Monday, December 19, 2011



Should you know of any DEIS school seeking clarification or advice regarding the measures undertaken by the Government in Budget 2012 please don't hesitate to contact me at any time to discuss.

Constituency Office: (01) 857-4020
Dáil Office: (01) 618-3209

Let children be children

Statement Issued : Monday 19 December, 2011

Labour Party TD for Dublin North Central Aodhán Ó Ríordáin has called on the Government to tackle the growing problem of the sexualisation and commercialisation of children and young people in Ireland. Deputy Ó Ríordáin was speaking after raising this matter with the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs on the floor of the House.

Deputy Ó Ríordáin states: "The issue of the sexualisation and commercialisation of our children and young people is an enormous problem in this society which often goes unnoticed. Too often we are finding that the youth of this society are being targeted by large companies and retailers with increasingly explicit clothing and products. I witnessed this first hand as a former school principal when some students would attend class with pencil cases and school bags brandishing a 'Playboy' logo.

"Fundamentally, what this process amounts to is an attack on childhood. Our children and young people should not be subjected, in any way, to the type of manipulative marketing that rationale adults are so often subjected to. Thus, it is incumbent on all of us in this society to do everything we can to protect the innocence of childhood.

"I was very encouraged to hear the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs affirm that the solution to this problem should be a cross-community one, involving parents, guardians, public representatives, business, media and the Internet industry. It is not my belief however that we become overly restrictive as a society. Rather, what I would like to see is a comprehensive analysis of this problem to be carried out by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs in order to ascertain how we properly regulate this growing problem.

"We need look no further than the UK for a starting point where the Bailey Report Letting Children Be Children recommended numerous measures to tackle this issue. In addition, I was greatly encouraged by the Minister's comments in which she cited the new guidelines laid down by the authorities in Great Britain which spelled out a comprehensive programme for the responsible retailing of children's wear. Further, the authorities in the UK required all of the major retailers to sign up to these measures. Taking into account the fact that many of these stores such as Tesco, Debenhams and Marks & Spencers operate in the Irish market, I see no reason why the Government here cannot enact similar guidelines.

"The absence of a retailer code of conduct in this regard or even basic guidelines in this country is greatly hindering our progress in this area. I will continue to pursue this issue with the Minister and the Government and it is my wish that basic measures similar to the guidelines in the UK become a reality here in the near future."

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


It is an absolute privilege to be one of the recipients of the Diverse Ireland Awards 2011 from the Integration Centre.

The Integration Centre carries out tremendous work in the field of integration and inclusion for people from immigrant backgrounds and I am extremely proud to be associated with their organisation.

Nobody in this country should ever have to apologise for who they are and I believe it is incumbent on all of us, as citizens of this republic, to stand up and challenge discrimination and injustice wherever we encounter it.

I will continue to work closely with the Integration Centre into the future to highlight the issues of immigration in this country.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Clarification re: Community Employment Schemes


Following changes to Community Employment schemes announced in this weeks Budget, I wanted to reassure you that the Government is fully committed to the protection and development of community and social employment initiatives.

Community Employment schemes provide a very important and valued contribution to social employment, training and progression for unemployed people. Furthermore, many Community Employment schemes provide vital community services right across the country.

As part of the entry of the employment services division of FAS into the Department of Social Protection on the 1st of January 2012, I have directed that a review of CE schemes will commence immediately.

No Community Employment scheme will close pending the outcome of this review.

The purpose of the review will be to establish the ongoing viability of each scheme in the context of the overall objectives of the CE programme and recognising in particular the community and social value of each CE scheme.

In the event that the reduction in the training and material grant announced in the Budget creates financial difficulties for schemes that would otherwise be viable, the Department of Social Protection will be in a position to fund such schemes from within the overall Departmental Vote.

Yours sincerely,

Joan Burton
Minister for Social Protection

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Labour committed to tackling fuel poverty

Labour Party TD for Dublin North Central Aodhán Ó Ríordáin has said that recent initiatives launched by the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Pat Rabbitte emphasises the fact that the Labour Party are committed to tackling fuel poverty in Ireland.

