To ask the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of emergency refuge accommodation spaces for victims of domestic violence provided in each of the years 2016 to 2018 and to date in 2019, in tabular form.
Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, has responsibility for the care and protection of victims of domestic, sexual and gender-based violence. This includes the provision of emergency refuge accommodation for individuals and families that experience domestic violence.
I have requested that Tusla respond directly to the Deputy on this matter.
To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if persons aged 18 to 24 years of age that are living independently and receiving housing supports in the form of emergency accommodation will be eligible for the higher rate of jobseeker’s allowance; and if she will make a statement on the matter.
To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if persons aged 18 to 24 years of age that are eligible for housing supports but that are unable to access a tenancy will be eligible for the higher rate of jobseeker’s allowance; and if she will make a statement on the matter.
The reduced age related rates of payment for younger jobseeker’s allowance and supplementary welfare allowance recipients were introduced on a phased basis to protect them from welfare dependency by providing them with a strong financial incentive to participate in education or training to improve their chances of obtaining sustainable full time employment.
Age related reduced rates do not apply to jobseekers with a dependent child, or those who have transferred to jobseeker’s allowance from disability allowance or who were in State care during the 12 months before age 18.
As part of Budget 2020 I announced that jobseekers aged 18-24 living independently and receiving state support towards their housing costs will receive the full rate of jobseekers allowance or supplementary welfare allowance.
My Department’s report on the impact of age related reduced rates of jobseekers allowance on young jobseekers aged 18 to 25 years of age found that that there was a small cohort of young people who face significant financial barriers who are living independently and in receipt of State support towards their housing costs. The residual income of those on age related reduced rates after paying the minimum contribution payments on rent supplement, housing assistance payment (HAP) and other local authority housing supports is significantly lower than those on the maximum rate of jobseeker’s allowance or supplementary welfare allowance which can lead to financial hardship.
This measure, which comes into effect in January 2020, will provide that young people in these circumstances can receive the maximum rate of payment and will help young people to continue living independently and reduce the threat of financial hardship. For those aged 18-24 this will provide a weekly increase of up to €90.30 with their weekly payment increasing from €112.70 to €203 for jobseekers and to €201 for those in receipt of supplementary welfare allowance. The estimated expenditure in a full year is €1 million and the estimated number of young people who will benefit from this measure is 300.
Young people who qualify for this measure will continue to be encouraged to engage with the employment support services and avail of pro-employment supports and schemes. A range of activation measures for the under 25’s have been developed and improved over recent years, most notably the EU-wide Youth Guarantee Programme and the Youth Employment Support Scheme which I introduced as part of Budget 2018.
My Department works with Tusla and non-Government organisations to support all vulnerable people including young people who are leaving care, at risk of, or experiencing homelessness, or in insecure situations.
Protocols are in place in all Intreo Centres to ensure that payments and activation supports for young people in insecure situations such as homelessness are not interrupted and they are advised to register with the Local Authority to engage with Housing Assistance Payment and local homeless services.
Supports under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme are also available to young people to help with essential expenditure which a person could not reasonably be expected to meet out of their weekly income. Young people who are in vulnerable situations, including homelessness are assessed to see what supports are most suitable for their individual circumstances. As the needs of this group are complex they require assessment on an individual basis and I believe this is the most appropriate way of helping them to overcome the significant challenges they face.
I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy
Funding mechanisms for institutes of technology to support the development of their student accommodation capacity
To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the status of plans to establish funding mechanisms for institutes of technology to support the development of their student accommodation capacity.
Funding provided to the Institute of Technology (IoT) sector currently impacts on the General Government Borrowing (GGB). Borrowing for capital development, including student accommodation, is included in the State’s balance sheet and therefore impacts on the Government’s available fiscal space. The National Student Accommodation Strategy includes actions to explore, with the sector, an off-balance sheet solution to allow IoTs to access funding for the development of purpose built student accommodation.
The IoT sector is examining with the Department of Education and Skill and the assistance of the NDFA options to progress the provision of student accommodation for the technological sector on this basis.
To ask the Minister for Finance the status of plans to request the Central Bank to conduct an assessment of existing sustainable restructuring solutions across all lenders and non-bank entities operating here.
