme. A programme of retrofitting was introduced in 2009 and ran until 2014. This programme included remedial works, energy efficiency measures and works on vacant social housing units. Under this programme improvements were carried out to over 7,000 social units nationally.

  The current voids programme, supporting local authorities in returning vacant social housing units to productive use, commenced in 2014 and is a target driven and cost effective voids retrofitting programme. The numbers of social houses returned to productive use and the costs are as follows:

Year Numbers of Units Returned Cost
2014 2333 €26.38m
2015 2696 €33.35m
2016 424* Allocation for 2,000 units €37.2m
2017 Estimate 800**  


*To date in 2016, 424 units have been returned ; many other units are complete or almost complete and will be claimed shortly .   

** Funding for 2017 will be determined in the context of the estimate process.   

  It should be noted that there will always be a level of vacant social houses at any given point in time owing to the fact that the numbers of vacant properties nationally changes on a daily basis due to local authorities having social units handed back and as units are re-let. The number of vacant units will therefore fluctuate constantly, as would be expected in the management of the thousands of homes owned by local authorities, where tenancies change on a regular basis.

  The low rates of vacant units of 1-2% reported by some authorities in 2016 is a strong indication that the local authorities, through the additional provision of funding provided by my Department, have substantially addressed the backlog that had accumulated pre-2014.

Local Authority Assets

 235. Deputy Sean Sherlock Information on Seán Sherlock Zoom on Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the amount of land which is owned by the county and city councils in Cork; the amount of land in acres owned by the Cork local authorities in each municipal district in the county and city; the amount of land owned by the Cork local authorities in the county and city that is zoned for industrial and residential use; and the amount required to bring specific land banks up to usable standards and land banks in particular according to each municipal district, in tabular form. [29767/16]

Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney The information requested by the Deputy regarding lands owned by the Cork local authorities is not available to my Department and is a matter for the local authorities themselves.

  Notwithstanding the above, the active pursuit of progressing housing developments on State lands, including local authority lands in Cork, is a major part of the new approach to housing provision under the Rebuilding Ireland Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness. The Action Plan contains a number of integrated actions to underpin land supply management, including the development of a national Land Supply Management Strategy, within the context of the new National Planning Framework, which is due for publication in the first half of 2017. This will involve identifying and mapping sites in local authority and public ownership with appropriate lands to be master-planned to deliver increased mixed-tenure housing, including social and more affordable housing. In addition, it is envisaged that local authorities will be supported in acquiring housing lands in key developable areas, and strategic opportunities for urban renewal and regeneration will be identified for co-ordinated action across relevant public sector bodies.

  Furthermore, the Housing Agency, in consultation with my Department and local authorities, has already commenced the mapping of some 700 sites in local authority ownership and those held by the Agency under the Land Aggregation Scheme, showing their location, size, boundaries and other information. Once collated, this map will be made available in due course and will be updated to record the development and use of these lands.      

  The Action Plan also proposes the development of new approaches to local authority housing strategies, as part of their statutory development plans, with a particular focus on the selection of privately owned sites for delivery of starter homes at affordable prices to meet housing needs across their area, across tenures and types as well as meeting the social housing requirement.   

  My Department, in conjunction with local authority planning departments, carried out a national survey of all lands zoned for residential development in statutory local authority development plans and local area plans across Ireland. The results of this 2014 survey indicated that there were 17,434 hectares of residential zoned lands nationally, which could support the construction of over 414,000 dwellings. A summary report of this exercise, the Residential Land Availability Survey 2014, and the mapped results of the survey, are available on my Department’s website at the following link: http://www.housing.gov.ie/planning/development-zones/residential-land-availability.

  A further Residential Land Availability Survey is planned to be undertaken in 2017.

Local Authority Housing Maintenance

 236. Deputy Dara Calleary Information on Dara Calleary Zoom on Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney further to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 130, 135 and 136 of 29 September 2016, the number of local authority homes in each local authority for each of the years 2011 to 2015, inclusive, in tabular form; the corresponding number of annual boiler services that have been carried out in these same local authority homes; if he is satisfied that local authorities are fulfilling this specific aspect of their legal requirements as landlords; the steps he will take in order to ensure full compliance by the State and the local authorities as the largest landlord in the country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29777/16]

Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney As indicated in the reply to previous Parliamentary Questions ( Numbers 130, 135 and 136 of 29 September 2016 ), minimum standards for rental accommodation are prescribed in the Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) Regulations 2008, as amended by the Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) (Amendment) Regulations 2009, made under section 18 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1992. The Regulations specify requirements in relation to a range of matters, such as structural repairs, sanitary facilities, heating, ventilation, natural light and safety of gas and electrical supply. With very limited exemptions, these regulations apply to local authority and voluntary housing units as well as private rented residential accommodation. While all landlords have a legal obligation to ensure that their rented properties comply with these regulations, there is no requirement to carry out an annual service of home heating boilers.