Deputy Ó Ríordáin stated: "The Affordable Energy Strategy to deal with fuel poverty is a comprehensive programme to address the pressing needs of the most vulnerable citizens to make their homes more energy efficient and to provide them with a more comfortable living environment. In addition, those homeowners who bought their houses before 2002 will be able to avail of facilities to insulate their homes and bring them up to better energy regulations. This is a very positive initiative which will aid those who were unfortunate enough to acquire homes which were not subject to stricter regulatory guidelines.

"Further, this Government will make energy improvements in approximately 60,000 homes across the country to the tune to €100 million. This is the largest ever spend on such an initiative by any Irish government. Moreover, the Minister's commitment that there will be no disconnections for families struggling to pay their energy companies shows further Labour's influence in government.

"I believe these are fair and progressive steps which the coalition parties have taken. Furthermore, I am positive that they will lead to better and smarter energy efficiencies in homes across this country whilst protecting those most at risk of fuel poverty. "

Decision to review proposed changes to disability allowance welcome - Ó Ríordáin

"I welcome the decision made today by the Minister for Social Protection, Joan Burton T.D., to review the proposed changes to the Disability Allowance.

"I know that there has been a lot of unease regarding the measures outlined in the Budget, and the fact that it will not feature in the Social Welfare Bill tomorrow, means there will be more time to assess the merits of the proposed changes.

"I thank the Minister for listening to the concerns of individuals and interest groups who have voiced their disquiet over the past two days, and it is my hope that a more suitable resolution can be found."


“I welcome the decision made today by the Minister for Social Protection, Joan Burton T.D., to review the proposed changes to the Disability Allowance.

“I know that there has been a lot of unease regarding the measures outlined in the Budget, and the fact that it will not feature in the Social Welfare Bill tomorrow, means there will be more time to assess the merits of the proposed changes.

“I thank the Minister for listening to the concerns of individuals and interest groups who have voiced their disquiet over the past two days, and it is my hope that a more suitable resolution can be found.”

BUDGET 2012 UPDATE: Minister Pat Rabbitte's speech on behalf of the Labour Party

A Cheann Chomhairle,

I do not stand up here today to make the claim that this is by any means a great Budget.

I do not seek to pretend that this is a Budget which will instantly fix the problems faced by our economy or the problems faced by so many families across this country who are going through difficult times.

What I do say is that this is a necessary Budget – and that it as good as it can be in the circumstances in which we find ourselves.

That it is a Budget that prioritises jobs.

That it is a fair and balanced Budget.

That it is an honest Budget.

That it is a reforming Budget

That it honours the political commitments the Labour Party made: not to cut welfare rates and not to increase income tax on working people - to protect carers and standardise Child Benefit are considerable achievements.

And that it is a Budget that will move our country closer to economic recovery and the restoration of our sovereignty.

I, like all my colleagues in the Labour Party, believe that the task of Government is to build an Ireland which affords more opportunity, more social solidarity and a fairer society.

But to realise those ambitions, to create that better future, we must first rescue our economy from this crisis, create jobs and restore our economic sovereignty.

History will some day record the full extent of the crisis that this country faced at the time of the General Election earlier this year. The banking system was broken, the public finances were in tatters, Ireland’s reputation was at its lowest ever ebb and national morale was devastated. Hard working families were, and still are, suffering as a result of unemployment, distressed mortgages and loss of income.

At that moment, the Labour Party had a choice. We could have walked away. We could have chosen to sit on the opposition benches and avoid the duties of Government. Or we could roll up our sleeves and set to work in fixing the problem, in the full knowledge that it would take not one Budget or one year, but several over several years before our economic problems would be resolved.

In that situation, there was only one option that the Labour Party would ever take. For nearly one hundred years, the instinct, tradition and spirit of Labour have been to work, day in and day out, to make this a better country.

And that is what we are doing in this Budget. Our over-riding commitment to the Irish people is to restore the economy, promote job creation and restore our economic sovereignty.

A crisis with so many components has required Government to work on several fronts at once. Shortly after coming to office, we re-constructed the banking sector and provided the banks with the means to lend – even if they are still limiting their response. We brought forward a jobs initiative, with a particular focus on tourism and hospitality. We implemented the difficult Budget for 2011 that had been left behind by the outgoing administration and which had significant gaps in its arithmetic. And we reversed the cut in the National Minimum Wage

In addition, we began a major campaign to restore Ireland’s reputation abroad, through Ministerial and official endeavours. At the same time, we brought a new strategic focus to economic governance and management, through the setting up of the economic management council.

