Publication - Disability Sectoral Plan July 2006 - 4. Strategic Service Development

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4. Strategic Service Development


4.1. Introduction

In the context of this Sectoral Plan a number of key strategic developments are being undertaken by the Department of Social and Family Affairs aimed at critically enhancing services and their delivery to persons with disabilities. By implication, such developments are longitudinal in dimension and necessarily represent implementation timeframes beyond the scope of this Plan. The ultimate objective is, however, to provide transformational rather than transactional change to income support and other related disability services administered by the Department.

4.2. Coverage, Access and Entitlement

A strategic goal of the Department is to ensure that the range and level of social security coverage is appropriate to the social and economic circumstances of different groups. Additionally, the services for which people are eligible are readily accessible and delivered in an efficient, effective and integrated way, through direct provision to our customers and by supporting agencies in providing services to our customers.

There are a number of strategic questions concerning social insurance for disability payments which will continue to be addressed e.g. whether the insurance base of the system should be strengthened, whether new contingencies need to be provided for, whether the conditions for access need to be changed, whether access should be broadened further. However, the main focus of attention over the period of the current Sectoral Plan will be ensuring that the current system adequately reflects the changing labour market condition, social inclusion, poverty reduction and the requirements to balance work and caring responsibilities.

In relation to social assistance the policy direction has been to reduce the level of dependence on assistance payments as social insurance coverage has expanded. The social assistance system, like the social insurance system, is contingency based, which means that payments can be targeted and adapted to the needs of particular groups. This also involves a high level of complexity arising from different rates, means tests, disregards, thresholds etc. Problems arising from the contingency based nature of the system have been highlighted from time to time and this is an aspect which also needs to be addressed.

The future structure of social protection and in that context, the appropriate balance between social insurance, social assistance and universalist coverage and the role of service provision in the context of social protection have been addressed in the context of the National Economic and Social Council (NESC) on the concept of a ' Developmental Welfare State'.

The large and diverse customer base including carers and persons with disabilities for which the Department serves has a major influence on the design of our customer service programmes. It is essential that those services are constantly monitored and updated so as to respond effectively to the changing needs of our customers. A summary of the activities to be undertaken by the Department are outlined in Table 4.2.

Table 4.2

Objective in Strategy Statement

Activities Proposed

Performance Indicators

Ensure that the rules for entitlement to Disability and Carers payments are appropriate to the circumstances of claimants, are easy to understand and are applied in a fair and consistent manner.

Review the contingency basis of disability schemes and put forward any proposals for change arising

Develop proposals for simplification of aspects of the means test.

Ensure that means-testing rules are consistent with activation and support for work policies.

Undertake transfer of functions from HSE

Implement revised Disability Allowance earnings disregard

Introduce automatic entitlement to State Pension for all Invalidity Pensioners over 66

Proposals brought forward

Proposals brought forward in Social Welfare Acts 2006/2009.

Number of rules reviewed and revised. Social Welfare Acts 2006/2009.

Integration and simplification of payments and supports 2006/2009.

Implement measure by June 2006. Monitor impact and complete by December 2007.

Implement measure by September 2006

4.3. Customer Service

The services for people with disabilities and carers which the Department are responsible for provide essential supports to people who have recourse to them. The delivery of those services has to be of a high standard in order to meet the legitimate needs of such customers. The Department and its agencies are conscious of their roles as public service organisations of the need for those services to be provided to the highest standard. For the purposes of this Sectoral Plan and in its wider Service Delivery Strategy the Department is committed to:

  • providing a quality, reliable and caring service to the public,
  • assisting them in establishing their rights,
  • anticipating their needs where possible,
  • taking full account of their views;
  • seeking ways to improve the effectiveness of our service,
  • treating customers in accordance with fair procedures;
  • providing our customers with all necessary information regarding our decisions and our services,
  • ensuring a fair application of internal rules and procedures,

The precise activities to be initiated for the period of this Sectoral plan are detailed in table 4.3.1

Table 4.3.1

Objective in Strategy Statement

Activities Proposed

Performance Indicators

Promote and develop a strong customer service culture through the Department and the agencies under its aegis and deliver continuous improvement in customer service for people with disabilities and carers.

