Thursday, 19 January 2023
Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions
116. To ask the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will consider developing a scheme, separate to grants provided by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, SEAI, to support home help, home care and domiciliary carers who are car-dependent due to their work to purchase electric vehicles in order to support this sector and contribute to the Government’s climate goals; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2437/23]
Assuming the Minister, Deputy Donohoe, takes the question, I want to congratulate him on his new role and his return to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, a Department he knows well. I wish to ask the Minister if he will consider developing a scheme, separate to grants provided by SEAI, to support home help, home care and domiciliary carers who are car-dependent due to their work, to purchase electric vehicles in order to support this sector and contribute to the Government's climate goals; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
I thank the Deputy for his question, which touches on two important issues; the need to maintain adequate provision of care in the community and the need to increase significantly the uptake of environmentally friendly modes of transport that will help decrease our greenhouse gas emissions. As the Deputy will appreciate, consideration of targeted supports for specific categories of workers is a matter for the Department with the relevant policy responsibility. In the first instance I can confirm that no scheme of this kind is being developed within my Department, nor are there plans to do so.
Responsibility for the kind of issue to which the Deputy has referred would sit within the parent Department. However, his question does illustrate the challenges and opportunities that exist in an era when policymaking increasingly needs to satisfy the twin objectives of improving public services and helping to achieve our climate goals. This will demand greater collaboration and co-operation between relevant Departments and Government agencies to generate the evidence to underpin these types of cross-cutting policies, including robust estimation of the incremental costs and incremental impact of any new measures, both in terms of public service delivery and climate outcomes, such as the transport emission reductions referred to in the Deputy’s question.
I acknowledge the Minister's answer. When I was seeking to direct the question I struggled somewhat, because certainly, on the face of it it does appear to be a question that would fall perhaps primarily within the remit of the Department of Transport, but as the Minister has acknowledged, it is a cross-cutting matter. Indeed, it is an all-of-government matter. Were the Government to devise such a scheme that would help this sector, it would influence the social and economic health of this country as much as the environmental well-being of the country and the planet as well. I put the question to the Minister as a starting point. I think it is important to put the issue on his radar. I will seek to pursue it with other Departments as well. I must say that this is a sector that is particularly deserving of Government support to purchase EVs. The workers in the sector are car-dependent and through no fault of their own, they are responsible for high mileage and high emissions. Of course, they are also a low-paid sector as well.
I very much take the Deputy's point. Through my membership of the Cabinet committee on environment and climate change and in my role as Minister for Public Expenditure, NDP Delivery and Reform, I want to support a lot of the work that the Minister, Deputy Eamon Ryan, has on the way. As Deputy Leddin is aware, there are some very positive signs. We know that electric car sales rose 81% year on year in 2022, accounting for 15% of all new car registrations last year. We can see many examples now across our economy and society of the kind of change that we need to accelerate our ability to decarbonise our economy. The specific matter that the Deputy has raised regarding home help, home care and domiciliary carers who are car-dependent is, as I hope the Deputy will appreciate, a very specific matter for the Department of Health. However, I will continue to look at the work it is doing in that area. If there is anything at all relevant to the theme that the Deputy is raising, I will ensure that I share it with him.
As the Minister has acknowledged, the issue is something that should be on the Minister for Health's desk as well. There is a huge challenge in the recruitment of healthcare workers, particularly at this end of the sector. The scheme might be something that the Government could consider to attract people into the sector. Many of these workers are rurally-based, and that is why they are car-dependent. It certainly would help a cohort of Irish society that does not have an alternative to driving. I would not expect these workers to be using public transport or active travel. They are utterly car-dependent. There is precedent, of course, in policy in that we support taxi drivers to the tune of €36,000 to purchase EVs. I think as strong a case can be made for this particular sector.
I take the Deputy's point. I know how hugely important these workers are to our society. However, as I said, it is an area that is fundamental to the work that the Department of Health does. If any proposals are shared with me that look at the matter that the Deputy has raised, I will certainly keep in mind his observations. I look forward to updating him on any progress that is made on it.