Twelve months on from the arrival of the EU/IMF, we have seen some improvement. Our position has stabilised. In fact, while 12 months ago we were Europe’s problem, now the European problem hangs over our recovery.

We are pulling out all the stops to ensure that the decisions we are taking, tough as they are, are as fair as we can make them in the circumstances. We are making progress. Ireland will see a return to economic growth this year, and next. Our exports are performing well. Tourism is recovering. The banking sector is managing to raise modest amounts of funding without Government guarantees and our bond-spread has fallen significantly in secondary markets. Our reputation abroad has been tremendously enhanced.

To move forward now, we must make further progress on a number of fronts.

First, it is clear that the continuing turbulence in the eurozone is placing a limit on our progress. It is urgent that we find a resolution to the crisis at European level.

Second, while the export sector is booming, in order to achieve a broad based recovery and employment growth we need to restore our domestic economy. That requires action to boost both investment and consumption, including direct measures to promote investment and to restore confidence among consumers and investors.

Third, we need to reform our welfare and training systems, so that people who lose their jobs do not drift into long-term unemployment. We need to shift from a passive welfare system to a far more active approach. The Government will shortly publish Pathways to Work, which will set out our approach in this area, and which is designed to ensure that, when recovery comes, those on the live register can take up the work that is being created.

Fourth, we need to continue to rebuild our reputation abroad and to work on expending our trade links into new markets. As the global centre of economic gravity shifts to the east, Ireland must be ready to build new trade links with emerging economies.

And fifth, we need to continue restoring our financial position, in respect both of our public finances and in implementing our reforms of the banking system.

We have been forced to make difficult and unpalatable decisions. But we as a Government are committed to being honest and upfront with people, in the hard choices that we must make.

Our country has suffered the greatest economic crisis in living memory, leading to a huge fall in revenue. Tax revenues fell from over €47 billion in 2007 to nearly €31 billion in 2010, a fall of one-third in just three years. We are now re-building but the truth is that we do not have the resources to fund all the services that we want to provide.

Ireland’s deficit for 2012 stands at €16 billion. To fill the gap between our spending and our revenue, we have had to borrow from the European Union and the IMF. The last Government was forced into that deal because, given their disastrous mismanagement of the economy they had created, no private financial institution would lend to us.

The reality is that the loans that are financing our day-to-day spending are subject to the condition that we reduce our deficit to 3% of our Gross Domestic Product by 2015.

At the moment our deficit stands at 10.1% of GDP. In order to reduce that deficit, the further reality is that we have no alternative but to reduce spending and to raise taxes. And, for 2012, the combined measures must in this Budget add up to €3.8 billion.

Both parties in Government resisted pressure to make additional adjustments to achieve savings of as much as €4.4 billion. This would have been too much for the economy to bear and would have placed too great a strain on people who are already struggling.

So, having identified the need for savings of €3.8 billion, our only room for manoeuvre was to strike the balance between reductions in spending on our public services and increases in taxation.

Of that €3.8 billion, we decided on a reduction of €750 million in the capital programme. That means that projects like Metro North and the A5 road through Northern Ireland will have to be put on hold.

We did, however, prioritise spending on job intensive and vital projects such as school building.

The remainder of the €3.8 billion adjustment is made up of current spending reductions and tax increases.

Fianna Fáil’s plan was for cuts to be double the amount of tax increases – a 2 to 1 ratio.

Labour resisted cuts on that scale, because we believed that doing so would mean we couldn’t provide for necessary front line services.

In the event, the Government decided on a ratio between current spending and taxes of 56% (spending cuts) to 44% (tax increases)

In Budget 2012, the Government has protected the most vulnerable in our society – children, the elderly and people with disabilities – by:

· not increasing income tax for working people
· maintaining core social welfare payments including jobseekers allowance and state pensions
· maintaining FIS, carers’ entitlements and disability allowances,
· maintaining our support for special needs children in our schools
· maintaining the pupil teacher ratio in the primary sector and
· ensuring that disadvantaged schools will be exempt from staffing schedule changes

In deciding this Budget and given our strategic imperatives, the Government has used the resources it has to prioritise Jobs, Reform and Fairness.
Jobs are central to everything we do in Government. Creating more employment is critical to the success of our economic strategy and to improving the position of families in difficulties.

