1. Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of training or education places that will be set aside next year as part of the youth guarantee for young persons who are out of work; the number of young persons who will qualify for the youth guarantee scheme at this time; the ratio of her Department case officers to the number of unemployed persons currently; and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 50875/13 asked on 28 Nov 2013 - Youth Guarantee)

Deputy Willie O’Dea: I am trying to ascertain whether the Government is committed to introducing a full blown youth guarantee scheme in this country whereby everybody who is not more than four months unemployed will be entitled to either a job or a place in training or education and when will the scheme be in place. I am also trying to ascertain whether the ratio of caseworkers to unemployed people has changed since we previously asked questions in the House when the Minister indicated it would...

4. Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Social Protection her Department’s policy on the use of Garda checkpoints to counter welfare fraud; the criteria being used by her Department in the deployment of gardaí; and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 50876/13 asked on 28 Nov 2013 - Social Welfare Fraud Investigations)

Deputy Willie O’Dea: Last October, the Minister announced a policy initiative directly involving the Garda in the investigation and combating of social welfare fraud. What I want to ascertain here is whether that policy has been put in place, where, and how successful has it been?
 ...

9. Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Social Protection the estimated number of persons who will be affected by the cuts to jobseeker’s allowance in 2014; the amount of money she estimates it will save in the full year; and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 50826/13 asked on 28 Nov 2013 - Jobseeker’s Allowance Eligibility)

Deputy Willie O’Dea: The Minister will be aware that people aged under 26 years suffered pretty drastic cuts to their job seeker’s allowance or benefit in the recent budget. I am trying to ascertain how many people have been affected and what it has contributed to the State. The Government took almost €3 billion out of the economy, so what contribution has this reduction made? What savings will be achieved by this reduction which is imposing so much suffering on one category of the population...

1. Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Social Protection her views on the fact that her Department has been pursuing some social welfare recipients to repay overpayments that occurred as far back as the 1980s where there was no question of fraud; and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 43514/13 asked on 17 Oct 2013 - Social Welfare Overpayments)

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): It is the Department’s policy to investigate and pursue all overpayments so as to protect public moneys to the greatest extent possible. People who have received an overpayment from the Department have a liability under law to refund the amounts involved. They have received moneys to which they were not entitled. In 2012, overpayments amounting to €97 million were recorded. This represents 0.47% of overall annual departmental expenditure. ...

4. Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Social Protection the progress made on implementing Pathways to Work; the number of caseworkers currently working with long-term jobseekers to help them back to full employment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 43771/13 asked on 17 Oct 2013 - Social Welfare Schemes)

(Deputy Joan Burton): Pathways to Work represents the single biggest ever change to how the State engages with and provides services to people who are unemployed. It is delivering on the programme for Government commitment to set up a national employment and entitlements service and involves a multi-annual programme of organisational, process, people and work changes running to the end of 2014. We started in 2012 by rolling out the Intreo approach, including revamped offices, to improve how we...

6. Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the way the venture capital fund he recently announced will operate; the process to ensure it does not suffer from a slow take-up similar to the microfinance fund; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 42737/13 asked on 10 Oct 2013 - Seed Capital Scheme)

Deputy Richard Bruton: Last May, I announced a new call for expressions of interest under the €175 million Seed and Venture Capital Scheme 2013-18, which will see the continuation of the Government’s support for innovative Irish SMEs. The scheme is targeting an additional €525 million in funding from the private sector, which will mean a total fund of €700 million available for investment over the lifetime of the scheme.
This new Seed and Venture Scheme 2013-18 will proceed by way of a series o...

65. Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Education and Skills to offer his assessment of Ireland’s standing in university ratings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 42252/13 asked on 08 Oct 2013 - Universities Global Rankings)

Deputy Ruairí Quinn: The performance of Irish higher education institutes, HEIs, varies widely in the different ranking systems. This variance clearly demonstrates that caution should be taken in the interpretation of individual placement of HEIs to determine overall quality. In the latest published Times Higher Education world university rankings, Ireland again has two of its seven universities featuring in the top 200, or top 1%, out of 15,000 universities worldwide. Analysis done by the Ir...

7. Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Finance his views on the concerns expressed by the head of the National Assets Management Agency regarding the scale of staff turnover and the quality and experience of departing staff; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 41471/13 asked on 03 Oct 2013 - NAMA Staff Qualifications)

(Deputy Michael Noonan): I am aware from my discussions with NAMA, and with the NTMA which employs staff assigned to NAMA, of the difficulties being experienced by NAMA in terms of retaining and recruiting appropriately skilled and experienced staff. It is important that NAMA, on behalf of the taxpayer, has the expertise available to it to carry out its commercial mandate with the aim, at minimum, of eliminating the contingent liability of the State arising from its current portfolio and from t...

10. Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if his attention has been drawn to the recently published plans in the UK for energy rationing; if he foresees any such plans being required here; the long term plans he has to ensure energy security here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 35050/13 asked on 17 Jul 2013 - Energy Security)

(Deputy Pat Rabbitte): The energy regulator for Great Britain, Ofgem, published its most recent annual electricity capacity assessment on 27 June. It analysed security of supply in Great Britain over the forthcoming five winters. It shows that the buffer between peak demand and supply could be lower than previously expected and proposed for consultation certain measures to address this issue. This report and the associated proposed measures were publicised by elements of the British media in ...

55. Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason certain companies have been removed from the possible internship options on the JobBridge programme; if she will publish a list of these companies; and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 33273/13 asked on 09 Jul 2013 - Job Creation Issues)

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton) (Deputy Joan Burton): The aim of JobBridge is to assist individuals to bridge the gap between unemployment and the world of work. JobBridge has made very significant progress since it came into operation in July 2011. As of 27 June 2013, 18,587 internship placements had commenced, with 5,934 participants in active internships and 1,936 internship posts advertised and available on the JobBridge website. The independent evaluation conducted by...

58. Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Social Protection if she is satisfied with the progress made in advancing the Pathways to Work scheme in view of reported recent criticism from the European Commission, ECB and IMF in their Cabinet memo; and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 33274/13 asked on 09 Jul 2013 - Job Initiatives)

Deputy Joan Burton: Pathways to Work represents the most significant ever change to the manner in which the State engages with and provides services for people who are unemployed. It delivers on the programme for Government commitment to create a co-ordinated employment and entitlements service and involves a multi-annual programme of complex legislative, organisational, process, people and work change which runs to the end of 2014. There are five strands to Pathways to Work, including engagem...

16. Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Education and Skills the implications for the education budget in 2014 of the additional resource teachers announced on 25 June 2013; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 32249/13 asked on 03 Jul 2013 - Special Educational Needs Services Provision)

(Deputy Ruairí Quinn): I propose to take Questions Nos. 9, 12, 16, 23 and 24 together.
I have authorised the NCSE to restore the level of resource teaching allocations to be provided for students with special educational needs to the 2012-13 levels. There will not now be a reduction in resource teaching time for these pupils for the coming school year. The first tranche of resource teaching posts have now been allocated to schools by the NCSE.
A number of additional posts will be required to e...

58. Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the way the EU Commission’s proposals for reducing the cost of broadband will be transposed here; his views on the way Irish broadband costs for both business and personal customers compare to other EU countries; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 27846/13 asked on 11 Jun 2013 - Broadband Services Charges)

(Deputy Pat Rabbitte): On 26 March last the European Commission published its proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on measures to reduce the cost of deploying high-speed electronic communications networks. The Commission also submitted its proposal to the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament as it is required to do as a preliminary step in the EU legislative process. 
The broad aim of the Commission’s proposal is to allow investors planning to ins...

1. Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason two contracts, with a total value of €98,892 (details supplied) were granted by her Department without the necessity to submit a tender in March 2013. (Question 26007/13 asked on 29 May 2013 - Departmental Bodies Expenditure)

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): I understand that the Deputy is referring to the information campaign undertaken by the Citizens Information Board, CIB, regarding the Mortgage Arrears Information and Advice Service. This service offers a dedicated helpline, website and financial advice which is available to borrowers from independent accountants, the cost of which is being borne by the lenders via the Irish Banking Federation. Supporting people in difficulty with their mor...

4. Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Social Protection the progress that has been made, if any, in completing and publishing a strategy to tackle for poverty. (Question 26008/13 asked on 29 May 2013 - Anti-Poverty Strategy)

(Deputy Joan Burton): The Government and I, as Minister for Social Protection, are committed to reducing and eliminating poverty, as set out in the programme for Government. We are determined to ensure the most vulnerable are enabled to benefit from economic recovery through activation programmes and services and, ultimately, being able to return to work. The existing strategy for addressing poverty is the National Action Plan for Social Inclusion 2007-2016, or NAP inclusion for short. A key ...

51. Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of primary schools that he visited in person in 2013; the number of secondary schools that he has visited in person in 2013; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 25501/13 asked on 28 May 2013 - Official Engagements)

(Deputy Ruairí Quinn): To date in 2013, I have visited 21 schools throughout the country, 13 primary schools and eight post-primary schools.
 ...

6. Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the investment, if any, that is planned for Irish Rail over the coming year in view of the recent announcements from the National Roads Authority; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 22970/13 asked on 15 May 2013 - Rail Services)

(Deputy Alan Kelly): This question is about planned investment in Irish Rail in the light of recent announcements on roads investment. I assume the Deputy is referring to the recent signing of a public private partnership road contract. This is the  first transport PPP since 2007 and  provides a significant confidence boost and evidence of continuing recovery in the economy. In implementing the Government’s medium-term capital framework, my Department and agencies will continue to explore and...

83. Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Health the supports he plans to put in place for persons suffering from narcolepsy and other medical complications following vaccination with Pandemrix; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 22619/13 asked on 14 May 2013 - Vaccination Programme)

Deputy James Reilly: I am pleased to inform the Deputies that a number of supports are in place for persons diagnosed with narcolepsy following pandemic vaccination. My priority is to ensure those affected by narcolepsy, with symptom onset post-pandemic vaccination, are provided with a range of services and supports to meet their health needs. My colleague, the Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy Quinn, wishes to ensure their educational needs are also supported. The Health Service Exec...

11. Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the steps he has taken to address financial planning and oversight difficulties in Arts centres across the country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 19265/13 asked on 25 Apr 2013 - Arts Centres)

Deputy Jimmy Deenihan: My Department has no role in the management or the operation of any art centre or in providing current funding to arts centres. Many such centres are owned by, and some are managed by, the relevant local authority. Most receive some or all of their operational funding from the local authorities. The Arts Council also has a role in that it provides programming funding in respect of many arts centres. 
As the Deputy will be aware, the Arts Council is the principal agency...

1. Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Social Protection the total amount of savings that she expects to achieve from the abolition of exceptional needs payments for religious ceremonies; the number who received such payments in 2010, 2011, 2012 and to date in 2013;; and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 19152/13 asked on 24 Apr 2013 - Exceptional Needs Payments)

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Under the supplementary welfare allowance, SWA, scheme, the 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 Department provides money for clothing for adults and children in exceptional circumstances. The Government has provided €47.6 million for the exceptional needs payment scheme ...

4. Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Social Protection her plans for the future of the domiciliary care allowance and the disability allowance in view of the Advisory Group on social welfare and taxation;; and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 19153/13 asked on 24 Apr 2013 - Disability Allowance Payments)

(Deputy Joan Burton): At the outset I want to put on record that the Government fully recognises that the domiciliary care allowance, DCA, scheme represents a very important support to parents and guardians who live with and care for children with a disability. Likewise, the disability allowance, DA, represents an important income support to people who are unfit for work. In this context I am pleased that two important reports have been published in recent times.
DCA is now being paid in respe...

140. Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of measures her Department has been tasked with in the Action Plan for Jobs 2013 (Question 17359/13 asked on 16 Apr 2013 - Action Plan for Jobs)

Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: I proposed to take Questions Nos. 114 and 140 together.
Action Plan for Jobs 2013 contains actions relating to my Department in two specific areas: child care and youth work. With regard to the action relating to child care, including action 235 in the current 2013 plan, I can confirm that in budget 2013, I announced, together with the Minister for Social Protection, a new €14 million investment in an after-school child care programme. This programme will deliver 6,0...

93. Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the timeframe for the implementation of Pyrite Resolution Board legislation;; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 12690/13 asked on 12 Mar 2013 - Pyrite Panel Report Recommendations)

(Deputy Phil Hogan): I propose to take Questions Nos. 83 and 93 together.
I attach a very high priority to preparing the necessary primary legislation to underpin the imposition of a levy on the quarrying and insurance sectors, in conjunction with the Office of the Attorney General. The Department is currently advancing the drafting of the general scheme of a Bill. While there are particular complexities attaching to the proposed legislation, which require detailed consultations with other Dep...

80. Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Social Protection her views on the recommendations of the Advisory Group report on Tax and Social Welfare chaired by Ita Mangan; and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 11426/13 asked on 05 Mar 2013 - Advisory Group on Tax and Social Welfare)

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton) (Deputy Joan Burton): In 2013, my Department will spend over €2.8 billion on supports to families and children, of which €1.9 billion will be on child benefit, €220 million on FIS, €694 million on qualified child increases and €49 million on the back to school clothing and footwear allowance. This amounts to a very significant part of the Department of Social Protection budget, around 14% of total.
We need to be sure that this major investment...

83. Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Social Protection her views on the future of the one parent family payment; the progress that has been made on her commitments to reform childcare provision before implementing changes to the payment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 11428/13 asked on 05 Mar 2013 - Social Welfare Code Reform)

Deputy Joan Burton: The number of one-parent family recipients stood at 87,824 in January 2013. The cost of the one-parent family scheme was €1.06 billion in 2012 and it is estimated to cost approximately the same in 2013. The current reforms to the one-parent family payment aim to prevent long-term dependence on social welfare support and to facilitate financial independence among lone parents, to recognise parental choice with regard to the care of young children but with the expectation tha...