The management and maintenance of local authority housing stock, including the implementation of planned maintenance programmes and carrying out of responsive repairs and pre-letting repairs to vacant properties, is a matter for each individual local authority under section 58 of the Housing Act, 1966 and is not directly funded by my Department.

  Questions Nos. 237 and 238 answered with Question No. 212.

Animal Breeding Regulations

 239. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney his plans to change the regulations in respect of protected dog breeds in view of the recent report received by him from Veterinary Ireland on the subject; the timescale and process that will be involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29816/16]

Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney I refer to the reply to Question Number 640 of 16 September 2016 which sets out the position in this matter.

Urban Renewal Schemes

 240. Deputy Barry Cowen Information on Barry Cowen Zoom on Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney whether, as part of the Limerick regeneration programme, Tipperary County Council provided costings of its proposal for a town park in Newport; and if his attention has been drawn to the purchase price that Tipperary County Council paid for the proposed town park in Newport [29856/16]

Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney Under the Limerick Hinterland Study, Tipperary County Council submitted a proposal to my Department with estimated costings for a new town park and related facilities at Newport. The overall estimated cost of the development is €650,000, which includes site acquisition costs. My Department approved funding of €325,000 in August 2016, on a matching funds basis, with the balance to be provided by Tipperary County Council. The acquisition of the site is a matter for the Council.

Homeless Persons Data

 241. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire Information on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire Zoom on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if he has considered an outreach programme in an attempt to identify hidden homeless persons here who may require support; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29873/16]

Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney Households, including individuals that meet the eligibility criteria and have a housing need, may apply to their local authority for social housing support. In assessing any application, the local authority will consider such factors as present accommodation, the condition of that accommodation, etc. Following assessment qualified households are placed on the housing waiting list. The oversight and management of housing waiting lists and the allocation of that support are a matter for the relevant housing authority in accordance with the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009 and associated regulations.

The 2016 Summary of Social Housing Assessments, which I expect will be finalised by the end of this year, will provide up to date information on the number of households which are qualified for social housing support in a range of categories, including those in overcrowded or unfit accommodation.

Where supports other than accommodation are required, households may engage with the Department of Social Protection’s Community Welfare Service which administers a range of supplementary welfare allowances.

Social Insurance Data

 242. Deputy Joan Collins Information on Joan Collins Zoom on Joan Collins asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the amount which would accrue to the State if employers' PRSI was increased by 1%, 1.5% and 2% on all businesses and on businesses employing over 20 workers. [29269/16]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar Currently class A employers pay PRSI at the rate of 8.5% where weekly earnings are between €38 and €376. Once weekly earnings exceed €376, the rate of employer PRSI is 10.75%.

  The increase in the PRSI yield to the Social Insurance Fund from increasing the class A employer PRSI rates by 1%, 1.5% and 2%, is contained in the following table.

% Increase in

Rate of

Employer PRSI
Increased Yield from Increase in 8.5% Lower RateIncreased Yield from Increase in 10.75% Higher RateTotal Increased YieldEmployments Affected
1%€37.3m€634.1m€671.4m2,433,475
1.5%€56.0m€951.2m€1,007.1m2,433,475
2%€74.6m€1,268.2m€1342.8m2,433,475


  As the Department does not have data on the number of employees working for individual employers, it is not possible to provide an estimate of the increased yield if employer’s PRSI was increased by 1%, 1.5% and 2% on businesses employing over twenty workers.

Back to Education Allowance Eligibility

 243. Deputy Thomas Byrne Information on Thomas Byrne Zoom on Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the reason for refusal of back to education allowance for a person (details supplied). [29459/16]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar A person in receipt of the Back to Education Allowance who defers a course of study and then reapplies at a later date is deemed to be a new applicant and the decision on eligibility is subject to the conditions on the date of re-application. In this case, the participant, while approved to participate in the Back to Education Allowance Scheme, does not qualify for a payment as she is signing for Jobseeker's Benefit Credits.

I hope that this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Back to Education Allowance Eligibility

 244. Deputy Thomas Byrne Information on Thomas Byrne Zoom on Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the reason for refusal of the back to education allowance for a person (details supplied). [29460/16]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The focus of the Back to Education Allowance (BTEA) is on providing income support to jobseekers in improving their education qualifications to access the labour market, meeting emerging skill needs and supporting those who have poor levels of educational attainment.