Our job is to get the country to recover – we have stabilised the patient, we now need to get it into recovery and that’s by keeping people working and getting others back to work. Already this year the Government has:

· provided for a Capital Programme of €3.9bn
· restored the minimum wage
· invested €500m in the Jobs Initiative and
· reduced VAT reductions for the tourism sector
· extended incentives for research and development
· increased investment in the Retrofit Scheme – Better Energy

The clear focus of the Budget is on protecting family incomes, as part of a strategy to restore confidence in the domestic economy. It is well known that the savings ratio has increased rapidly in recent years and is now a drag on growth and employment. By protecting family budgets, and by not increasing taxes on work, we providing space for a return of confidence and spending.

While we will never see a return to the construction boom of the recent past, the normalisation of the property sector is still an important part restoring the domestic economy. The measures taken by the Minister for Finance in the Budget will assist that sector on the path to normalisation and encourage a greater level of activity.

The Government has also taken a number of other steps to encourage investment, through its Strategic Investment Strategy. We have established NewERA and the Strategic Investment Fund, which will be the forerunner of a strategic investment bank, and we will work to use these mechanisms to channel investment into the domestic economy.

Through Pathways to Work we will provide more and better opportunities for people who lose their jobs to re-train and re-skill. Building on that in this Budget, the Government has decided not to increase income tax for working people and to ring fence €20 million for a new Labour Market Activation Fund targeted at the long-term unemployed. This fund, which will be specifically targeted at the long-term unemployed, will deliver upward of 6,500 places next year. What is critical in this area, however, is the implementation of a new and integrated approach to service delivery.

Reforming how Government works to reduce costs and protect front line services is also a guiding principle. This Government is a reforming government. Several key decisions have been taken as part of our reform agenda while reducing costs and protecting front line services. Already this year the Government has:

· reduced the pay of the Taoiseach and Ministers
· abolished severance payments for retiring Ministers
· changed pay and conditions for senior public servants
· Introduced a significant programme of agency rationalisation
· cancelled many parts of the ill-conceived decentralisation programme and
· announced the most ambitious programme of Public Service reform since the foundation of the State, to improve customer service and reduce costs.

Throughout the budgetary process, the Government has been determined to ensure that, despite the difficult decisions that must be made, those decisions are fair. The burden of recovery must be shared fairly and we need to maintain social solidarity in the face of difficult times. The Government has therefore decided not to reduce any weekly rate of social welfare payments and not to reduce the rates of child benefit for the first and second child. The core child benefit remains intact at €140 per month.

We have delivered on our commitment to maintain social welfare rates. There have been no income tax increases for working people and we have removed the lowest paid from the USC. Pensions have been protected and people with disabilities have received top priority from this government.

Expenditure Cuts
The vast bulk of the Government’s current spending is accounted for by the departments of Health, Education and Social Protection. Together the three departments make up over 80% of total current spending and it is therefore impossible to make the kind of necessary savings needed without touching these sensitive policy areas.

The demand for health services has increased, and the number of medical card holders has increased by more than 400,000 since 2007. While reducing spending, the Department of Health will reduce the negative impact on front line services while allowing real reform of services. Doing so will improve the quality and quantity of services in the coming years.

In the Education sector, demographic pressures mean that we need more teachers and more class rooms, to accommodate more children. This is unavoidable. The Department of Education is committed to prioritising its limited resources on programmes that will deliver the best results for children and parents from all backgrounds. Capital funding has also been promised for over 200 schools.

The pressures on our social welfare budget are enormous. The financial allocation for jobseeker’s payments alone has increased from €1.4 billion in 2007 to €3.9 billion this year: an increase of 176%. The provision for State Pensions has increased from €3.75 billion in 2007 to €4.7 billion this year. We will need to continue to increase this financial allocation year-on-year due to our demographic profile. In 2012 an additional allocation of €175 million will be required.

This Budget also marks a new direction in the approach to taxation. One of the great lessons of the boom years is that good public services must be based on sustainable tax revenues. The dislocation of our economy and the curtailment of services in recent years have been the direct result of enhancing public services on the back of unsustainable revenues. For the future, we must move to a revenue base that is both economically and environmentally sustainable.

