Alesha Clarke

Extension of invalidity pension to self-employed

 

Extension of the Invalidity Pension to the self-employed is a great support to small businesses owners and will help to create jobs locally.

Cork Senator, Tim Lombard, said: “My Fine Gael colleague, the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Regina Doherty, has announced the Government is extending the Invalidity Pension scheme to self-employed workers for the first time ever.

“Invalidity Pension is a pension payment for people who cannot work because of a long-term illness or disability, so the extension of this right is a real leap forward in terms of the rights of the self-employed and business owners who will, for the first time ever, be able to apply for this safety net on the same basis as employees. The change will also apply to farmers, tradespeople, freelancers, contractors and professionals, so lots of people are set to benefit here in Cork once the scheme is extended on December 1st.

“This is just the latest Fine Gael measure designed to improve the lot of small business owners and other self-employed people in Cork, something we have prioritised since entering Government in 2011 as part of the Action Plan for Jobs which has seen the unemployment rate reduce from a high of 15.1% in 2012 to 6% this year.

“It is part of our policy of making work pay and encouraging self-employment and entrepreneurship. Improving the safety net for the self-employed and improving the benefits they receive under the PRSI scheme means they are on more of a stable footing to create more jobs.

“In March of this year, the self-employed were given access to the Treatment Benefit Scheme which includes free eye tests, dental examinations and contributions towards the cost of hearing aids, with additional dental and optical benefits being provided from October 2017 for both the self-employed and employees.

“We have also completed significant steps along the road to the equalisation of income tax credits between self-employed people and PAYE workers. We are two thirds of the way there, addressing what was an unfair treatment of self-employed people in this country. The change in the recent Budget in this regard means that self-employed people will pay €200 less per year in tax from 2018, following our decision to extend the earned-income tax credit to €1,150.

“I am pleased that the Government has been able to extend the Invalidity Pension without increasing the rate of PRSI paid by employees, employers and the self-employed.

“It is important for self-employed people to know that the Invalidity Pension will be based solely on their PRSI contributions. It is not means assessed and any savings or assets they have will not affect their payment.

“Similarly, if their partner is working, that income will not affect the payment of the Invalidity Pension.

“Minister Doherty has also confirmed that it is also open to self-employed who are currently out of work through illness to claim the Invalidity Pension if they have the relevant PRSI contributions on their social insurance record.

“A public awareness campaign on the extension of the Invalidity Pension to the self-employed will run over the next 10 days starting on Monday, 20th November via print, broadcast and digital media.

“Fine Gael will continue its focus on creating even more employment opportunities for people in Cork and throughout the country. Small and family businesses will play a significant role in this jobs success and it is important we continue to support them. More jobs mean increased tax revenue with which we can invest in improved public services to ensure a better quality of life for all.”

 

20 November 2017

Bandon Southern Relief Road advances to preliminary design stage

 

“I am delighted to announce that Cork County Council has been advised by Transport Infrastructure Ireland [TII] to proceed in producing a preliminary design for the Bandon Southern Relief road.

“The need for a traffic diversion around Bandon has been recognised and proposed for many years. The excessive daily volume of traffic travelling through the town is creating immense congestion, particularly as a significant portion of this traffic are heavy goods vehicles, whose size and capacity are not suited to the current infrastructure.

“The proposal is to extend the Bandon Southern Relief Road by constructing a bridge over the R63, overriding the existing steep terrain, after which a 2.5 km single carriageway would be built connecting to the western side of the town.

“I have campaigned for this project during numerous debates in the Seanad; the approximate cost of the project is €7.5 million and would represent a major investment in facilitating the development of all of West Cork.

“I have made numerous appeals to the Minister for Transport Tourism and Sport, Shane Ross TD, to prioritise and develop this project and I am delighted that these requests have been heard and followed up on.

“The Bandon Southern Relief Road is a key infrastructural project for the development, sustainability, and connectivity of all of West Cork. Bandon is the gateway to this area; increasing the ease of traffic flow in and around the town will be of significant economic benefit to the whole of West Cork.

