Author Archives: Brendan Smith

About Brendan Smith

Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan Monaghan, Chairman of the Fianna Fáil Parliamentary Party. Chairman of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade and Defence, Member of the Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement, Member of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly, Member of the North/South Inter-Parliamentary Association.

Unacceptable delays in processing Carer’s Allowance applications – Brendan Smith TD

carers image

I have been continuously raising with the Social Protection Minister the need to have Carer’s Allowance applications approved in a timely manner.  I have asked that the necessary resources be allocated to that particular Division of the Department to ensure that persons, who need this particular benefit, do not have unacceptable delays in having decisions made on their applications.

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For Oral Answer on : 13/11/2018
Question Number(s): 106 Question Reference(s): 46795/18
Department: Employment Affairs and Social Protection
Asked by: Brendan Smith T.D.
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QUESTION

To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if additional resources will be provided to reduce delays in the processing of carer’s allowance applications; and if she will make a statement on the matter.

REPLY
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.

Carer’s Allowance (CA) is a means-tested payment, made to a person who is habitually resident in the State and providing full-time care and attention to a child or an adult who has such a disability that they require that level of care.  An increased payment can be made where full-time care is being provided to two people.

The target processing time for the CA scheme is to finalise 70% of new claims within 12 weeks. Currently the average time taken to process new CA applications is 17 weeks.

The principal reason for the length of time taken to process a CA claim is the growth in recent years in the number of applications received; these increased by 31% between 2015 and 2017. While no specific research into this has been undertaken by the Department, it is believed that the increase is broadly in line with demographic changes.

It is also the case that social welfare schemes with a number of complex qualifying conditions can take longer to process. Before a decision can be made on entitlement to CA, evidence must be provided in respect of the carer’s habitual residence in the State, the level of care they provide, their means and also that the person being cared for has such a disability that they require full-time care and attention.  It is sometimes the case that the documentary evidence provided at initial application stage is incomplete or insufficient and this can contribute to the time taken to process applications.

The Department recently launched a re-designed CA application form which includes a new Care Report section which has been arrived at through consultation between officials and medical assessors of my Department and representatives and members of Family Carers Ireland.  This new form allows carers to provide more information on the type and level of care they provide, with an aim to providing Deciding Officers with the information they need to expedite decisions on entitlement.

Also, additional staff have also recently been reassigned to the CA area to work on claims processing and this should lead to a reduction in processing times.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

 

 

 

 

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Government needs to increase road funding for Cavan/Monaghan – Brendan Smith TD

roads pic

Below is a reply by the Transport Minister to the most recent Parliamentary Question I tabled in Dáil Éireann regarding the need to increase funding for the non-national road network.  A substantial increase is needed to deal with deteriorating road conditions in many parts of both counties. 

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For Oral Answer on : 06/11/2018
Question Number(s): 99 Question Reference(s): 45648/18
Department: Transport, Tourism and Sport
Asked by: Brendan Smith T.D.
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QUESTION

To ask the Minister for Transport; Tourism and Sport if he will ensure that substantial additional funding is provided to Cavan and Monaghan county councils for the 2019 non-national roadworks programme in view of the deterioration of the road network in many parts of both counties; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

REPLY

The improvement and maintenance of regional and local roads is the statutory responsibility of local authorities, in accordance with the provisions of Section 13 of the Roads Act 1993. Works on those roads are funded from the Council’s own resources supplemented by State road grants.  The initial selection and prioritisation of works to be funded is also a matter for the local authority.

It is a matter for each Council to determine its priorities and decide its work programme taking available grant funding and its own resources into account. I always stress to Councils the importance of prioritising roads when allocating their own resources.

Grant allocations for 2019 will be decided once the 2019 Estimates process is concluded. Within the budget available to the Department, the approach taken is to allocate funding on as fair and equitable basis as possible. In this context, grants in the main grant categories are allocated based on the total length of the regional and local road network within the area of responsibility of the relevant local authority.

Minister must provide clarity on Minor Works Scheme for schools – Brendan Smith T.D.

classroom

Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan-Monaghan Brendan Smith has called on the Minister for Education to provide clarity on when the Minor Works Grant will be paid to schools.

Deputy Smith commented, “The State currently only meets 53% of the running costs of schools. Cuts to the capitation grant mean that parents are forced to foot rest of this bill to the tune of over €46m per year through contributions or fund raising. This inadequate level of funding provided by the government to schools leaves parents in debt, schools unable to operate or plan, and pupils’ education impacted.

“The Minor Works Grant provides vital funding for schools for things like building and grounds improvements, furniture and IT equipment.  However, even with the grant, along with the work of parents and local communities across Ireland, some schools are still finding themselves in debt.

“As it stands, schools must go from year to year, unsure when or if this payment will be made available. This practice is unacceptable and must end. Fianna Fáil is calling for this payment to be put on a statutory basis to be paid each November.

“We are already into November and are still waiting on the Minister to make an announcement on the funding for next year.  This creates serious pressure for schools trying to budget for the year ahead and I am urging Minister McHugh to make the announcement without any further delay”.

Minor Works Scheme

Govt failing to get serious on insurance fraud – Brendan Smith

– Garda Fraud Unit must be established without delay

alliance for insurance reform.pngFianna Fáil TD for Cavan-Monaghan Brendan Smith has accused the government of failing insurance customers by continuing to delay the establishment of a dedicated unit within An Garda Síochána.

A Garda fraud unit was recommended by the government’s Cost of Insurance Working Group back in January 2017, however there has been no progress on it whatsoever.

