Annual Report 2016

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 Foreword from the Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar

I welcome the publication of the Department of Social Protection's Annual Report for 2016.

Since being appointed Minister for Social Protection in 2016, I am very aware of the Department's significant and varied role. It is the largest Department in Government with 6,000 civil servants and a budget of almost €20bn. It is responsible for weekly and monthly payments to more than 1.5 million individuals and families, with more than half of our payments going to pensioners and children. It also provides income support to another 800,000 people with disabilities, carers, one-parent families and jobseekers.

To that end, through the wide range of services it provides, the Department impacts on the lives of almost every citizen in the State in the course of their life – from child benefit to the State pension and every contingency in between – maternity, paternity, illness, unemployment and redundancy.

The developments outlined in this report show the wide range of service and policy reforms implemented by the Department in 2016, to help unemployed people secure employment, to reflect the changing needs and wishes of families and to improve service delivery.

In 2016 I was particularly pleased to introduce paid paternity leave for fathers from September, to give fathers more opportunities to take an active role in the early stages of their child's life, and give the best start possible. Other highlights in 2016 included unemployment figures falling to 7.3% which exceeded the target to get 20,000 longterm unemployed into work. I secured a Budget package of €330 million, which enabled a €5 per week increase in the State Pension, and the first increases since 2009 in weekly payments to people with disabilities, carers, blind people, widows, one parent families and jobseekers, among others. I also secured agreement for the payment of the Christmas bonus at the increased rate of 85 percent.

2016 saw the publication of the new Statement of Strategy for the Department of Social Protection for 2016 - 2019. This Strategy will implement the priorities as set out in the Programme for a Partnership Government.

The top priority for the next few years is to remain prudent in our approach to the economy and public spending and ensure that we do not repeat the mistakes of the past, providing for modest and sustainable increases in incomes and improving public services and infrastructure. We want to ensure that everyone benefits from the recovery, with no one left behind.

My focus is firmly on employment, pension reform, and developing a Working Family Payment to reduce child poverty and ensure that no family is better off on welfare than in work. My goal is to ensure that people are rewarded for working by reforming the PRSI system and reinforcing the contributory principle.

I am also implementing a New Deal for the Self-Employed, who can now avail of optical and dental Treatment Benefits. Later this year they will have access to the safety-net of State income supports if serious illness or injury prevents them from working, without having to go through a means test.

Since my appointment as Minister for Social Protection I have been consistently impressed by the calibre of our staff. Together with my colleague, Mr Finian McGrath, T.D., Minister of State with special responsibility for Disabilities, I look forward to continued close co-operation in implementing the priorities set out in the Programme for a Partnership Government.

Leo Varadkar T.D.
Minister for Social Protection

Last modified:27/08/2018