“Expected population increases for West Cork, and Bandon in particular, will only escalate the current issues. I hope that this green light from TII will enable Cork County Council to progress this project swiftly so that Bandon and the rest of West Cork can develop in accordance with its potential.”

 

20 November 2017

TAMS II Scheme should include generators

“Funding for generators should be included in the Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Scheme (TAMS) II list of investment items” said Cork Senator, Tim Lombard, during a commencement debate in Seanad Eireann earlier this week.

“TAMS II has a budget of €395 million to help finance farm expansion and modernization, including machinery. Some of the main objectives are to enable growth and competitiveness in the agriculture sector, address environmental issues, support the increased efficiency on holdings, and to improve animal health and welfare.

“Recent storm events, like those seen in October, have shown the need to include funding for generators as a measure in the TAMS II scheme. Generator equipment is an absolute requirement for farms when or if there is an outage of power, particularly the dairy sector which relies on electricity to drive milking parlors and cooling equipment.

“The dairy industry is essential to the Irish economy, with exports worth €3.38 billion in 2016. The number of dairy cows has grown significantly over the past four years, driving expansion in both exports and the need for equipment to support this increase. TAMS II has been a great asset in this growing sector.

“Aside from the obvious economic implications of a power outage, animal welfare is also of great concern. Any dairy farmer knows that their cows need to be milked at least once but preferably twice a day, and also that they consume large volumes of water. These welfare necessities rely on an electricity supply, which, in the case of an outage, relies on an available generator.

“As it stands only 23% of applicants have submitted payment claims under TAMS II, which accounts for only 10% of the total allocated budget. With 2017 marking the halfway point of the scheme, I believe that the scheme could be revised to include generators as an essential investment for farmers.

“I will continue to push the Minister of Agriculture to re-evaluate the budget and TAMS II measures. Recent events have show how vulnerable farms, especially those in dairy, are in cases of power outages. With the generous work of many farmers, sharing generators and labor, the dairy industry was able to work through the challenges presented during recent storms.

“While I applaud their work, we need to create an industry where such strenuous conditions are not necessary. The inclusion of generators in TAMS II is a simple step towards ensuring we have a Plan B in emergency situations.”

 

17 November 2017

Lombard: €93 million for Cork farmers

The start of the 70% advance of the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) will see over €700 million sent out to 111,000 farmers across the country. 11,548 farmers in Cork will benefit from payments totalling €93,154,553, Fine Gael Senator, Tim Lombard, has said.

“This advance payment is a welcome support for farmers here in Cork, and payments should have starting hitting bank accounts already.

“My Fine Gael colleague Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed has also confirmed that the level of the advance payment has been set at 70% this year, rather than 50% as provided for in the EU legislation.

“These payments will benefit over 11,000 farmers here in Cork and will have positive knock on effects to our rural communities as a whole.

“The remaining 30% and other BPS-related payments, such as Young Farmer Scheme and National Reserve top-ups, will be paid in December.

“The Agriculture and Food sector is a strategic priority for Fine Gael. We recognise that farming families are the heartbeat of the rural economy, and our vision for the sector will inspire the next generation to continue the tradition of family farming,” Senator Lombard said.

Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed added that “the advance BPS payment and the ANC payments taken together mean that over €880 million has now issued to Irish farmers in the last month.  These payments provide a significant financial boost for individual farmers and the wider rural economy.

“I was delighted to secure an increase in the ANC scheme allocation for 2018.  This €25 million increase will provide direct financial support to farmers in the most marginal areas of the Country.”

 

Note: Advance payments will continue issuing regularly until mid-November, with balancing payments to commence issuing from early December.

31 October 2017

Extension of Optical and Dental Treatment Benefits

Extended Optical and Dental services are now available to qualified PRSI contributors, including employees and the self-employed, and their dependent spouses/partners.

Senator Lombard said: “This is great news for our workforce here in Cork. It means they can now avail of free teeth cleaning and free glasses when they need them. This will encourage more working people to take better care of their health, which should drive down their health expenses in the long run.

