News & Events

Parliamentary Questions – 09 April 2014

Below are questions asked by TDs in Dáil Éireann, relating to Caranua

Applications received

Deputy Jonathan O’Brien   asked the Minister for Education and Skills   the number of applications received by Caranua to date; the number of advisors appointed; the number of applications granted and the number refused. [16789/14]

Deputy Ruairí Quinn:   I understand from Caranua that between 6 January and the end of March it received 2,345 applications. The first part of the application process is to verify that an applicant is eligible to apply. To the end of March, 2,145 applications have been verified as eligible and 20 deemed ineligible. The remaining 180 applications are still being examined. Following the initial assessment, Caranua confirms an applicant’s identity. By the end of March, verification of identity had been completed for 504 applicants. Caranua has contacted 113 applicants by telephone to discuss what the applicant wishes to apply for. Of these, 73 have been assigned to an applications adviser. The intention is that the remaining 40 will be assigned an adviser shortly. The adviser provides assistance and further information about applying for services.

At this stage, assessments can be arranged if necessary or an applicant may be referred to someone locally who can provide face-to-face assistance. I understand that by the end of March, 26 applications for approved services had been approved for medical and dental services, orthopaedic equipment, home repairs and education grants.

Deputy Jonathan O’Brien:   The Minister’s reply referred to just over 2,000 applicants. In a previous statement to the House, he said that approximately 15,000 people might be eligible to apply. What steps is Caranua taking to contact the additional 13,000 persons?

The number of applications approved at the end of February was four, and it is now up to 26. It seems like a very low number given the number of applications which have come in. Only 73 applications have progressed to the advisory level. It seems to be a very slow process. The Minister will be well aware that many applicants are elderly and time is of the essence for them in accessing services. Has anyone mentioned the fact that it is such a slow process?

Deputy Ruairí Quinn:   As with all new organisations, there were some teething problems in the establishment of Caranua. The chairperson of the board had to step down for personal reasons. Notwithstanding that, we have a director in place and approximately 15% of the potential 15,000 eligible persons have applied. I will discuss with the board whether the information provided to the interest group has been sufficient to ensure that people are not deterred from applying and are aware of how to apply. I will report to the Deputy on that.

Deputy Jonathan O’Brien:   A person attended my constituency office last week who had made an application. Unfortunately, he was turned down. There is a limit of €5,000 per year for back-to-education grants. The course he had applied for was a cookery course which exceeded that limit. On that basis, he was turned down. Is there any flexibility built into the system? I acknowledge that Caranua is an independent statutory agency and the Minister has no power in relation to it, but is there any flexibility for individuals? It was a one-year course.

Deputy Ruairí Quinn:   If the Deputy wishes to give me the details of the case, I will explore it within the context of the independence of the organisation itself.