Within the remit of the Central Bank of Ireland’s (the Central Bank) responsibilities for safeguarding stability and protecting consumers, its approach to mortgage arrears resolution is focused on ensuring the fair treatment of borrowers through a strong consumer protection framework and ensuring that regulated entities have appropriate arrears resolution strategies and operations in place.
The Code of Conduct on Mortgage Arrears (CCMA) is a statutory code that must be complied with by relevant regulated entities as a matter of law. The CCMA provides a strong consumer protection framework, aimed specifically at the process to be followed by relevant firms, to ensure borrowers in arrears or pre-arrears in respect of a mortgage loan secured on a primary residence are treated in a timely, transparent and fair manner.
Banks, retail credit firms and credit servicing firms are all required to comply with the CCMA. The overriding objective of the CCMA is to ensure the fair and transparent treatment of consumers in mortgage arrears or pre-arrears, and that due regard is had to the fact that each case of mortgage arrears is unique and needs to be considered on its own merits.
The CCMA recognises that it is in the interests of borrowers and regulated firms to address financial difficulties as speedily, effectively and sympathetically as circumstances allow. It sets out the Mortgage Arrears Resolution Process (MARP), a four-step process that regulated entities must follow:
Step 1: Communicate with borrower;
Step 2: Gather financial information;
Step 3: Assess the borrower’s circumstances; and
Step 4: Propose a resolution
The arrears handling provisions in Chapter 8 of the Consumer Protection Code (the Code) apply when the loan is not a mortgage loan to which the CCMA applies (i.e. where the property is not the borrower's primary residence). Amongst other protections, the Code requires that where an account is in arrears, a regulated entity must seek to agree an approach that will assist the personal consumer in resolving the arrears.
Most loan agreements include a clause that allows the original lender to sell the loan on to another firm. When a loan is sold, the relevant Irish and EU consumer protections continue to apply. Under the Consumer Protection (Regulation of Credit Servicing Firms) Act 2018, which came into effect on 21 January 2019, if a loan is transferred, the holder of the legal title to the credit must now be authorised by the Central Bank as a credit servicing firm. Such credit servicing firms must act in accordance with Irish financial services law that applies to ‘regulated financial service providers’. This ensures that consumers, whose loans are sold to another firm, maintain the same regulatory protections that they had prior to the sale, including under the various statutory Codes of Conduct issued by the Central Bank, such as the Code and the CCMA.
The Central Bank carries out its supervision of regulated entities, including banks, retail credit and credit servicing firms in a number of ways, which includes both desk based and on-site reviews of various activities. In March 2018, I asked the Central Bank to review the CCMA to ensure it remains as effective as possible in the context of the sale of loans by regulated lenders. In November 2018, the Central Bank published a report on this matter.
Based on that point in time exercise, the Central Bank’s review concluded that the CCMA is effective and working as intended in the context of the sale of loans, for borrowers who engage with the process. There was no evidence that credit servicing firms do not engage with borrowers in arrears. When a loan is sold by a bank, any existing Alternative Repayment Arrangements (ARAs) in place with a borrower under the CCMA continue to be honoured until the agreed term of the ARA ends. There was no evidence that borrowers, whose circumstances have not changed, were being moved off existing ARAs by credit servicing firms during the term of the ARA. There was no material difference in the level of repossessions by the previously unregulated loan owners compared to banks.
As a follow-up action to the Report on the CCMA, the Central Bank wrote to banks, retail credit firms and credit servicing firms in August 2019 to set out its expectations of all firms in respect of loan sales and they specifically refer to the situation where a cooperating borrower is complying with the terms of an ARA and their loan is sold, that the new regulated entity cannot unilaterally change the ARA.
Institutions were required to respond to the Central Bank by 18 October 2019 confirming that the board of the firm had considered the contents of the letter and provided the assurances sought.
As a result of the above information, I do not believe that it is necessary at this point in time to ask the Central Bank to conduct an assessment of existing sustainable restructuring solutions across all lenders and non-bank entities operating here.
To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality if a list of disused Garda stations in the Fingal area of County Dublin will be provided; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
The resources provided by Government to An Garda Síochána have reached record levels, with an allocation for 2019 of €1.76 billion and this is due to increase further to an unprecedented €1.88 billion for 2020. The capital budget for An Garda Síochána has also been significantly increased - a total of €92 million was provided this year, representing a 50% increase on capital investment in 2018. Capital investment will increase further to €116.5 million in 2020.