Deputy Brendan Smith explained, “Every insurance customer pays the price for insurance fraud through increased premiums, and despite some claims about reduced costs, many people have seen the price they pay for cover increase year on year.  Personal customers, farmers and businesses have all reported increased premiums over the past number of years – and in some cases people have had to give up their insurance cover because it had become so unaffordable.

“The Garda Fraud Unit was first touted in the report on motor insurance published by the Government’s Cost of Insurance Working Group in January 2017.  Yet here we are approaching the end of 2018 and no progress has been made.  Insurance fraud can be very difficult and time consuming to investigate and to prosecute.  A dedicated Garda unit is needed to take on this task.

“Ireland is seen as weak when it comes to tackling this type of crime, and the fact that no effort has been made by this government to address it does nothing to improve our international reputation.

“Fianna Fáil has been pursuing this issue for years – the party was to the forefront in raising the plight of insurance customers on the floor of the Dáil by bringing forward two key pieces of legislation – one of which specifically give Judges the power to pass information to the Director of Public Prosecution where a fraudulent claim has been made.

“Fine Gael cannot continue to bury its head in the sand as people the length and breadth of this country are paying through the nose for insurance.  It needs to get serious about insurance reform and ensure that this unit is established without any further delay”.

Government’s Cost of Insurance Working Group Recomendation 26

PQ Garda Fraud Unit

Funding for cross-border projects must be protected post Brexit – Brendan Smith TD

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Cross-border projects funded by the Irish and British Governments and the European Commission have been critically important in advancing economic and social development in the border region.  Different programmes including INTERREG and PEACE  have been operational since the mid 1990’s and there has been a strong emphasis in investing in disadvantaged areas.

This funding has assisted in the provision of much needed community infrastructure and enhanced community facilities. There have also been successful programmes of investment in human resources with training and upskilling of people leading to employment.

Unfortunately there are still many areas of disadvantage in the border region, North and South, and it is essential that these programmes continue post Brexit.

Below reply by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform to my most recent Parliamentary Question on this issue.

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For Written Answer on : 23/10/2018
Question Number(s): 241 Question Reference(s): 43862/18
Department: Public Expenditure and Reform
Asked by: Brendan Smith T.D.
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QUESTION

To ask the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the projects that will be funded under the INTERREG and peace programmes in 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

REPLY

The 2014-2020 EU-funded PEACE and INTERREG programmes will invest over half a billion euros in the border region of Ireland and Northern Ireland over the course of the programming period.  The programmes are managed by the Special EU Programmes Body, one of the North South implementation bodies established under the Good Friday Agreement.

The PEACE IV programme has a total value of €270 million and aims to promote peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland and the border counties of Ireland. The INTERREG VA programme totals €282 million, with the aim of promoting economic, social and territorial cohesion.

Both programmes are progressing well, with the bulk of funding now allocated to successful applicants who will be delivering a range of projects during 2019 and beyond.

The PEACE programme supports projects under four Specific Objectives.  These are Shared Education, Children and Young People, Shared Spaces and Services, and Building Positive Relations.  To date a total of 39 projects of varying sizes, with a total value of €118 million, have been granted funding under these objectives.  In addition to this, €73 million has been allocated to Local Authorities, North and South, for their Local Action Plans, to deliver PEACE IV programme activities across a range of the Specific Objectives.

The INTERREG programme funds projects in four thematic areas.  These are Research & Innovation, Environment, Sustainable Transport, and Health.  A total of €217 million has been allocated to 28 projects to date.

The remaining funding under both programmes will be allocated to projects over the coming months.

The Government is committed to the successful implementation of the current PEACE and INTERREG programmes and a successor programme post-2020.  It welcomes the proposal from the European Commission for a special new PEACE PLUS programme that will build on and continue the work of the PEACE and INTERREG programmes in the 2021-2027 programming period.

 

Failed FG health policy leaving children waiting over 12 months for psychology appointments – Brendan Smith T.D.

HSE logo

Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan-Monaghan Brendan Smith has described as shameful, the fact that more than 600 children are waiting for a psychology appointment in the HSE North West region, which includes Cavan and Monaghan.

Figures released to Fianna Fáil reveal a total of 619 children in the HSE CHO1 area on the list for an appointment with a psychologist, 82 of them are waiting over a year.

“Unfortunately long waiting lists have become a common feature of our struggling health system, particularly in relation to mental health services.  Fine Gael’s utter failure to get to grips with improved service provision, despite successive budget increases is scandalous.  Not only are we now seeing the biggest budget overruns in history, we are also leaving vulnerable children languishing on waiting lists – some for well over a year”, said Deputy Brendan Smith.

“The impact of these lengthy waits not only have a detrimental impact on outcomes, they are the source of immense stress and anxiety for the children and the families concerned.

“This data is yet another illustration of the persistent crisis in the provision of mental health services for children. While it is not uncommon in today’s health services for children to be left on a waiting list to be on it for more than a year, this does not make it right.  Early intervention is critical when dealing with susceptible children and teenagers. The government and the HSE have an obligation to do better by these children.

“Ministers Harris and Daly must do more to address this issue.  The government constantly claims that it is prioritising mental health services – we need to see greater delivery on those promises”, concluded Deputy Smith.

Primary Care Psychology

Further studies re potential of extending Erne Navigation – Brendan Smith TD

Killykeen

The Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht has confirmed to me that Waterways Ireland will explore the potential of carrying out an independent review of the environmental studies that have been conducted into the possible extension of the Erne Navigation.

This reply followed on from my Parliamentary Questions in Dáil Éireann when I strongly urged Minister Madigan to give further consideration to this project.

Erne Navigation – reply from Minister