A person wishing to pursue the BTEA has to satisfy a number of conditions. These include being a certain age, being in receipt of a prescribed social welfare payment for a specified time period, commencing a full-time course of study leading to a recognised qualification in a recognised college and progressing in the level of education held by the client with reference to the national framework of qualifications.

Progression is a fundamental condition of the BTEA scheme and state support for education purposes is grounded on a student progressing from one qualification level to a higher one.

The person concerned was refused BTEA on the basis of not progressing in the level of education held by him. The person concerned was notified of this decision on 30 August 2016. Following a review of his circumstances on 7 October 2016, the decision to disallow the claim has been upheld.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Employment Support Services

 245. Deputy James Lawless Information on James Lawless Zoom on James Lawless asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if he will extend the Tús scheme from one year to two years to allow further progression and experience by the employee and employer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29233/16]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The purpose of Tús is to provide short-term work opportunities for those who are unemployed for more than one year. Tús breaks the cycle of unemployment and improves a person’s chances of returning to the labour market. Currently, there are no circumstances under which a person’s term on Tús can be extended beyond one year.

The Tús budget for 2016 allows for 8,000 participants. Extending the period of participation beyond one year for current participants would reduce the number of placements available to other people who are long-term unemployed. The existing 12-month placement period on Tús is considered adequate to meet the objectives of the initiative, while also ensuring that as many unemployed people as possible are able to benefit from it.

Tús was introduced as a direct response to the growth in the level of unemployment during the financial crisis. With the ongoing welcome reductions in the live register, a review of work schemes, including Tús, is necessary. This will ensure that the number and nature of schemes, and the conditions governing participation on them, continues to be appropriate. I will be considering all of these issues over the coming months.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Illness Benefit Applications

 246. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the status of an application for illness benefit by a person (details supplied) and when they can expect a decision on their case. [29246/16]

Minister of State at the Department of Social Protection (Deputy Finian McGrath): Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath Under Social Protection Regulations the rate payable on illness benefit claims is dependent on a person’s average weekly earnings in the governing contribution year. For claims made in 2016 the governing contribution year is 2014.

  The illness benefit claim of the person concerned was awarded on 22 September 2016 and payment has been made. The rate of illness benefit is €177.10 weekly which comprises a personal rate of €147.30 plus an increase in respect of a dependent child. The personal rate payable reflects the person’s average weekly earnings in the 2014 governing contribution year.

  If the person concerned is unable to meet their needs or the needs of their household, they may be entitled to supplementary welfare allowance and should contact my department’s community welfare services at their local Intreo centre.

  I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Programme for Government Initiatives

 247. Deputy Mattie McGrath Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the steps he has taken to introduce a working family payment as promised in the programme for Government to ensure that social welfare schemes supporting low-income families do not discriminate against the self-employed and farming families; when he expects such a payment will be introduced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29265/16]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The Programme for Government contains a commitment to introduce a ‘Working Family Payment’ targeted at low-income families. My Department is currently developing proposals for the new payment.

  In doing so, we will be guided by two principles. First, that it should ensure that work pays more than welfare and that no family is better off on welfare than at work, and second, though equally important, that it has a positive effect on child poverty.

  The Farm Assist scheme provides support for farmers on low incomes and is similar to Jobseeker’s Allowance. Recipients retain the advantages of the Jobseeker’s Allowance scheme such as the retention of secondary benefits and access to activation programmes.

  Farm Assist is a flexible payment and any farmer experiencing lower levels of income or cash-flow issues, due, for example, to bad weather, can ask his/her local INTREO office to review the level of means applying to his/her claim.

  Subject to means and other qualifying conditions, other self-employed persons may claim Jobseeker’s Allowance if their business ceases or there is reduced demand for their services. Typically over 80% of jobseeker’s allowance claims from self-employed persons have been awarded over recent years.

  I am pleased that as announced in today's budget farm income and other income from off-farm self-employment to be assessed at 70%, down from 100%, for Farm Assist, with additional annual disregard of €254 for each of the first two children and €381 for the third and other children.

  - Rural Social Scheme – 500 additional places in 2017, increasing overall number to 3,100.

  - €5 increase in maximum weekly rate of Farm Assist and €3.30 increase for adult dependants.

  - Invalidity Pension is being extended to the self-employed including farmers – December 2017.

  - Entitlement to Dental and Optical Benefits for farmers – March 2017.

  - Farmers to qualify for extended range of Dental and Optical Benefits from October 2017.

  These measures will be available for farmers.


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