“Restoring benefits to PRSI contributors was a key commitment of Fine Gael heading into the last election and I’m delighted that we are now in a position to deliver.

“The Optical scheme will now cover the provision of glasses, either free or subsidised if an upgraded design is chosen, or provide a contribution towards contact lenses. Repairs to glasses are also covered under the extended scheme, in addition to the free eye examination announced earlier in 2017.

“The Dental scheme will now include a contribution to cleanings, either an annual scale and polish or more extensive periodontal treatment if clinically required.  These treatments will be available in addition to the free annual dental examination also announced in March this year.

“The cleanings will require a co-payment from the patient if the cost of the treatment charged by the dentist is in excess of the fee payable by the Department. For the simpler scale and polish treatment this additional co-payment is capped at a maximum of €15,” Senator Lombard clarified.

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Regina Doherty said: “I am pleased to announce these new optical and dental treatment benefits. Currently over 2.5m qualified contributors, including 450,000 self-employed, may have an entitlement based on their PRSI contributions to claim Treatment Benefits, and this benefit is available to both themselves and their dependent spouse or partner.

“Treatment benefits are an important support for those who contribute each week to social insurance fund and our commitment to these extended benefits demonstrate a Government committed to supporting  people at work, be they employed or self-employed.”

31 October 2017

Bandon Southern Relief Road needs to be prioritised in National Investment Plan

Cork Senator, Tim Lombard, has expressed the need for prioritising investment in the proposed Bandon Southern Relief Road project.

The proposal to extend the Bandon Southern Relief Road involves constructing a bridge over the R63, which would override the existing steep terrain, after which a 2.5 km single carriageway would be built connecting to the western side of the town.

Senator Tim Lombard said: “The need to prioritise the Bandon Southern Relief Road is of upmost importance.

“Bandon is the gateway to West Cork; anyone wishing to go west has to travel through the town. If we can increase the potential for traffic to flow more easily through Bandon there will be a broader economic benefit to the whole of West Cork.

“One of the key issues for Bandon city itself is the sheer volume of traffic. On a daily basis anything between 9,000 and 14,000 vehicles travel through the city centre and are consequently choking the town.

“A significant portion of this traffic also comprises of heavy goods vehicles, whose size and capacity are unsuited to passing through the town centre, which only intensifies congestion levels.

“The need for this traffic diversion has been recognised and proposed for many years. I have raised this issue in the Seanad a number of times, and again this week during a debate with the Minister for Transport Tourism and Sport, Shane Ross TD.

Senator Lombard, Seanad Debate: prioritising Bandon Southern Relief Road is key for West Cork development

“I asked the Minister to prioritise the Bandon Southern Relief Road as a key infrastructural project for the development, sustainability, and connectivity of Bandon and all of West Cork.

“Expected population increases for West Cork and Bandon in particular will only escalate the current issues. We need to swiftly develop plans to divert traffic from the city centre so Bandon and the rest of West Cork can develop in accordance with its potential.

“The approximate cost of the project is some €7.5 million and would represent a major investment in facilitating the development of the area. I would hope to see the capital budget for the Ten-Year Investment Plan increased so that this project, and other like it, can be prioritised, allocated funding, and completed in a timely manner.”

27 October 2017

Designation of ladies finals as free-to-air an important step

Seanad spokesperson on Communications, Senator Tim Lombard, said the designation of these events is an acknowledgment of the valuable contribution that the representative associations make to women’s sport throughout Ireland.

Cork-based Senator Lombard said: “The ladies’ senior finals deserve this special recognition that is already afforded to the men’s senior finals.

“The designation of these events is an acknowledgment of the valuable contribution that the representative associations make to women’s sport throughout Ireland.

“Ladies football and camogie players are hugely valuable role models for girls around the country who they inspire to get involved in their local clubs.

“In some cases but definitely in hurling, the camogie and ladies football championships have been far more entertaining than the men’s championships.  As a result, both attendance and viewing figures continue to increase for these events.

