Almost 2.3 million people benefit from weekly payments from the Department of Social Protection - total expenditure by the Department in 2012 was €20.7 billion.Minister Burton publishes Department of Social Protection Annual Report
Each week in 2012, nearly 1.5 million people received a social welfare payment and, when qualified adults and children are included, almost 2.3 million people benefitted from weekly payments from the Department of Social Protection. The total expenditure by the Department in 2012 was €20.7 billion.
Illustrating the volume of work undertaken in the Department, Minister Burton said: “In 2012, 2 million applications for social welfare schemes and services were processed, 87 million scheme payments made, more than 1 million control reviews carried out, 8.4 million telephone calls answered, 95,000 job opportunities advertised and over 154,000 PPS numbers allocated to customers from over 180 countries.
“These figures demonstrate the scale of my Department’s work, administering over 70 separate schemes and services which impact on the lives of almost every person and every family in the State. But the Department is no longer focused just on income supports. Social welfare must be both a safety net and a springboard. Since taking office, my focus has been on transforming the Department from the passive benefits provider of old to one that actively engages with jobseekers to help them back to work.”
Alongside the provision of income support, the Department initiated the new Intreo service in 2012. Intreo centres allow jobseekers to get their income supports and employment supports in the one place for the first time. Minister Burton commented: “The opening of Intreo centres around the country marks a fundamental reform in the way the Department of Social Protection supports jobseekers. Intreo is a new one-stop shop service which provides a personalised service, based on the person’s individual needs, including advice on education, training and personal development opportunities, job search assistance as well as information on, and access to, a range of income supports.
“Intreo is pro-active, ensuring jobseekers get not just the income supports they need but also employment supports to help them on the path back to work. The Intreo service will be available in all offices by the end of 2014.”
As part of the case management approach that is a key aspect of the Intreo service, by the end of 2012:
· Almost 70,000 customers had participated in group engagements.
· 158,000 one-to-one initial interviews were conducted.
· A further 134,000 follow-up meetings were held.
· All new customers in Intreo offices now sign a social contract, known as a Record of Mutual Commitments, between the Department and the customer. This sets out the customer’s rights with regard to the type and quality of services to be provided by the Department but also sets out the customer’s responsibility to engage with these services and actively seek employment.
Intreo is a key element of Pathways to Work, the Department’s strategy to help jobseekers back into the workforce and ensure that as many new job opportunities as possible are filled by those on the Live Register.
Another key element of the Pathways strategy is the dedicated Employer Engagement and Client Services Unit, which has been established to develop and implement an integrated approach to engagement with employers. Minister Burton explained: “An Employer Engagement Manager is available in each region of the country to support and advise employers on the grants and assistance schemes available through the Department, on workplace support schemes for the employment of people with disabilities and to support employers at each stage of the employment process, including the advertisement of opportunities and sourcing potential candidates from the Live Register.”
JobBridge, the National Internship Scheme, made significant progress in 2012. At the end of the year, 13,232 internships had commenced in total, with 5,532 participants participating on internship at that specific point and 2,083 internship opportunities advertised on www.jobbridge.ie. The number of available places was increased from 5,000 to 6,000 in May 2012 and eligibility criteria were widened to include Disability Allowance and One Parent Family Payment scheme claimants. Based on the success of the scheme, the number of available places was further increased to 8,500 in Budget 2013. In addition, an independent evaluation of JobBridge carried out by Indecon Economic Consultants, published in May 2013, has shown that 61% of those who complete their internships subsequently progress to paid employment.
Speaking about the JobBridge scheme, Minister Burton said: “The independent research by Indecon has demonstrated the value of JobBridge, with three out of five of those who complete internships progressing to paid employment. This 61% progression rate is one of the best outcomes for such a scheme anywhere in Europe, where progression rates for similar schemes average just 34%.”
Other significant developments in the Department during 2012 included:
· the Partial Capacity Benefit scheme was introduced for people with disabilities in February 2012.The scheme provides an opportunity for recipients of Invalidity Pension or those in receipt of Illness Benefit for at least six months to have their capacity to work assessed and to receive an ongoing income support payment based on this assessment. The scheme is voluntary and there are no limitations to earnings from employment or to the number of hours worked. The participant may remain on the scheme provided there continues to be an underlying entitlement to either Illness Benefit or Invalidity Pension. By the end of February 2013, over 800 people had already availed of this new scheme.
· Control savings targets were exceeded by €24m, with €669 million in savings achieved through various activities including individual claim reviews, data matching with other agencies and the implementation of recommendations of various fraud and error surveys. The savings refer to money that would have been paid out by the Department but for the control measures implemented. Control measures include all activities that the Department undertakes to ensure that people are receiving the correct amount of their entitlement. They are also aimed at preventing and detecting social welfare fraud.
· The roll out of the Public Services Card – approximately 100,000 clients registered for cards before year end. The card will allow individuals access public services more efficiently and minimise duplication of effort across the public service.
· Publication of the first comprehensive Government report on pension charges, which gathered information on the level of pension charges levied, to assess whether charges are reasonable and transparent and to make recommendations which will be progressed during 2013.
· The OECD conducted a focused review of Ireland’s pension policy, taking economic conditions into consideration, and provided recommendations for long-term reform. The review (published in April 2013) encompasses the totality of pension provision in Ireland: State, private, occupational and public sector.
More details of the Department of Social Protection’s activities in 2012 are set out in the Department’s Annual Report 2012, which is available at www.welfare.ie.