230. Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Health his plans for the Versatis patch to be made available on the medical card and long-term illness scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 20716/18 asked on 10 May 2018 - Medicinal Products Availability)

Minister for Health (Deputy Simon Harris): Medicines play a vital role in improving the health of Irish patients. Securing access to existing and new and innovative medicines is a key health service objective. However, the challenge is to do this in a safe and sustainable manner. Treatment must be appropriate and proportionate and clinical decision-making, such as prescribing, should be based on both patient needs and sound medical evidence.
Lidocaine 5% medicated plasters are licensed for local...

165. Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Health his plans to raise the income limit for a medical card for persons over 70 years of age to €1,000 per week for a married couple in view of the fact that the limit for a single person is €500 per week; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 20243/18 asked on 09 May 2018 - Medical Card Eligibility)

Minister for Health (Deputy Simon Harris): Under the Health (Alteration of Criteria for Eligibility) (No. 2) Act 2013, when a person attains the age of 70, the medical card income limits are €500 gross income per week for a single person and €900 gross income per week for a couple.
Persons aged 70 or older, who are assessed as ineligible under the gross income thresholds, may also have their eligibility assessed under the means-test medical card scheme if they so wish, for example in the event t...

1. Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the details of the recently announced changes to the JobPath scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 19262/18 asked on 03 May 2018 - JobPath Programme)

Deputy Willie O’Dea: As the Minister is aware, I recently published legislation proposing the change she is introducing; naturally, therefore, I welcome it. I tabled the question to allow her the opportunity to flesh out the details of how it will operate in practice.
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3. Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection her views on the fact that one in three calls to an organisation (details supplied) are about food poverty; her plans to address poverty and social exclusion; and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 19263/18 asked on 03 May 2018 - Food Poverty)

Deputy Willie O’Dea: There is a lot of evidence, both anecdotal and official, that food poverty is still widespread in the community. I want to ascertain whether the Government has given any thought to targeting this problem in the forthcoming budgetary measures.
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22. Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection her plans to introduce a higher rate of a qualified child increase for children of 12 years of age and over in view of research by an organisation (details supplied) which shows the additional costs associated with adolescence; and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 19176/18 asked on 03 May 2018 - Qualified Child Increase Payments)

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): Most weekly social welfare payments include an additional payment in respect of each qualified child up to age 18, which is extended to encompass older school/college going children to age 22 under certain circumstances. These are referred to as qualified child increases (IQCs). IQC payments do not of themselves constitute a specific social welfare scheme and entitlement to the appropriate primary adult payment must...

36. Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection her plans to reform the operation of the exceptional needs payment in view of concerns that have been raised regarding access to the payment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 19175/18 asked on 03 May 2018 - Exceptional Needs Payments)

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): Provision of a prompt service is a major objective for the Department, especially for the Supplementary Welfare Allowance scheme which is the safety net within the social welfare system. The Deputy will be aware that my Department has re-engineered its business model to support the provision of integrated services across all business streams involved in the delivery of localised services. As part of this strategy, t...

40. Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if she is satisfied with the restructuring process for Money Advice and Budgeting Services and Citizens Information Services; her views on the manner in which the process is being handled and the significant opposition to the process; and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 19178/18 asked on 03 May 2018 - Money Advice and Budgeting Service)

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): The executive of the Citizens Information Board (CIB) is implementing the decision of the Board of CIB to reorganise the governance arrangements of ninety three individual local company boards, comprising 42 Citizens Information Services (CIS) and 51 Money Advice and Budgeting Services (MABS), to a new regionally based sixteen company model, comprising eight CIS and eight MABS companies. As stated on previous occasi...

49. Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection her plans to address issues in defined benefit pension schemes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 19177/18 asked on 03 May 2018 - Defined Benefit Pension Schemes)

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): The Roadmap for Pensions Reform, which was recently published by the Government, details specific measures that will modernise our pension system. It sets out under Strand 4, ‘Measures to Support the Operation of Defined Benefit Schemes’, that the Government is committed to advancing the Social Welfare, Pensions and Civil Registration Bill 2017.The General Scheme of the Bill was published in May 2017 and contained a ...

50. Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection her plans to address social welfare appeals processing times; and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 19174/18 asked on 03 May 2018 - Social Welfare Appeals Waiting Times)

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions in relation to social welfare entitlements.
 All claim decisions taken by the Department’s deciding officers are appealable to the Chief Appeals Officer. In any year about 85% of all claims are awarded and just 1% ar...

104. Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the status of the provision of the new male and female facilities for Limerick Prison; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 19363/18 asked on 03 May 2018 - Prison Facilities)

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): I am advised by the Director General of the Irish Prison Service that an Invitation to Tender for the construction of a new wing for 100 male prisoners and a new unit to accommodate 50 female prisoners at Limerick prison was issued by the Irish Prison Service on my behalf on July 20th last. The original date for receipt of tenders was set as November 30th 2017 and this was extended to January 25th 2018. 
Four tenders were received by ...

101. Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Finance the progress of the working group on the future of PRSI and the USC in respect of contribution rates and ensuring contribution classes are actuarially reviewed on an annual basis to determine the changes required to fund benchmarked increases in State pension payment rates or expansion of benefits cover; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 19123/18 asked on 01 May 2018 - Universal Social Charge Review)

Minister for Finance (Deputy Paschal Donohoe): Following a commitment I made in Budget 2018, an inter-Departmental Working Group has been established to examine and report on options for the amalgamation of USC and PRSI. The Group’s Terms of Reference are as follows:
“To examine and present options for the amalgamation of PRSI and USC in a manner which seeks to address, inter alia:
(i) the need to preserve the tax base having regard to the need for certainty, equity, and ease of compliance an...

438. Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the position regarding the design of a total contributions State pension model; when it will be released for public consultation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 19119/18 asked on 01 May 2018 - Pensions Reform)

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): Firstly, the new interim Total Contributions Approach to determining the level of payment, including the introduction of the new HomeCaring credit, for recipients of the State Pension (contributory) affected by the 2012 rate band changes was agreed by the Government in January. Instructions for legislation to give effect to this change are currently being set out. When drafted, the legislation will be brought forwar...

439. Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the status of her plans to allow post-2012 pension recipients on reduced rates to utilise the total contributions model by 2019; the first and full-year cost of this measure; and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 19120/18 asked on 01 May 2018 - Pensions Reform)

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): A policy to introduce the Total Contributions Approach (TCA) to the State Pension contributory (SPC) calculation was adopted by Government in the National Pensions Framework in 2010, as was the decision to base the entitlements of all new pensioners on this approach from around 2020.
The Government announced in January 2018 that those affected by the 2012 rate band changes will also have the option of availing of a TC...

440. Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the position regarding the development of a consultation paper on a rate setting or funding approach for the Social Insurance Fund; and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 19121/18 asked on 01 May 2018 - Social Insurance)

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): The Deputy is referring to a commitment in the Roadmap for Pensions Reform 2018-2023 which was published on 28 February 2018 that a consultation paper be published on an appropriate rate-setting/funding approach for the Social Insurance Fund by the end of Quarter 4 2018.
The consultation paper will be informed by the Roadmap and in particular by the findings of the Actuarial Review of the Social Insurance fund (SIF) a...

441. Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the progress she has made to set a formal benchmark target of 34% of average earnings for State pension (contributory) payments and institute a process whereby future changes in pension rates of payment are explicitly linked to changes in the consumer price index and average wages; and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 19122/18 asked on 01 May 2018 - State Pension (Contributory) Expenditure)

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): The level of income provided to pensioners in the form of the State pension is currently decided through the annual budget process. The Roadmap for Pensions Reform commits the Government to examine and develop proposals this year. In order to protect the adequacy into the future the Government intends to examine and develop proposals to set a formal benchmark target of 34% of average earnings for the State pension ...

98. Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Education and Skills further to Parliamentary Question No. 151 of 19 April 2018, his plans to make provision for teachers in those schools who have not received their full salaries; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 18374/18 asked on 26 Apr 2018 - Language Schools Closures)

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): The Department has been coordinating with the Department of Justice and Equality on addressing the closure and has been engaging with the school, the students and key stakeholders to ensure this has been as orderly as possible in the circumstances.  
This school had come to the attention of both Departments as it had been subject to an inspection by the Department of Justice and Equality earlier this year in relation to the listing of it...

231. Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the circumstances under which social welfare branch managers will be paid under the new remuneration model; if the financial package will only be put in place following acceptance by all branch managers of a new agreement; if this is in line with the recommendations of the independent chair facilitated discussions with an association (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 18152/18 asked on 25 Apr 2018 - Social Welfare Offices)

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): The Department currently has 58 Branch Offices at various locations throughout the country. Each Branch Office is operated and managed, under a contract for services, by a Branch Manager who is required to act as an agent for the Department in the area served by the office. Branch Office managers operate on a contract for service and are independent contractors.
Services are provided through the Branch Offices network...

146. Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if a date has been scheduled for a meeting to discuss with unions the outcome of the high level forum in respect of providing a pension for community employment supervisors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 17693/18 asked on 24 Apr 2018 - Community Employment Schemes Supervisors)

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Paschal Donohoe): I propose to take Questions Nos. 146 and 151 together.
I refer the Deputy to my response to PQ 13684/18 of 27 March 2018.
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147. Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if the paper outlining costs that was presented at the high level forum on 23 November 2017 relating to a pension scheme for community employment supervisors has been published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 17694/18 asked on 24 Apr 2018 - Community Employment Schemes Supervisors)

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Paschal Donohoe): The paper in question has not as yet been published.
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589. Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection when an appeal payment will issue to a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 17962/18 asked on 24 Apr 2018 - Disability Allowance Appeals)

Minister of State at the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Finian McGrath): Based on the evidence supplied in support of their application for disability allowance (DA), this person’s application was disallowed on the grounds that the medical qualifying condition was not satisfied. They were notified in writing of this decision on 27 June 2017. 
The person concerned requested an appeal of the decision and submitted additional medical evidence for consideration. The...

606. Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if funding for a proposed new development (details supplied) in County Limerick has been agreed in view of statistics; his views on whether this constitutes sustainable development; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 17577/18 asked on 24 Apr 2018 - Local Authority Housing)

Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government (Deputy Eoghan Murphy): It is a matter for local authorities, working in co-operation with approved housing bodies (AHBs), to bring forward proposals for new social housing delivery in their areas of responsibility. Funding for the project in question was approved in principle by my Department and it is now a matter for the local authority and the AHB involved to advance as appropriate. My Department does not prescribe the exact number of soc...

151. Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to the events surrounding the closure of a school (details supplied); if there is provision for payment of outstanding moneys owed to teachers; his plans to regulate these establishments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 17240/18 asked on 19 Apr 2018 - School Closures)

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): The Provider in question came to my Department’s attention earlier this year following an inspection by the Department of Justice and Equality related to the listing of its programmes on the Interim List of Eligible Programmes (ILEP). A listing on the ILEP is required for a provider to enrol students requiring immigration permissions.   
On 9th February 2018, following the outturn of this inspection and an assessment of the provider’s no...

209. Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Finance his plans to change legislation on the disabled drivers scheme in view of the fact the qualifying conditions seem to be rigid and inflexible and may be causing inequity; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 15828/18 asked on 17 Apr 2018 - Disabled Drivers and Passengers Scheme)

Minister for Finance (Deputy Paschal Donohoe): As the Deputy may be aware, the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Scheme provides relief from VAT and VRT (up to a certain limit) on the purchase of an adapted car for transport of a person with specific severe and permanent physical disabilities, payment of a fuel grant, and an exemption from Motor Tax.
To qualify for the Scheme an applicant must be in possession of a Primary Medical Certificate. To qualify for a Primary Me...

487. Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when legislation will be introduced regarding parental leave; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 15267/18 asked on 17 Apr 2018 - Parental Leave)

Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality (Deputy David Stanton): As the Deputy will be aware, the Programme for Partnership Government includes a commitment to increase paid parental leave during the first year of a child’s life, as research shows that parental care is of particular importance in the first year of life. 
To further this commitment, the Government has established an interdepartmental working group to develop proposals to give effect to the programme commitments...

872. Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Health further to Parliamentary Question No. 220 of 13 March 2014, when persons will be fully reimbursed for prescription charges as a result of the then Minister’s announcement on 2 July 2013 that eligible persons who paid prescription charges prior to 1 December 2013 will be refunded; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 15856/18 asked on 17 Apr 2018 - Prescriptions Charges)

Minister for Health (Deputy Simon Harris): Under the Health (Pricing and Supply of Medical Goods) Act 2013, the HSE has statutory responsibility for the administration of the community drug schemes; therefore, the matter has been referred to the HSE for attention and direct reply to the Deputy.
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