Foreword from the Minister
I welcome the second report on our Department’s Statement of Strategy 2008-2010. This provides an opportunity to review the delivery of social protection services vital to the lives of the citizens, families and communities of our country. It is also a record of an ongoing commitment by the Government to providing a social welfare service that meets the challenges faced by Irish society. The expenditure of some €21 billion for the provision of social welfare services in 2009 further reflects our commitment.
Effective delivery of payments is a fundamental part of our work. It is essential to the wellbeing of people and social progress. However, inextricably linked to that is the work of enabling the public to access social welfare schemes and services in an appropriate way that meets their own life needs. In essence - helping us to help you help yourself and others who depend upon you.
The core of this approach is illustrated in our Customer Action Plan 2009-2011 and new Customer Charter launched during the year. The main objective of this plan is the provision of information, financial support and other social welfare services. Our Customer Charter outlines the standards of service that the public can expect in their interaction with us. A key part of this is the customer consultation framework which provides a means for customers to give their views and comments to the Department.
Our use of technology is also key to providing more information channels to the public and providing more universal access to our services. This is embodied by our re-launched website which won the 2009 Irish eGovernment award for " Most Accessible Government Website".
The economic retrenchment in 2009 resulted in a year of substantial pressure upon the staff, facilities and indeed the budget of the Department. For example, in 2009, the number of people on the live register rose from 290,000 to 424,000. I would like to thank everyone in the Department for continuing the vital work of social welfare provision in these very challenging circumstances. I would also like to acknowledge my predecessor, Minister Mary Hanafin, T.D., for all of the work she did throughout 2009.
Our main goal now is to balance the needs of people to have a decent standard of living while consolidating, insofar as is possible, the gains made in the area of social welfare over recent years. This will help protect the social cohesion that will bring us through current difficulties and will contribute to making recovery happen. Our Annual Report is a qualitative and quantitative testament of the work done by the Department in achieving this. I again thank all involved.
Éamon Ó Cuív, T.D.
Minister for Social Protection