Fairness and sustainability also require that we broaden the tax base so as to keep rates as low as possible, while ensuring that everyone makes a reasonable contribution to society. Above all, the greatest inequality in our society is the divide between those who have work and those who do not, or who have had to leave the country to find a job. By re-building our revenue base in a more sustainable manner, we can support work and employment creation, now and in the future.

This Budget marks a significant departure in Irish tax policy, towards a broader and more sustainable revenue base. At the same time, the Budget includes a number of important measures to enhance the fairness of the tax code.

There is a tendency in discussions of taxation to focus solely on rates of tax, as though that were the only measure of fairness. By that rubric, the Irish tax code is now strongly progressive. The key issue, however, is to ensure an equality of treatment of different income sources and to ensure that high rollers cannot shelter their income from fair taxation.

While reducing spending and increasing the tax take, we have a duty to protect the most vulnerable in our society and to provide the safety net of social protection in what these challenging times. In order to do so difficult choices must made to help reduce the budget deficit.

We have already had to take decisions that none of us ever thought we would have to make, but progress is being made.

We will see a return to economic growth this year. We have drawn a line under the banking crisis. We have renegotiated the interest rate on Ireland's bailout, even though some said that was impossible. We have ring-fenced €17 billion for investment in capital projects, including the National Children’s Hospital and over 200 primary and secondary schools. We have ensured that the trend for exports remains positive. We have introduced Labour Activation measures in training and education which will continue into next year, with a focus on the long-term unemployed. And we have stimulated the job-intensive sectors of the economy such as tourism and services and energy efficiency.

Despite the tough decisions we have had to take, we have not increased income tax for working people. We have maintained core social welfare payments including jobseekers allowance and state pensions. We have maintained the Family Income Supplement, carers’ entitlements and disability allowances. We have maintained our support for special needs assistants in our schools and the pupil teacher ratio in the primary sector. And we have ensured that disadvantaged schools will be exempt from staffing schedule changes.
Turning briefly to my own Department in respect of which gross provision of some €437m has been made. As regards capital spending some €76m, inclusive of €13m carryover, is provided for energy efficiency measures in 2012 and will support 4,500 direct and indirect jobs.

I am especially pleased to have secured funding for the rollout of 100mbs broadband to second level schools. I believe that over the coming years this scheme can make a real contribution to the promotion of a knowledge society by equipping our 2nd level students with the necessary digital skills and in the process improve overall competitiveness.

For 2012 we have preserved the split in licence fee revenue as between RTÉ, TG4 and the Sound and Vision Fund. However, during 2012 I will have completed the review of funding public sector broadcasting. The big project next year is the switch off of analogue on October 24th and €3m is being provided to ensure a comprehensive information campaign to promote a smooth transition to digital terrestrial television.

It should of course be noted that the vast bulk of capital investment in Energy and Telecommunications comes from our State energy companies in the case of the former and the private sector in the case of the latter. In the specific case of broadband whilst real strides have been made we have a deficit, especially in relation to the availability of high speed broadband, which must be addressed. The Task Force on Next Generation Broadband which I chair - and also comprises the CEOs of the major telecommunications companies - will report very early next year. There is a strong commitment in the Programme for Government to rollout high speed broadband nationwide. Informed by the work of the Taskforce I will bring proposals to Government early next year on implementation of the commitment in the Programme for Government.

Fianna Fáil has discovered a shiny new clean-cut spokesperson with an accountancy degree. He can’t believe the scale of the crisis visited on the country and nobody has explained to him how it happened. But he sticks to the new Fianna Fáil mantra: this Government can no longer blame Fianna Fáil. Why not? Does he seriously suggest that this Government would introduce a Budget such as this if we were starting with a clean sheet? We are attempting to cope with the disastrous legacy left behind by Fianna Fáil and their alternating partners, the PDs and the Green Party.

Of course, the battered clapped out remnants of the once great Fianna Fáil Party is under siege from new improved Sinn Féin. Beneath the radar, Sinn Féin is beginning to shed the wilder reaches of what has passed for their economic policy. Apparently no more does Sinn Féin advocate abandoning the Euro and walking away from our debts. While retaining the populist rhetoric, the new Sinn Féin now accepts that €3.8 billion must be taken out of the economy even if they have no credible idea of how it should be done. The nasty mean spirited speech by Deputy Doherty was a diatribe of criticism and abuse without a single positive idea other than raid what’s left in the National Pension Reserve Fund and soak the rich. And what do we do next? Something will turn up – hopefully things will get worse because the worse they get the better for Sinn Féin. Or so they hope.

