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.
Status on the creation of a housing fund
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.
Climate Action Plan for 2025
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..
To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the status of the Supreme Court decision regarding EU member states having a mechanism allowing the court to determine that a state of insolvency arises permitting employee claims to be met from the social insurance fund without making a winding-up order; when payments will commence from the social insurance fund in this regard; and if she will make a statement on the matter.
The purpose of the insolvency payments scheme is to protect certain outstanding pay-related entitlements due to employees in the event of the insolvency of their employer. The scheme operates under the Protection of Employees (Employers’ Insolvency) Act 1984, which derives from EU Directive 2008/94. Payments are made from the Social Insurance Fund.
The Protection of Employees (Employers’ Insolvency) Act 1984 provides for a scheme to employees of companies that are in a formal wind-up procedure such as liquidation or receivership, or situations where the employer has died and the estate is insolvent, or an employer has been declared bankrupt.
The legislation does not provide for situations where an employer ceases to trade without engaging in any formal wind-up process. In such cases, referred to as ‘informal insolvency’, former employees may have monies owed to them without having a legal mechanism to claim same from the Social Insurance Fund.
In December 2018, the Supreme Court found that Ireland must provide a mechanism through which a competent authority can determine that a state of insolvency arises, without requiring a formal wind-up process, and that monies due to the employee can be claimed by them from the Social Insurance Fund.
The judgment and its ramifications are complex. Consideration must be given to:-
To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality the steps he has taken to address the issue of organisations making third-party payments to secure funding under the endowment option of the immigrant investor programme or other options; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
The payment of fees by a charity or enterprise is a commercial matter to be decided upon by the responsible parties of the organisation and the policing of this is not a matter for this Department. The Charities Regulator is the competent authority with responsibility for the charities sector.
My Department has, however, made it clear through information updates and engagement with the charity sector that any funding received through the endowment option of the Immigrant Investor Programme is to be solely utilised for the purposes for which it was sought and that there can be no deductions of fees from the amount being donated. This goes against the entire purpose of this option which is that of a donation to a good cause. My Department will take the necessary steps to ensure this is the case, up to and including removing the residence permission from an applicant found to have engaged in such practice.
To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality the steps he has taken to ensure the immigrant investor programme adheres to best practise in the OECD in relation to investor programmes in relation to anti-money laundering, international sanction checks, political exposed persons and client verification; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
I can inform the Deputy that my Department introduced enhanced due diligence checks in 2018 on all applicants to the Immigrant Investor Programme. This involved the utilisation of best in class compliance databases including politically exposed person checks. Further control measures were introduced from 1 January 2019 . All applicants must now provide a third party due diligence report from a risk management company. Additionally, all personal documentation must be apostilled or dually legalised in the country of origin before it will be accepted.
In 2019 a data sharing agreement was signed with the Revenue Commissioners which allows for the sharing of certain applicant information with the Revenue Commissioners for onward sharing with both the OECD and the applicant's country of origin. This measure was adopted to support the OECD’s Common Reporting Standard. The data will be shared once an applicant has made their investment in Ireland.
To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of new build social housing units, new build nursing homes and primary care centres that are underway stemming from the investment fund and enterprise option of the immigrant investor programme in 2017, 2018 and up to the end of August 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality if his attention has been drawn to the number of applications of new build social housing units stemming from the investment fund and enterprise option of the immigrant investor programme for 2017, 2018 and up to the end of August 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality if his attention has been drawn to the number of applications for new build nursing homes and primary care centres that are underway stemming from the investment fund and enterprise option of the immigrant investor programme for 2017, 2018 and up to the end of August 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
It is a requirement under the Immigrant Investor Programme (IIP) that applicants submit detailed business plans. The Plans for Investment projects involving construction set out, in detail, the number of units to be constructed.
In 2017, 5 nursing home projects and 566 social housing units were approved. In 2018, 4 nursing homes and 884 social housing units were approved. In 2019, 5 nursing homes and some 560 social housing units were approved. There is no record of any primary care centre applications being received in the years mentioned by the Deputy.
However, my Department is aware that projects evolve to reflect changed circumstances. Accordingly, to ensure continual compliance with the objectives of the scheme, my Department introduced a rolling review process, whereby applicants and projects that have received funding undergo a review at the year 2 and year 5 stages, and occasionally at the year 3 stage.
I can inform the Deputy that my Department has engaged directly with the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government and has sought guidance form them on the applications received under the Immigrant Investor Programme for new build social housing units. My officials also exchanged information with that department relating to the projects seeking funding. My officials have requested a meeting with the Department of Health in respect of those applications that are proposing new build nursing homes.
As part of the assessments process my Department interacts with the relevant government departments and agencies regarding various aspects of proposed projects.
All Parlamientary Questions I make and their answers can be viewed in this section