Foreword from the Minister
I am very pleased to introduce this 2004 Annual Report of the Department.
The Department is central to the social and economic life of this country. Through its range of schemes - from Maternity and Child Benefit, across its Social and Family Services, to Old Age Pensions - it touches on the life of practically every person in the state at some time or another.
This Government is proud of our investment in social provision. In 2004, spending on social welfare reached €11.29 billion - the highest ever - or almost 29% of all Government expenditure. Each week, the Department made payments to around 960,000 persons while a further 540,000 families received Child Benefit each month.
Since becoming Minister for Social and Family Affairs in September 2004 I have become more directly aware of the vital role of the Department in the life of the nation. Enormous progress has been made in the development of the social welfare system, and the progress made during 2004 is outlined in this report. There is much work still to do and my priority, as Minister, is to look behind the payments and services which the Department provides and seek to address the key challenges facing the country whether in the areas of pensions, long-term care, provision of opportunities for employment, education and further development for recipients of those payments, tackling child poverty and so on. I am confident that we will be able to make sufficient progress in these key areas in the period ahead.
Seamus Brennan, TD
Minister for Social and Family Affairs