228. Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of households by county currently in receipt of the rent supplement payment in tabular form; the number of households by county that have had their rent increased above the prescribed rent supplement limit for their area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 40609/16 asked on 16 Dec 2016 - Rent Supplement Scheme Data)

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): The rent supplement scheme is supporting approximately 48,600 tenants at a total cost of €267 million this year. A breakdown of rent supplement recipients by county is provided in the attached tabular statement. In recognition of the ongoing supply difficulties, my Department continues to implement a targeted case-by-case policy approach that allows for flexibility where landlords seek rents in excess of the limits. To date, approximately 10,...

122. Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Social Protection the average waiting time for a decision on appeal for social protection payments paid on a weekly basis in cases where there is no oral hearing and in cases where there is an oral hearing in 2016, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 40221/16 asked on 14 Dec 2016 - Social Welfare Appeals Waiting Times)

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): The average appeal processing time for all appeals determined to date in 2016 broken down by all social welfare scheme types is outlined in the following table. 
Significant effort and resources have been devoted to reforming the appeals process in recent years resulting in a marked improvement in overall appeal processing times. The average time taken to determine an appeal requiring an oral hearing reduced from 52.5 weeks in 2011 to 25.5 ...

123. Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Social Protection the external consultant reports commissioned by his Department since he came into office, in tabular form; the cost per report; the company involved; the title of the report; the publication date or estimated publication date if not already published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 40222/16 asked on 14 Dec 2016 - Departmental Reports)

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): The information requested by the Deputy is set out in the following table.
External consultant reports commissioned by Department of Social Protection since 6 May, 2016.
 Title of Report Company Publication Date/Estimated Publication Date Cost Jobseeker and JobPath Customer Satisfaction Survey 2016 – (this is the next annual round of Jobseeker Customer Satisfaction Survey which was originally commissioned in Aug 2015.) W5 Marketi...

124. Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of young persons not in education, training or employment; the current percentage of youth unemployment; the way this number compares to the EU average; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 40223/16 asked on 14 Dec 2016 - Youth Unemployment Data)

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): It is estimated by the Department of Social Protection based on micro-data from the CSO Quarterly National Household Survey that in the four quarters to Q2 2016 the average number of young persons not in employment, education or training (NEETs) was approximately 72,000 or 13.8% of the population aged 15-24. It should be noted that the way in which the EU-defined NEET concept is measured means that, in Ireland, it includes a significant numb...

125. Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Social Protection the status of commitments made in the programme for partnership Government that fall within the remit of his Department; the commitments which specified an action to be taken by the end of 2016; if this target date has been met in respect of such commitments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 40224/16 asked on 14 Dec 2016 - Programme for Government Implementation)

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): The Programme for a Partnership Government includes a wide range of commitments which fall directly within the remit of my Department. While none of these commitments included a specific deadline of end-2016 for action to be taken, a substantial number of commitments are already being delivered upon. Budget 2017, for example, provided for €5 increases in the maximum weekly rates of all social insurance and social assistance payments, for th...

126. Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Social Protection the rate of severe material deprivation for lone parent households here as measured by EUROSTAT, in tabular form; the way in which this rate compares to the EU average; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 40225/16 asked on 14 Dec 2016 - Poverty Data)

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): The Eurostat Statistics on Income and Living Conditions 2014 show that the severe material deprivation rate for lone parent households in Ireland was 25.1% in 2014, reflecting a 7.2 percentage point decrease on the 2013 rate. This compares to an EU average of 19.2% in 2014. (See the following table)
My Department estimates spending €500 million on the one-parent family payment (OFP) scheme in 2016. The scheme supports over 40,000 recipients...

127. Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of exceptional needs payments paid in 2016 to date; the cost of such payments; the reason, if available, such payments are made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 40226/16 asked on 14 Dec 2016 - Exceptional Needs Payment Data)

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Under the supplementary welfare allowance (SWA) scheme, my Department may make a single exceptional needs payment (ENP) to help meet essential, once-off and unforeseen expenditure which a person could not reasonably be expected to meet out of their weekly income. The Government has provided €30.3 million for the ENP scheme in 2016. 
There is no automatic entitlement to a payment. The ENP scheme is demand led and payments are made at the dis...

173. Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Health when negotiations will take place between the HSE and a company (details supplied) regarding the drug Kalydeco; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 40256/16 asked on 14 Dec 2016 - Medicinal Products Prices)

Minister for Health (Deputy Simon Harris): The HSE has statutory responsibility for decisions on pricing and reimbursement of medicines under the community drugs schemes, in accordance with the Health (Pricing and Supply of Medical Goods) Act 2013. 
In line with the 2013 Act, if a company would like a medicine to be reimbursed by the HSE pursuant to the community drug schemes or as a hospital medicine, the company must first submit an application to the HSE to have the new medicine added to the ...

279. Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision will be made in relation to an application for an invalidity pension by a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 39433/16 asked on 13 Dec 2016 - Invalidity Pension Payments)

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): The gentleman referred to has been awarded invalidity pension with effect from the 13 October 2016. Payment will issue to his nominated bank account on the 05 January 2017. Any arrears due from 13 October 2016 to 04 January 2017 (less any overlapping social welfare payment and/or outstanding overpayment) will issue in due course. He was notified of this decision on the 08 December 2016.
I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.
 ...

292. Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of persons in 2016 to date that have been subject to sanctions by his Department; the savings made by his Department in 2016 to date due to sanctions; the administrative cost to his Department of applying sanctions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 39536/16 asked on 13 Dec 2016 - Social Welfare Overpayments)

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): In order to qualify for a jobseeker payment, a person must meet certain conditions, including that they are unemployed and are available for, capable of and genuinely seeking full-time work. In addition to providing this income support the Department also provides employment services and supports to unemployed jobseekers and expects jobseekers who are in receipt of a payment to engage with these services in order to improve their prospects o...

339. Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision will be made on a carer’s allowance application in respect of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 40083/16 asked on 13 Dec 2016 - Carer’s Allowance Applications)

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): I confirm that my department received an application for carer’s allowance (CA) from the person concerned on 18 August 2016.
The application was referred to a local social welfare inspector (SWI) to assess the level of care being provided, assess means and confirm that all the conditions for receipt of carer’s allowance are satisfied. Once the SWI has reported, a decision will be made and the person concerned will be notified directly of the...

81. Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality if she will consider establishing a branch of the Valuation Office in Tipperary town in view of the fact that her Department has office space available at this location and a number of advantages would ensue from such a move; and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 38919/16 asked on 07 Dec 2016 - Valuation Office)

Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): I am informed by the Commissioner of Valuation that the introduction of a regional structure for the Valuation Office is not in line with the current operational requirements and work programmes of the organisation and is not, at present, under consideration.
 ...

244. Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Social Protection when payment will commence in respect of a carer’s allowance application that was awarded after an appeal on the part of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 38753/16 asked on 06 Dec 2016 - Carer’s Allowance Applications)

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): As a result of an appeals officer’s decision, carer’s allowance was awarded to the person concerned on 5 December 2016 and the first payment will issue to her nominated bank account on 8 December 2016. Arrears for the period 3 December 2015 to 7 December 2016 have also issued.
The person concerned was notified on 5 December 2016 of the outcome.
I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.
 ...

242. Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a commitment given in the programme for Government (details supplied) was published in advance of the budget; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 37614/16 asked on 29 Nov 2016 - Access to Higher Education)

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): The Programme for Government contains a commitment to commission an independent examination to identify the supports and barriers to accessing higher education for lone parents, and examine measures to increase participation.
In line with this commitment, my Department engaged a multi-disciplinary team in NUI Maynooth to undertake the independent review. 
The review is being overseen by a steering committee comprising officials from my D...

339. Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Social Protection if his attention has been drawn to the fact that there has been no social protection inspector in Tuam since August 2016; if his attention has further been drawn to the difficulty this is causing for staff and customers (details supplied); the measures he will take to address this situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 37443/16 asked on 29 Nov 2016 - Departmental Staff Recruitment)

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): There are two Social Welfare Inspector posts in Tuam and they cover the whole North Galway area. A vacancy in one of the posts arose as a result of the transfer of an Inspector to Galway City in August 2016.
My Department, like all Government Departments and agencies, is required to operate within a staff ceiling figure and a commensurate administrative staffing budget.
Within these constraints, my Department is focusing on prioritising the ...

505. Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Health further to Parliamentary Question No. 222 of 17 November 2016, when the HSE intends to enter into negotiations with the manufacturer in an effort to secure significant price reduction for the drug Kalydeco; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 36909/16 asked on 29 Nov 2016 - Medicinal Products Prices)

Minister for Health (Deputy Simon Harris): As outlined in previous reply, the HSE has statutory responsibility for decisions on pricing and reimbursement of medicines under the community drugs schemes, in accordance with the Health (Pricing and Supply of Medical Goods) Act 2013. 
In line with the 2013 Act, if a Company would like a medicine to be reimbursed by the HSE pursuant to the Community Drug Schemes or as a hospital medicine, the Company must first submit an application to the HSE to have...

129. Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of persons that transitioned from an activation programme to paid employment in 2015 and to date in 2016; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 36622/16 asked on 24 Nov 2016 - Departmental Programmes)

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): While systemised data are not readily available on employment outcomes on all programmes, some indicative figures are available. For example: 
- The evaluation of JobBridge by Indecon (report published October 2016), shows on the basis of self-reported survey results that 64.2% of interns were currently in employment at the time of the survey. Overall, individuals similar to those who participated in JobBridge had a 36.6% probability of sec...

130. Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of persons that completed an activation programme and subsequently moved to another of his Department’s activation programmes in 2015 and to date in 2016; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 36623/16 asked on 24 Nov 2016 - Departmental Programmes)

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Given the need to manage the allocation of places effectively, the Department does not, in general, facilitate or encourage jobseekers to transfer from or leave one activation support scheme to take up a place on another activation support scheme. 
While systematic data are not readily available on activation programme participants who subsequently move to another activation programme, some indicative figures are available. For example:
- Th...

242. Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if he will request the communications regulator to contact a company (details supplied) regarding a broadband connection that has been down for the past month and to deal with the matter as soon as possible; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 36669/16 asked on 24 Nov 2016 - Broadband Service Provision)

Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment (Deputy Denis Naughten): The provision of electronic telecommunications services, including broadband services occurs within a fully liberalised market, offered by competing services providers.  The regulation of services providers to the extent permitted by law regarding the provision and quality of such services and the investigation of complaints is a statutory function of the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg), which ...

43. Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Social Protection if his attention has been drawn to the criticisms being levelled at JobPath; if so, the way he plans to address these criticisms; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 36085/16 asked on 22 Nov 2016 - JobPath Implementation)

Deputy Willie O’Dea: I am raising this question because of the large volume of complaints that not only I am receiving but also other colleagues on all sides of the House about the operation of the JobPath scheme.
 ...

45. Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Social Protection if he will address the anomaly in the calculation of the contributory pension which tends to disadvantage those who took time out of the workforce to care for children or relatives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 36086/16 asked on 22 Nov 2016 - Pension Provisions)

Deputy Willie O’Dea: This problem has been well ventilated. We are all aware of the unfairness in the contributory old age pension system whereby people who have paid fewer contributions can often get a higher pension than people who have paid a greater number of contributions. We discussed the issue last week on Committee Stage of the Social Welfare Bill and we will be discussing it again tomorrow. I just want to find out how far the Minister has advanced with the study he is carrying out on...

48. Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Social Protection if he will conduct a review into the changes introduced to the one-parent family payment in view of the findings of a report (details supplied) on lone parents and activation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 35935/16 asked on 22 Nov 2016 - One-Parent Family Payment)

Deputy Willie O’Dea: There is widespread agreement that the new system for dealing with single parents is not working. We had a discussion on Committee Stage of the Social Welfare Bill. A number of parties from all sides of the House tabled amendments to require the Minister to conduct a review of this situation. I have tabled this parliamentary question to keep this matter to the forefront.
 ...

58. Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Social Protection his views on the average waiting times for essential payments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 35931/16 asked on 22 Nov 2016 - Social Welfare Payments Waiting Times)

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): I propose to take Questions Nos. 52 and 58 together.
My Department is committed to providing a quality service to all its customers. This includes ensuring that applications are processed and that decisions on entitlement are made as quickly as possible.
Over €19 billion will be spent by my Department on its various income supports and other programmes in 2016. 
Across the main social welfare schemes, last month my Department received over ...

62. Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Social Protection if he will introduce a cost of disability top-up payment to recognise the additional costs of a disability; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 35932/16 asked on 22 Nov 2016 - Disability Allowance)

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): The various illness and disability payments administered by my Department provide income support for people with a disability and their dependants. These support payments are continually kept under review to ensure that they continue to meet their objectives.
In addition to income support payments, my Department also provides a range of employment and employability supports. These are structured to encourage and assist people on long-term i...

89. Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Social Protection the way he plans to address inequality and social exclusion in 2017; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 35934/16 asked on 22 Nov 2016 - Income Inequality)

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): The Government’s strategy for addressing social exclusion and poverty is set out in the National Action Plan for Social Inclusion 2007-2016 (NAPinclusion). This Plan identifies a wide range of targeted actions and interventions with an ambition to achieve an overall objective of reducing poverty under the national social target for poverty reduction.
NAPinclusion was recently updated for the extended period to 2017 to reflect new challenges ...