Foreword from the Minister
I welcome the third and final report on my Department’s Statement of Strategy 2008-2010. The swiftness and intensity of the events that have occurred over this period have affected every person, family and community throughout the State. This report highlights the extreme nature of these events unfolding before us. The unemployment rate in Ireland had reached 14.1% by the end of 2010 – an increase of more than 300% since the end of 2007. Nonetheless, no person is merely a percentage.
Behind the figures there is the bleak truth of actual lives thrown into uncertainty. This can lead to a culture of despair, with unpredictable consequences for economic stability and renewed prosperity.
The Department of Social Protection is essential to a national renewal that will help restore faith and confidence in our country. However, national renewal begins with individual renewal within each of us. It is helping people to begin again after job loss, illness or any life change. This is shown in our back to work enterprise allowance programmes which help people to re-establish their lives by establishing their own businesses. Moreover, our employment services facilitate the provision of dignified work opportunities to the unemployed, enabling them to provide outcomes beneficial to the public well-being. Overall, our social welfare structure promotes a national equality of opportunity and reduces poverty in addition to assisting sustainable local and national renewal.
In 2010, Ireland contributed at European level to the formulation of the “EU 2020” strategy for growth and employment. This seeks to reduce the number of people in poverty in the E.U. by 20 million. Ireland must contribute to this noble endeavour.
We must balance fulfilling our E.U. obligations with generating national renewal, making economic adjustment and maintaining a fair society. This will require a spirit of trust, solidarity and concern for others. That spirit finds formal expression in our social welfare and social insurance structure. Social welfare schemes and services are a key catalyst in the cultivation of a sustainable national renewal. They are founded on the principle of all of us contributing according to our ability so that we can receive according to our need. This will enable us to restore Ireland based on mutual moral support and stable economics, over successive years.
All of us have been affected by the events of recent years. Our 2010 Annual Report outlines, in words and statistics, the diligent work of all our staff in personifying the response of Government and the civil and public service in helping people badly affected by these events. Democratic Government working with the civil and public service is the backbone of any country providing support and assistance to citizens.
It makes an essential difference to the lives of all people, especially those in crisis situations. I commend all involved for your emphatic spirit of civil and public service in the area of social welfare, to all our people, for all our people, despite rapid change and challenge. Whatever further change and challenge is ahead of us....... we will face it together, le chéile, le cúnamh Dé.
Joan Burton T.D.
Minister for Social Protection