8. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform his plans to prioritise particular projects in the context of the capital review programme; the extent to which he expects to address issues in health, housing or other sensitive areas in this context; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 2344/18 asked on 18 Jan 2018 - Capital Expenditure Programme)

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: My question relates to the extent to which the Minister might find it possible, in the context of the capital review programme, to identify the most important items of infrastructure with a view to benefiting the economy.
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43. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if extra staff are required to facilitate a more rapid process of appeals having particular regard to the hardship and stress caused by delays which appear to affect the system; and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 2033/18 asked on 17 Jan 2018 - Social Welfare Appeals Waiting Times)

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): The average appeal processing times for all appeals determined from 2015 to 2017 broken down by all social welfare scheme types is outlined in the tables. My Department, like all Government departments and agencies is required to operate within a staff ceiling figure and a commensurate administrative staffing budget, which for this Department has involved reductions in staff. The staffing needs for all areas within...

44. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the extent to which her attention has been drawn to the impact of cessation of a means tested payment for any reason affecting in particular persons dependent on rent support while on local authority housing lists which, in many cases, can lead to accumulated arrears of rent and as a consequence homelessness; if the issue can be reviewed with the objective of ensuring that payment is continued while under investigation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 2034/18 asked on 17 Jan 2018 - Rent Supplement Scheme Payments)

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): I propose to take Question Nos 44 and 226 together.
Rent supplement plays a vital role in housing families and individuals, with the scheme supporting 34,400 recipients for which the Government has provided €180 million for in 2018. Continued entitlement to rent supplement is not linked to entitlement to other social welfare schemes, however the rent supplement claim may be reviewed following a decision to suspend o...

87. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the history of stamp 4 held by a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 2153/18 asked on 17 Jan 2018 - Residency Permits)

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): I am advised by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) of my Department that the person concerned made an application for a residence card on 05 January 2015 under the EC Free Movement of Persons Regulations 2015.  On 28 January 2015, INIS granted the person temporary permission to reside in this State, under Stamp 4 conditions, expiring on 04 August 2015, pending consideration of the application.
I understand that the...

217. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the number of applications for exceptional needs payments in each of the past three years and to date in 2018; the number approved, refused or pending respectively; and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 2373/18 asked on 17 Jan 2018 - Exceptional Needs Payments)

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): I propose to take Questions Nos. 32, 38, 217 and 229 together. 
Under the supplementary welfare allowance (SWA) scheme, my Department may make a single exceptional needs payment (ENP) to help meet essential, once-off expenditure which a person could not reasonably be expected to meet out of their weekly income. 
An urgent needs payment (UNP) is a once-off payment made to persons who may not normally qualify for SWA ...

218. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the extent to which efforts are being made to address long term youth unemployment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 2374/18 asked on 17 Jan 2018 - Youth Unemployment Measures)

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): The Government’s primary strategy to tackle unemployment – including long-term unemployment and youth unemployment – is twofold. The Action Plan for Jobs supports continuing strong economic recovery and employment growth. Policies and actions to ensure that unemployed people benefit from the increase in employment are set out in the strategy paper Pathways to Work 2016-2020. 
To date, these policies have been effect...

219. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the degree to which efforts are being made to award State pensions to those persons whose contribution record was interrupted for family or other reasons; and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 2375/18 asked on 17 Jan 2018 - State Pensions Payments)

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): There are three main State pensions. Firstly, the State pension non-contributory is a means-tested pension funded from taxation. Secondly, the State pension contributory, which is not means-tested, is paid from the Social Insurance Fund, via the PRSI system. The third main state pension available to some people over 66 is the Widows/Widowers Contributory Pension.
It is important to ensure those qualifying for the c...

220. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the estimated cost of restoring State pension levels to those applicable previously; and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 2376/18 asked on 17 Jan 2018 - State Pensions)

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): The current rate bands applying to the State pension contributory were introduced from September 2012, replacing previous rates introduced in 2000. The rate bands prior to 2000 were less generous, and the improved rate bands introduced in 2000 were a feature of the economic and political environment at that time. The economic crash changed the focus and while other payments were reduced as a result, the core rates o...

221. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the annual cost of State pensions from 2004 to 2017 and to date in 2018; and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 2377/18 asked on 17 Jan 2018 - State Pensions)

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): The information sought by the Deputy is detailed in the tables.
The 2018 Revised Estimate for pension expenditure is €7,571,360 million. Details of expenditure to date in 2018 will not be available until the first week of February.
Table 1: Pensions Expenditure Outturn, 2004-2010
 Expenditure (€000) 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 State Pension (Non Contributory) 599,988 631,299 727,7...

222. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the number of persons with insufficient insurance contributions to meet the requirements for State pension purposes; the degree to which they may qualify for a means-tested or non-contributory pension; and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 2378/18 asked on 17 Jan 2018 - State Pension (Non-Contributory) Data)

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): The rate of payment under the State Pension (Contributory) scheme is related to contributions paid over the years into the Social Insurance Fund, and credited contributions where applicable. There are a number of criteria which must be satisfied in order to qualify for a State pension contributory, whether at full or reduced level. These include that the person must be aged 66 or over, and that they have at least 52...

223. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the average length of time taken to deal with appeals in respect of disallowance of jobseeker’s allowance, carer’s allowance, disability allowance and other payments; and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 2379/18 asked on 17 Jan 2018 - Social Welfare Appeals Waiting Times)

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): The average appeal processing times for all appeals determined from 2015 to 2017 broken down by all social welfare scheme types is outlined in the tables below. 
Significant efforts and resources have been devoted to reforming the appeal process in recent years. As a result, appeal processing times improved between 2011 and 2016 from 52.5 weeks for an oral hearing in 2011 to 24.1 weeks in 2016 and from 25.1 weeks fo...

224. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the degree to which a hardship clause has been invoked in the course of dealing with various circumstances in which persons found themselves in serious financial difficulty on a monthly basis over the course of the past year; and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 2380/18 asked on 17 Jan 2018 - Supplementary Welfare Allowance)

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): The supplementary welfare allowance (SWA) scheme is considered the “safety net” within the overall social welfare system in that it provides assistance to eligible people in the State whose means are insufficient to meet their needs and those of their dependants. The main purpose of the scheme is to provide immediate and flexible assistance for those in need who do not qualify for payment under other State schemes. 
...

225. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection her preferred options to resolve the issue whereby women and some men fail to qualify for an adequate level of contributory State pension; and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 2381/18 asked on 17 Jan 2018 - State Pension (Contributory) Eligibility)

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): There are three main State pensions. Firstly, the State pension non-contributory is a means-tested pension funded from taxation. Secondly, the State pension contributory, which is not means-tested, is paid from the Social Insurance Fund, via the PRSI system. Thirdly, the Widows/Widowers Contributory Pension is available to some people over 66.
Where someone does not qualify for a full rate contributory pension, the...

226. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if her attention has been drawn to the fact that interruptions in respect of payment of rent support will almost certainly lead to homelessness in view of the fact that persons in receipt of rent support have no other means of providing themselves with a home and that incurring arrears makes it virtually impossible for them to obtain a rental property; if measures can be taken to ensure that the equivalent of a rent support payment continues to be paid to recipients during the course of other investigations such as means testing into their circumstances; and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 2382/18 asked on 17 Jan 2018 - Rent Supplement Scheme Payments)

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): I propose to take Question Nos 44 and 226 together.
Rent supplement plays a vital role in housing families and individuals, with the scheme supporting 34,400 recipients for which the Government has provided €180 million for in 2018. Continued entitlement to rent supplement is not linked to entitlement to other social welfare schemes, however the rent supplement claim may be reviewed following a decision to suspend o...

227. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if adequate staff are available throughout the various sectors of her Department to ensure the expeditious of applications. (Question 2383/18 asked on 17 Jan 2018 - Departmental Staff)

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): The Deputy will be aware that my Department, like all government departments, must operate within the staffing budget and headcount determined by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. In that context, the staffing needs for all areas within the Department are continuously reviewed. This takes account of workloads, management priorities and the competing demands arising, to ensure that the best use is made of...

228. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the extent to which she has identified specific trends arising from the study of the age profile of those on the live register; and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 2384/18 asked on 17 Jan 2018 - Live Register Data)

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): The official measure of unemployment is sourced from the Quarterly National Household Survey (QNHS). Measures of unemployment from the QNHS are based on International Labour Office (ILO) definitions. To be ‘ILO unemployed’ a person must in the week before the survey be without work but available for work and have recently taken specific job-search steps. The Live Register, which captures those registering for unemp...

229. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the extent to which funding for exceptional needs payments became exhausted in her Department before the end of 2017; and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 2385/18 asked on 17 Jan 2018 - Exceptional Needs Payments)

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): I propose to take Questions Nos. 32, 38, 217 and 229 together. 
Under the supplementary welfare allowance (SWA) scheme, my Department may make a single exceptional needs payment (ENP) to help meet essential, once-off expenditure which a person could not reasonably be expected to meet out of their weekly income. 
An urgent needs payment (UNP) is a once-off payment made to persons who may not normally qualify for SWA ...

230. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the degree to which back to work and back to education supports will be reviewed with a view to maximising their availability; and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 2386/18 asked on 17 Jan 2018 - Back to Work Enterprise Allowance Scheme)

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): The Back to Work Enterprise Allowance (BTWEA) scheme enables my Department to work with people who have found themselves dependent on the welfare system for various reasons but who have an idea or have identified an opportunity to start their own business. 
In 2017, a review of the BTWEA scheme was released. Overall, the review found that the scheme offers effective support for people who are long-term unemployed and...

231. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the extent to which anti-fraud initiatives have yielded revenue to the extent anticipated; if extra costs have been incurred by the programme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 2387/18 asked on 17 Jan 2018 - Social Welfare Fraud)

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): The majority of people in receipt of a payment from my Department receive what they are entitled to. Nevertheless, my Department recognises that abuse of the welfare system is an ongoing reality and must be tackled proactively. Anti-fraud and control measures are set out in the Department’s Compliance and Anti-Fraud Strategy 2014 – 2018 and are designed to prevent and detect fraud, to ensure effective oversight of sc...

232. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the extent to which FIS or other support payments continue to be made available to families living on uneconomic holdings; and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 2388/18 asked on 17 Jan 2018 - Family Support Services)

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): The main support my Department offers to families living on uneconomic holdings is the farm assist scheme which provides support for farmers on low incomes and is similar to jobseeker’s allowance. The farm assist scheme is a means tested payment and the means test is flexible so as to allow for significant income fluctuations from one year to the next. It may also be noted that farm assist customers continue to rece...

50. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development his plans for the development of services within his portfolio in the coming years, with particular reference to the need to develop and modernise services affecting rural Ireland and the Border regions; the extent to which he expects to be in a position to interact with and provide funding for voluntary community groups, while at the same time enhancing the quality of services available through both the public and the private sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 1788/18 asked on 16 Jan 2018 - Ministerial Responsibilities)

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: This question seeks to encourage the Minister and Minister of State to outline their mission statement in respect of their respective portfolios and the extent to which they intend to interact with the community and take full advantage of the important role they have to play in the reorganisation and reinvigoration of rural Ireland.
 ...

54. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development if he will report on the progress of the mobile phone and broadband task force, particularly in the context of the recommendations or actions for which his Department is responsible; if the task force will produce an annual report for its first full year in operation; if a work plan for 2018 has been prepared and agreed with stakeholders; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 1787/18 asked on 16 Jan 2018 - Telecommunications Services Provision)

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: This question relates to the mobile phone and broadband task force. How has it progressed? How many meetings has it had and what conclusions has it reached? Will it produce an annual report? To what degree have the stakeholders been fully acquainted with the urgent necessity to deal with the deficiency in broadband and mobile telephony service provision in rural areas?
 ...

12. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the extent to which, in the context of the capital review programme, he expects to be in a position to make provision for the projects previously identified as being integral to crucial infrastructure investment; if he will extend the remit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 53471/17 asked on 14 Dec 2017 - Capital Expenditure Programme Review)

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: In the context of the capital review, what is the extent to which the Minister has managed to identify the most critical elements of infrastructure with a view to completing them in a reasonable period?
 ...

20. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the degree to which his Department plans to incorporate further reforms throughout the services with a view to achieving better value for money, improved economic impact and delivery of services to the public; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 53472/17 asked on 14 Dec 2017 - Public Sector Reform Implementation)

Deputy Paschal Donohoe: Since the first public service reform plan was published in 2011, a comprehensive programme of reform has been implemented and this continues to be a key priority. This is important as the performance of the public service has major implications for the management of our finances and for economic development and employment creation.
The public service reform plan for the period 2014 to 2016 put the public ever more to the centre of what we do, both in terms of service de...

131. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if the Revenue Commissioners can arrange for a deferral of payment in respect of income tax owed in the case of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 53929/17 asked on 14 Dec 2017 - Tax Collection)

Minister for Finance (Deputy Paschal Donohoe): I am advised by Revenue that its clear preference is always to engage with taxpayers experiencing tax payment difficulties and agree mutually acceptable solutions rather than deploying debt collection/enforcement sanctions to secure payment of outstanding liabilities.
However, such engagement is dependent on open and frank discussion with the relevant taxpayer to identify and implement a solution. Where there is poor or non-engagement then Revenue ...