Delivery of services to customers with courtesy, sensitivity and the minimum of delay.

Ensure meaningful consultation with and participation by the Disability Sector in relation to the development, delivery and review of services.

Support the agencies under the aegis of the Department in meeting their obligations in implementing the principles of quality customer service.

Develop proposals for simplification of aspects of the means test.

Evaluate and report on progress being made under (i) the twelve Quality Customer Service Principles, (ii) the commitments in the Customer Charter, and (iii) the Customer Action Plan 2004-2007.Completed by end 2007

Number of Disability Consultative Forum meetings. Number of issues progressed during period 2006/2009.

Publication of Customer Action Plans and Customer Charters, where appropriate, for the bodies under the aegis of the Department.

The Department and its agencies are aware of the importance of delivering a quality customer service to all their customers. These services affect individuals, families and society in general and the Department is committed to meeting the differing needs of these customers and especially Carers and persons with disabilities. In this regard, the Department's Customer Action Plan 2004-2007 and Customer Charter demonstrate a strong commitment to customer service.

The Department's Customer Charter makes a clear statement about the standards and services its customers can expect ( see appendix 2). Those commitments will be subject to ongoing evaluation and will be reported on in the context of the Department's Annual Reports.

Consulting with and listening to customers is an integral part of the Department's business and is the key to informing our service delivery approach. The Department utilises a number of different mechanisms to gather customer feedback, including customer panels involving direct contact with customers, touch screen surveys at our local offices, scheme specific postal surveys, the comments and complaints system, and independent national customer satisfaction surveys. The principal activities which the Department is committed to delivering upon are scheduled in table 4.3.2.

Table 4.3.2



Performance Indicator
Outcome Measure

Achieve customer satisfaction by delivering social insurance and assistance disability payments, related supports and services to a high standard.

Decide and deliver on entitlements in a timely, accurate and efficient manner in line with customer needs and expectations and in accordance with the terms of the Customer Charter and Customer Service Plan.

Implement new Service Delivery Modernisation (SDM) programme to enhance administrative efficiency and improve customer service in relation to pensions.

Undertake a national customer satisfaction survey.

Conduct individual scheme surveys at appropriate intervals.

Elicit customer satisfaction with service through other feedback channels.

Develop and enhance the Department's payment delivery services.

Achievement of targets in Customer Charter and Customer Action Plan met 2006/2009 (see Appendix 2)

Introduce Service Delivery Model for Invalidity pension Scheme. Completed by first quarter 2008.

Benchmark survey results against delivery outcomes Completed by October 2006.

  • Disability Allowance 2007
  • Invalidity Pension 2008
  • Carer's payments 2009

Customer survey responses meet targeted satisfaction levels

Implementation of Payment Delivery Strategy. Completed end 2009.

4.4. Service Delivery Modernisation

Following an extensive examination of how best to deliver its own services in the future, the Department has embarked on a Service Delivery Modernisation (SDM) programme. The aim of the programme is to deliver a high quality, proactive service to customers. The SDM programme is an ambitious multi-year programme of change, using modern systems to facilitate more customer centred services and also support e-government strategies.

The first two phases of the SDM programme have been successfully implemented for Child Benefit and State Pension (i.e. Old Age) schemes. These phases brought together a number of eGovernment projects initiated by the Department to integrate applications for the purpose of delivering significant improvements in customer service and in the administration of services.

The next phase of the SDM programme is now being prepared and includes the Invalidity Pension Scheme see table 4.4. In bringing in new technology the Department will be conscious of the needs of persons with disabilities and their ability to access.

Table 4.4.



Performance Indicator
Outcome Measure

Modernise and improve the delivery of services to the Department's customers with disabilities through the development and implementation of ICT systems and organisational change programmes.

Develop a proactive high quality service for customers.

Design, develop and implement new secure ICT systems for long-term pension schemes.