Yesterday the country waited with bated breath to see who would be selected from the dolly mixture that is the Technical Group. Which brand of competing eccentric populism would emerge to respond to the tax measures? In the event it was Deputy Mick Wallace – it could only happen in Ireland.

This Government had better succeed because the Pick ’n’ Mix assortment on the opposite side of the House have nothing to offer.

Monday, December 05, 2011

BUDGET 2012-Information leaflet regarding changes to education

Introduction by Ruairi Quinn, TD
Minister for Education and Skills

Over the next 6 years, we will see an extra 70,000 pupils in our primary and second level schools. This surge in numbers comes at the most challenging time possible for the education sector, and will demand that all of us achieve more with fewer resources.

This Government has prioritised the protection of education within a very difficult budget. While overall Government spending will reduce by 2.2%, the reductions to the education budget will be 1.7%.

Within the education budget, my focus has been on protecting those who are most vulnerable. There will be no reductions in the overall number of Special Needs Assistants (SNA) or Resource Teachers in this budget. We have also protected to the greatest extent possible primary and disadvantaged second-level schools from changes to teacher allocations.

It is important that we continue with our reform agenda. Funding for the national literacy and numeracy strategy, for an overhaul of the Junior Cert, and for roll-out of high-speed broadband to all second-level schools has been secured, and will allow us to continue to improve the quality of the education system in Ireland.

Overall Allocation

2011 - €m 2012 - €m 2013 - €m 2014 - €m
Total allocations for gross voted current expenditure* 8,387 8,242 8,163 8,091
Net savings, after new expenditure measures and upward pressures are taken into account 76 157 241
Further savings required
68 138
% Reduction compared to 2011 1.7% 2.7% 3.5%
* There will also be an annual allocation of €362 million under the National Training Fund.
Teacher allocations

The pupil-teacher ratio at primary level is unchanged for the 2012/13 school year. The overall number of Resource Teachers and SNAs for children with special needs will also be protected at primary and second-level levels.

At primary level starting in 2012, phased adjustments will be made to the staffing schedules for 1, 2, 3 and 4 teacher schools (schools with less than 86 pupils). These adjustments will increase the minimum number of pupils required for allocation of teaching posts, and will affect about 100 posts next year. This measure is being phased in to encourage small schools to assess their options for amalgamation.

At second-level level, guidance provision will be managed by schools from within their standard teacher allocation. In this way, the main teacher allocation can be maintained at 19:1 for schools generally, while schools will have discretion to balance what they allocate for guidance against the competing demands of providing subject choice. There will also be a 1 point increase in the staffing schedule for all fee-charging schools.

During 2012, the Department will conduct an analysis of funding for the fee-charging school sector to inform policy decisions in future years. We will facilitate discussions with any fee-charging school that wishes to consider moving into the non-fee-charging sector.

There will be a phased withdrawal of 428 posts that were allocated to schools under ‘legacy’ programmes prior to the rollout of the DEIS initiative in 2005. This will ensure fairness in the distribution of available resources under the DEIS scheme.

When account is taken of additional teacher posts for demographics at primary and second-level level the number of teacher posts in primary schools will increase by an estimated 250 and the number at second-level level will reduce by 450 for the 2012/13 school year.

Funding for schools

• Overall there will be a 2% reduction in the funding for capitation and related grants to primary and second level schools in each of 2012 and 2013 and a further 1% reduction in each of 2014 and 2015.
• The reduction will be applied to the basic capitation payment and will return the funding of schools for basic capitation to 2007 levels – when costs in the economy were at their highest. We are continuing to work with schools to help them devise shared procurement models that will deliver savings for schools.
• Other grants including extra capitation payable to DEIS schools and book grants have been protected.
• Changes will be announced early in 2012 to the current operation of the school book grant in order to incentivise the establishment of book rental schemes in schools. This forms part of our ongoing work to reduce school-related costs for parents.

Teacher Allowances

Pending completion of the public service-wide review of allowances and given the upward pressure on the cost of teacher allowances, the Government has decided to make changes, with immediate effect, to the rules governing payment of qualification allowances to teachers.