“This year alone as many as 46,286 people attended the senior and intermediate ladies football finals in Croke Park. This is an increase of approximately 13,000 on the 2016 final and makes it the best attended female sporting event in Europe this year.

“Not only that, attendance at the event was on a par with a number of other top sporting occasions this year such as the Munster senior hurling final, which had an attendance of over 45,000 or the PRO12 final between Munster and Scarlets that had an attendance of 44,000 people.

“A draft order designating these events was referred to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Communications, Climate Action and Environment.

“The committee fully supported the designation of these events.  Earlier this week, Dáil Éireann passed this motion recognising the importance of the senior ladies finals, and now it has been passed by the Seanad this week.

“This is a good news story.  Participation in women’s sports has to be a priority for the Government.

“It is positive and ground-breaking to have these important finals designated as free-to-air.

“In my part of the world, both sports have great following.  This year, in particular, we had great success in camogie but traditionally, the ladies football final would be a great source of pride in Cork.

“This is an acknowledgement of the progress these sports have made and of where the recognition of female sports has to go.  This is an important step and we have to push the boundaries in other parts of the country and the world.”

20 October 2017

Learning Resource Centre proposed for CIT

A new building planned for the Cork Institute of Technology (CIT) campus will drive local and regional development, Fine Gael Senator, Tim Lombard, has said. The proposed project is the construction of a Learning Resource Centre which would accommodate learning, study, exhibition, engagement and entrepreneurial space. It would allow CIT to increase capacity across STEM, business and humanities subjects.

The project was announced by the Minister for Education and Skills, Richard Bruton and the Minister of State for Higher Education, Mary Mitchell O’Connor and is set to be included in the Department of Education and Skills’ latest Public Private Partnership (PPP) Programme.

Senator Lombard said: “This announcement fulfils a key commitment in the Action Plan for Education, which aims to make the Irish education and training service the best in Europe within a decade, and is one of 11 new projects announced at different third level institutions across Ireland.

“It will see enhanced opportunities for students to reach their potential in areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

“This development in Cork will help drive regional development and meet many of the skills needs that have been identified by the National Skills Council and the regional skills forum, which was established earlier this year by Minister Bruton.

“Over €200 million is being invested nationally which will create over 8,000 new student places.

“This PPP Programme is being rolled-out alongside €367 million in funding from the Department of Education and Skills for national investment in higher education over the period 2018-2021. Minister Bruton and Minister Mitchell O’Connor secured €257 million of this additional funding in the Budget last week following the mid-term review of the Capital Plan.

Minister for Education and Skills, Richard Bruton said: “Institutes of Technology have been disproportionately affected by the fall-off in capital investment in higher education over the past decade. And yet they have still shown a level of flexibility and innovation that rivals any other sector.

“In recent times the infrastructure hasn’t evolved or improved quickly enough to match their dynamism. We’re starting the process of changing that with this announcement.

“This investment will help cater for new approaches that promote innovation and make use of the latest technologies.”

16 October 2017

€13m for Cork farmers under ANC Scheme

Fine Gael Senator on the Agriculture panel, Tim Lombard, has said Cork farmers are set to benefit from €13,005,566 in funding under the Areas of Natural Constraints (ANC) Scheme.

The funding was announced by Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed TD, and is set to benefit 75,000 farmers nationally with total funding exceeding €170 million.

Senator Lombard said: “This funding will benefit 5,621 of our local, hard-working farmers. I would like to thank my Fine Gael colleague, Minister Michael Creed for fighting to make this possible.

“Farmers, especially on the hills and in the disadvantaged areas, took heavy cuts in direct support during the recession and the funding for this year will go some way to rectifying that.

Deep into Cork IFA discussions

“The Agriculture and Food sector is a strategic priority for Fine Gael. We recognise that farm families are the heartbeat of the rural economy and our vision for the sector will inspire the next generation to continue the tradition of family farming.”

Minister Creed said: “The ANC Scheme is an important support for farmers in many regions of the country, and I am delighted to announce that payments have now started to issue.  My Department will continue to process remaining cases for payment as a matter of urgency over the coming weeks.”

09 October 2017