The Garda Commissioner has responsibility for management of An Garda Síochána and is primarily responsible for the effective and efficient use of these resources. I understand however, that Garda management keeps the distribution of resources under continual review, to ensure their optimum use.
I am informed by the Garda authorities that the Garda District and Station Rationalisation Programme developed and implemented in 2012 and 2013 resulted in the closure of a number of Garda stations nationwide. I am informed by the Garda authorities that one station in the Fingal area was closed under that programme, namely Rush Garda station. I am further informed that the Garda authorities further advise that they are not aware of any other disused Garda stations in the Fingal area.
Finally and as the Deputy may recall, the Programme for Government contained a commitment to reopen six Garda Stations on a pilot basis to determine possible positive impacts that such openings will have on criminal activity, with special emphasis on burglaries, theft and public order.
Rush Garda station is included in the project along with Ballinspittle, Co. Cork, Bawnboy, Co. Cavan, Donard, Co. Wicklow, Leighlinbridge, Co. Carlow and Stepaside in Co. Dublin.
The Office of Public Works has responsibility for the provision and maintenance of Garda accommodation. As a result, all works to the Garda estate involve close cooperation between the OPW and the Garda authorities. I am informed by the OPW and Garda authorities that the refurbishment of Rush Garda Station will be completed and the station handed over to An Garda Síochána by the end of 2019.
Reducing waiting times in north Dublin for occupational therapy assessments especially for those under 18 years of age
To ask the Minister for Health when progress will be made on reducing waiting times in north Dublin for occupational therapy assessments especially for those under 18 years of age; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
I acknowledge that the current time to access Occupational Therapy services in North Dublin, and indeed nationally, can be too long and that this may cause anxiety for parents and patients who are seeking to obtain services.
The fact that people are waiting too long to access therapy services such as OT is a reflection of the historical under-investment in the primary and community sector in Ireland. The Government is committed to addressing this deficit and transforming how we deliver health services by implementing the vision set out in the Sláintecare Action Plan. I am determined that we develop a more comprehensive and integrated community and primary care system and shift the focus of our system so that the majority of healthcare is provided, where possible, either at home or close to home in the community.
The Government’s commitment to reform can be seen in Budget 2020 with the allocation of €10m to provide for the enhancement of Community Services, building to a full-year allocation of €60m in 2021. This significant investment by Government will enable the recruitment of up to 1,000 therapists, nurses and other frontline staff. North Dublin, like the rest of the country, will benefit from this investment which will support the development of a more integrated and comprehensive primary and community care system.
Turning specifically to the situation in North Dublin, I understand that the recruitment of six OTs has been approved by the local Head of Service for Primary Care to fill vacancies that currently exist. Derogation from temporary employment controls has been sought and once received all vacant posts will be offered out as appropriate and without delay. It is expected that waiting time swill be reduced significantly once extra resources are in place.
I also understand that North Dublin, along with other CHOs, are implementing local action plans to address waiting times and that these include a focus on long waiters, cross cover arrangements and maximisation of the supports available from administrative staff and OT Assistants.
To ask the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of dedicated child support workers appointed on a local authority by local authority basis to assist homeless families; and if she will make a statement on the matter.
My Department and Tusla are working to provide supports for families in emergency accommodation in order to mitigate the challenges faced by parents and children in this situation.
As the State agency established to promote the welfare of children, Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, is committed to supporting children, parents and communities in dealing with the impact of homelessness on their lives. The short and long term effects of homelessness on children are well documented. While Tusla does not have a direct role in the provision of housing or accommodation for homeless families a range of services, from prevention and early intervention through to child welfare and protection, are provided.
Tusla works in partnership with the Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DRHE) and is a key partner on several interagency groups. Bilateral meetings between the DRHE and Tusla take place monthly. Tusla supports ‘one-stop-shop’ assessment centres being led by the DRHE. Tusla staff participate as required on issues involving child protection and welfare, educational welfare and Domestic, Sexual and Gender Based Violence (DSGBV) services. The Tusla Homelessness Liaison Officer plays a key role in coordinating this multi-agency response.
While homelessness is not a reason for a referral to child protection services, there may be child protection or welfare concerns for some children. Tusla undertakes visits to Family Hubs and emergency accommodation providers to ensure that they are aware of their requirements under Children First and to clarify referral queries. Tusla has progressed plans for the linkage of Child and Family Support Networks (CFSNs) with family hubs and other homeless accommodation.
