Overall, it was a slightly quieter week than usual for the Minister for Health.
Harris announced that €2 million was secured in Budget 2020 for an Autism Plan.
Over the next year, the additional funding secured will be used in a number of priority areas:
• To implement a programme of awareness raising that can provide a better information resource for children and parents about what supports are available;
• A campaign to assist in creating awareness of the challenges, needs and experiences of people with autism; and
• To build capacity and competence amongst key professionals working with autism – including a national training programme for clinicians and the implementation of a tiered model of assessment in order to improve access to and responses by services for those with ASD.
Commenting on the plan, Minister Harris said; “As Minister for Health, I believe we must do more to help autism-proof our health services and the funding secured in Budget 2020 will really help us to reach that goal.
“The proposed campaign will have two key aims: to support and to educate.
“We want to improve the information provided to people with ASD and their families and help guide them to the supports available from our health service throughout their lives and to create a wider public environment in Ireland that was more aware of the lives, needs and experiences of people with ASD,” he concluded.
Fianna Fáil Health Spokesperson Stephen Donnelly welcomed the decision by An Bord Pleanála to approve the first phase of a new development for the old Dell site in Bray.
Deputy Donnelly explained, “This site has been lying idle since 2006 when Dell relocated to Cherrywood with the loss of around 1,000 local jobs. It’s not only been a waste of perfectly good land, but the empty space has also been an eyesore for the community.
“I’m very happy that a slightly altered version of the new design has been accepted by the planning authority. The latest plans will see a mix of residential and commercial properties erected. Part will be designated for a nursing home and part will be used as an office block. The changes involved the height of the buildings. Some locals had been worried that the planned 4 storeys would overlook their homes and restrict their views of Bray Head. Amendments were submitted to An Bord Pleanála and the new design will now stretch to only 3 storeys in the north and east of the site. These changes will hopefully alleviate the concerns of nearby residents and will allow the developers move a step closer to breaking ground.
“In my role as Health Spokesperson I can personally say I’m very relieved to see a brand-new nursing home coming into the area. My party has recently exposed serious delays in the project to upgrade existing nursing homes to acceptable standards. In Fact, almost one third of projects announced in 2016 have missed their completion date. It is absolutely essential we provide high quality accommodation for people at every stage in their life. We know many prefer to remain in their own home, but when that isn’t an option we absolutely have to provide top notch alternatives. We already have many fine nursing homes in Wicklow, hopefully this new nursing home will be prove to be a great addition”, concluded Donnelly.
Sinn Féin spokesperson for Employment Affairs & Social Protection John Brady said that in order for Auto Enrolment to be a success, the State must be a key player in its implementation.
Sinn Féin made this point as part of its submission to the consultation process last year.
“While some elements of the new Auto Enrolment pension scheme have been agreed by Government, crucial decisions are yet to be made, including the rate of the Government’s contribution to an employee’s pension pot.
“Further clarification is also needed on some of the elements agreed by Cabinet and the rationale for such decisions for the new scheme. For example, the age limit set at 60 does not reflect the fact that people are working longer and therefore, for new entrants this age limit should be re-examined rather than just on an opt in basis.
“I am also concerned that there is no mention of the self-employed when it comes to opting in to such a scheme. It is unclear whether those who are self-employed with no employees can opt in just as those earning under €20,000 will be able to.
“The decision to establish a Central Processing Authority to source and provide the employee with a “limited number” of pension providers ignores the fact that most people find pensions extremely complex and struggle to differentiate what different pension plans will mean for them.
“Instead this could be avoided by having one provider, a public fund such as the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) as put forward in our submission to the consultation process, to manage the scheme on behalf of the State. This would ensure certainty and security for all employees paying into their pension pot.
“If the Government plan to hand this new pension scheme over to private interests rather than it being a State scheme, today’s workers will not benefit as they should at retirement.”
Pat Casey asked the Tánaiste and the Minister for Communications to give assurance that the funding will remain in place for the Pure Project in Wicklow.
Casey asked: “Under the programme for Government and environmental protection, I ask the Tánaiste or the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment to confirm that the future funding will be in place for the Pure Project in Wicklow. The Minister will be aware of this ground-breaking anti-dumping and environmental awareness project, which has operated for 13 years, which has collected more than 3,500 tonnes of illegal dump material in one truck in the Wicklow and Dublin mountains. Local authorities, working together with State bodies, and the Department, has led this project to award-winning success and it is one that should be rolled out nationally. Funding for the project runs out in December.”
Minister Bruton replied: ” I assure the Deputy that funding is being provided to support community-based initiatives like the one he has described. It is for local authorities to submit proposals to draw on that fund but given the description, I am sure it has a great chance of succeeding. I do not make individual decisions on the applications; they will be considered as normal.”
The issue of injunctions could have been dealt with at the meeting in Agriculture House had members of the taskforce been allowed in, according to Andrew Doyle.
Doyle admitted “there are a number of measures that need to addressed”.
“Not all of them will not necessary be for consideration by the full taskforce It may be possible for some of them to be addressed by working groups.”
“However, I am only speculating. There may be a range of meetings that will be led by working groups comprising members of the taskforce rather than the full taskforce.
“There is an agreement in place and actions and measures that need to be taken and addressed.”
Doyle then appealed to everybody, including those who feel aggrieved at the way they were treated on Monday last in not being allowed to attend the meeting and those who prevented them from doing so, to let this taskforce set about its work.
“There have been two meetings already; one in Backweston and the other in Agriculture House.
“Let the taskforce get up and running. It is the interests of those of us who are committed to the beef sector to seek progress on all fronts,” concluded Doyle.