Foreword from the Minister
I welcome the publication of the 2005 Annual Report of my Department.
It is a record of our delivery of policies which make real differences to the lives of a very large number of people. These policies are informed by the principle of equality of opportunity and are geared towards allowing people to access opportunities, especially in the areas of training, enterprise development and returning to work. These opportunities, in turn, help people avoid poverty and social exclusion.
Expenditure by the Department exceeded twelve billion euro in 2005, an increase of 7.76 % on 2004.
Improvements in the front-line delivery of customer service, including longer opening hours in local offices and improved IT systems, are proof of the continuing emphasis in my Department on quality customer service. The major increases in payments introduced in the Budget of December 2005 show our commitment to those who, through unemployment, illness or old age, would be in danger of social exclusion. The Child Benefit increases also demonstrate our commitment to families who experience high child-minding costs. This is augmented by the extension of the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance and by increased spending on school meals. It is my intention to continue to support these key areas of expenditure in the future.
I wish to thank the staff of my Department for their support and commitment during the year.
Séamus Brennan, TD
Minister for Social and Family Affairs