Teachers will hold their existing allowances, but will not receive additional allowances for further qualifications. New teachers will be eligible for allowances up to honours degree level only.
Higher Education and Student Grants

The 2007 National Skills Strategy set down a target of 72% participation rate in higher
education by the year 2020. At 65%, we are well on our way towards achieving that goal.

In the context of overall demographic and budgetary pressures a number of savings measures will be necessary over the coming years.
Third-level funding

There will be a 2% reduction in pay and non-pay funding for third-level institutions in 2012, a further 2% reduction in 2013, and a further 1% reduction in each of 2014 and 2015.

We acknowledge that this will cause challenges for the third-level sector in the coming years.

The savings delivered by these measures will amount to €24 million in 2012, and €69 million in a full year. Student Contributions

The Student Contribution will rise by €250 next year to €2,250.

About 41% of students were exempt from paying the Student Contribution in 2011. Similar proportions of students are expected to be exempt in 2012.

The contribution of €2,250 next year will remain considerably lower than the fees of £3,465 payable in Northern Ireland, and up to £9,000 in England and Wales.
Student Grants

Student grants will be reduced by 3% from 1 January 2012.

There will be no maintenance payments for new entrant postgraduate students, but over 2,000 students on the lowest incomes will have their fees paid and another 4,000 students will receive a fee contribution of €2,000.

A Capital Assets Test will be introduced in 2013, allowing certain capital assets as well as income to be assessed as part of all grant applications.

Further Education and Training

• The capitation grants paid for participants on further education programmes will be reduced by 2% in 2012 and 2013 with a further reduction of 1% in 2014 and 2015. This is in line with reductions to non-pay funding for schools and third-level institutions.
• The two existing allowances paid to 16 & 17 year olds participating in Youthreach, Community Training Centre and FÁS courses are being merged and reduced to one standard rate of €40.

School transport

The charge for primary school transport will increase from €50 to €100. The family maximum at primary level will increase to €220 from €110. These measures will be offset by a reduction in concessionary charges at primary level with the charge reducing from €200 to €100.

The overall family maximum charge of €650, and the second-level charge of €350 remain unchanged.

Protection of disadvantaged schools

A key priority is to continue to prioritise and target available funding at schools with the most concentrated levels of educational disadvantage.

At primary level, a new staffing schedule for all DEIS Band 1 schools will be based on a general average of 1 teacher for every 22 pupils, compared to 1 teacher for every 28 pupils in mainstream schools. This will replace the existing approach of giving a “top up” allocation on the existing standard staffing schedule to enable DEIS Band 1 schools to implement reduced class sizes of 20:1 in junior classes and 24:1 in senior classes.

All DEIS second-level schools will be given targeted support by a more favourable staffing schedule of 18.25:1. This is a 0.75 point reduction compared to the existing PTR of 19:1 that applies in non fee-paying second-level schools. 195 second-level schools are included in DEIS.

The basic capitation reduction will apply to all schools but DEIS schools will continue to receive the enhanced DEIS grant which has not been reduced

The five existing scholarship schemes for higher education are being replaced with a single bursary style, merit based scheme with awards set at €2,000 per student. The bursary will be an additional support to incentivise and reward high achievement for students from DEIS schools. Over 370 students will be awarded the bursary in the next four years, and they will also be eligible to apply for higher education grants.

New spending measures

€9.4 million is being provided in 2012 to commence implementation of Programme for Government commitments. This includes:

• Implementation of actions in the literacy and numeracy strategy (€6m 2012)
• Funding the reform of the junior cycle, which will completely overhaul the Junior Cert starting in September 2014 (€1m in 2012)
• Roll-out of high-speed (100mbps) broadband to every second-level school in Ireland by the end of 2014 (€2.4m 2012)

€30 million is being provided in 2012 to fund more targeted Labour Market Activation Measures. This includes:

• €20 million is being provided under the National Training Fund for a new Labour Market Activation Fund. This fund, which will be specifically targeted at the long-term unemployed, will deliver upward of 6,500 places in 2012.
• €10 million is being allocated, also under the National Training Fund, to support a further roll-out of the Springboard initiative to increase the part-time higher education opportunities for unemployed people.