Tusla also works in partnership with a number of Family Resource Centres (FRCs) to provide dedicated services for families experiencing homelessness. Tusla has also supported the evening service at the Focus Ireland Coffee Shop, a service which includes a range of supports to homeless families, high quality food, and rooms for children to do homework supported by an educational tutor. Tusla also funds the work of two child support workers in Focus Ireland.
However, it is important to note that the needs of homeless families require a response from across Government and beyond. I have asked that Tusla provide further detail in regard to family support workers directly to the Deputy.
To ask the Minister for Finance the status on the creation of a housing fund under the remit of the National Treasury Management Agency; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
To ask the Minister for Finance the status of the National Treasury Management Agency Special Purpose Vehicle to deliver additional social housing as part of mixed-tenure developments; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
I am informed by the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) that this delivery mechanism has been superseded by the Enhanced Long-Term Social Housing Leasing Scheme, which was launched on 31 January 2018.
The NTMA, in its role as the National Development Finance Agency, acted as financial advisor to the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government in respect of the development of this long-term leasing model, however the NTMA has no role in relation to implementation of the scheme.
The Enhanced Long Term Social Housing Leasing Scheme is one of a suite of measures introduced under Pillar 2 of “Rebuilding Ireland: An Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness” aimed at private investment in order to deliver social housing at scale.
The principal objective of that scheme is to encourage increased levels of private investment in social housing while ensuring that the resulting leasing arrangement is off-balance sheet in respect of Government expenditure.
The scheme is targeted at new build or new to the market properties to be delivered at scale and will complement the existing long-term leasing arrangements, which will continue to be available for leasing existing properties. The scheme was launched in 2018 and the first closing was completed in June 2019.
The Housing Agency is the national co-ordinator of this scheme and manages and administers it on behalf of the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government and local authorities.
Further detail on this initiative is available at: https://www.housing.gov.ie/housing/social-housing/leasing/enhanced-long-term-social-housing-leasing-scheme.
To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality the status of the ongoing delays for INIS appointments; the steps he is taking to address same; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
As outlined in responses to previous parliamentary questions, my Department became aware in September 2018 of customers experiencing difficulties booking registration appointments. Some of these difficulties had arisen because third party agents had been able to secure multiple appointments through the use of automatic software.
A set of software fixes was introduced in mid-September 2018 to prevent this abuse of the system. As far as can be determined, this software update has been successful in preventing the block booking of appointments by third party agents. The system is being regularly monitored in this regard.
However, I am aware that some third party agents continue to book individual appointments with information supplied to them by customers. My Department strongly advises our customers not to provide sensitive personal data to these unregulated agents.
My Department will shortly be tendering for a replacement online appointments system, which is being designed to prevent the block-booking of appointments. This new system will also assist in streamlining and improving the current online booking process. As part of the Service Improvement Plan 2018-2020 for Immigration Service Delivery, a number of other options are also being considered with a view to improving customer service and efficiency as well as meeting the growing demand for registration in Ireland.
To ask the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the progress towards achieving the interim offshore wind energy targets set out in the Climate Action Plan for 2025; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
The Climate Action Plan includes, inter alia, a suite of actions to decarbonise the electricity sector and boost the quantity of renewable generation in order to meet our target of 70% of demand from renewable sources by 2030; the Plan commits to connecting at least 3.5GW of Offshore Wind by 2030.
In order to achieve this my Department is working closely with the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government on the development of a new, streamlined consenting regime for offshore renewable energy which will modernise and streamline the marine development management and enforcements systems. This new regime will replace existing State and development consent regimes and streamline arrangements on the basis of a single consent principle.
My Department have also established a working group on the Framework for Offshore Electricity Grid. This group will assess the options available for a suitable offshore grid model for Ireland allowing us to develop an offshore grid model informed by and aligned to Government Policy such as the forthcoming National Marine Planning Framework.
To support the delivery of the national ambition to further decrease our dependence on foreign fossil fuels my Department is also developing a new Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS) which will assist Ireland in meeting its renewable energy contributions out to 2030 by providing supports to a range of technologies including offshore wind projects..
All Parlamientary Questions I make and their answers can be viewed in this section