FOREWORD FROM THE MINISTER
I welcome the publication of the 2012 Annual Report which documents the scale of work undertaken by the Department in 2012 and the contribution that the Department is making to the country’s fiscal and socio-economic recovery.
The scale of the economic crisis inherited by this Government demanded new and transformational approaches to solving the problems it caused. Social Welfare must be both a safety net and a springboard. Since taking office, my focus has been on transforming the Department from the passive benefits provider of old to one that actively engages with jobseekers to help them back to work.
The service traditionally provided by the Department, that of providing income supports to those in need, is still a major part of its operations, whether it is supporting families, jobseekers, people with disabilities, carers or retired and older people. That will not change, and international research has demonstrated that Ireland’s system of social transfer is much more effective in preventing poverty than those of other EU countries.
But the Department also has a crucial part to play in getting people into work, through supporting education, training and work experience opportunities for jobseekers and through working with employers to unlock talent and help them find the people best suited for their organisations.
In October 2012, the Taoiseach and I formally launched Intreo, the Department’s new integrated employment and support service to assist jobseekers in getting back to work. This “one-stop shop” approach means employment and income supports are now offered in the one place for the first time. This better reflects and addresses the individual needs of our customers and is in line with international best practice. The on-going rollout of the Intreo service across the country meets the key objective in the Statement of Strategy 2011-2014 to transform the Department into an integrated, activation-focused service provider which puts the customer at the centre.
I was very pleased to announce an extra 1,000 places on the JobBridge scheme in May 2012, and an independent evaluation of JobBridge has demonstrated that 61% of interns progress into employment on completion of their placements. This compares very favourably with European averages for work placement schemes.
In delivering its wide range of services, the Department has an obligation to ensure that fraud and error are minimised; the 2012 control savings target was exceeded by some €24m and this report describes actions and initiatives undertaken in this area over the year.
Finally, I would like to pay tribute to the staff of the Department. Following the largest merger in the history of the Irish public service, the Department is now one of the largest public service organisations in the country. I am proud of the manner in which the staff of the Department have smoothly implemented the changes this entailed; they have risen to the challenges involved in keeping with the very best traditions of the Irish public service.
Joan Burton T.D.
Minister for Social Protection