Design and implement a programme of organisational change in parallel with ICT development to include:

  • new streamlined and integrated work processes
  • redesigned organizational structures
  • Appropriate performance targets

•Introduction of new service delivery system for Invalidity Pension and, Household Benefits/Free Travel. Completed by first quarter 2008

•New SDM system, processes and structures, conforming to best practice, in place for Invalidity Pension Scheme Completed by first quarter 2008.

4.5. Review of Medical Assessment System

The Department of Social and Family Affairs has recently undertaken a comprehensive review of medical certification, reporting, review and assessment procedures for schemes related to illness, disability and caring. This fundamental review of the Service (MRAS) was undertaken to ensure that appropriate and revised arrangements are put in place resulting from the far-reaching changes that have occurred since the current system was established. Additionally, to take account of the significant modernisation plans currently underway within the Department (see table 4.5)

The review incorporates an assessment of and report on all aspects of Medical Certification, Reporting, Review and Assessment in terms of efficiency, effectiveness, economy and customer service with reference to current national, EU and international best practice. The Review details the alternative approaches to meeting the Department's requirements in these areas, puts forward options for the development of an enhanced service and recommends a preferred approach.

Table 4.5



Performance Indicator
Outcome Measure

Ensure that, medical examination and assessment procedures to determine eligibility for entitlement to disability income support are of a high standard and are applied in a consistent, efficient and effective way.

Review the existing arrangements for medical review and assessment and bring forward proposals for reform as appropriate. Including:

  • Introduce new case management system
  • Redevelop role and functions of Medical Assessors
  • Revise accessibility of assessment venues
  • The development of early intervention systems for categories of disability recipients
  • Revised Medical certification processes.
  • Linking eligibility assessment to activation

Review was completed April 2006. Project commenced by quarter 3 2006.

Number of MRAS review recommendations implemented and completed during period by quarter 4 2009

Number of customer surveys undertaken to obtain feedback on revised service delivery

4.6. Transfer of Health Service Executive Functions

The Supplementary Welfare scheme has, thus far, been administered by the Community Welfare Service of the Health Service Executive on behalf of the Department of Social & Family Affairs. The Commission on Financial Management and Control Systems in the Health Service, which reported in 2003, noted that over the years the health system had been assigned responsibility for a number of services which might be regarded as non-core activities. It recommended that the Government consider assigning non-core activities currently undertaken by agencies within the health service to other bodies.

The Government subsequently set up an inter-departmental group to examine this issue. The report of the interdepartmental group was recently accepted by the Government. The report recommends, among other things, that income support and maintenance schemes (i.e. Supplementary Welfare Allowance, Rent Supplement, Domiciliary Care Allowance, Blind Welfare Allowance, Mobility Allowance) should be transferred to DSFA.

As a first step, an Inter-Departmental working group has been established to progress implementation of the transfer of functions between the Departments of Social & Family Affairs, Finance, Health & Children and the Health Services Executive. The changes arising from this Government decision will have major implications for the Department's existing services for persons with disabilities and for the future delivery of supplementary welfare allowance and other related payments. The main activities being undertaken are scheduled in Table 4.6.

In addition to the transfer of functions, a review of Supplementary Welfare Allowance system and the implementation of the Rental Accommodation Scheme will also be undertaken during the period of this Sectoral Plan. The standard means test for SWA rent supplement (and other secondary benefit payments) will be kept under review with a view to providing enhanced financial incentives to take up part-time employment, training, education or other progression options, and minimizing where possible, the impact of the withdrawal of social welfare. However, the overall emphasis will be on the provision of appropriate long-term housing solutions rather than on moving retention thresholds at which some or all of the social welfare payment is lost.

Table 4.6



Performance Indicator
Outcome Measure

Implement Government Decision with regard to the transfer of Supplementary Welfare Scheme and non SWA payments

Establishment of inter-departmental working group.

Report of working group on implementation to Government. Commence transfer process.

Complete the Review of SWA scheme.

Implementation of the Rental Accommodation Scheme to enhance the response of local authorities to long-term housing need and eliminating dependence on the SWA rent supplement scheme.

Group established May 2006.

Report submitted by October 2006. Transfer process commenced 2007/2009.

Review Completed by July 2006. Report published by October 2006.

Implementation to be completed by September 2008

Last modified:08/09/2009

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