Annual Report 2018


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Foreword from the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Regina Doherty TD
 
I welcome the publication of the Annual Report 2018 of the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection.
 
Since being appointed Minister in 2017, I have been proud to lead the Department as it makes a difference to the lives of large numbers of Irish people on a weekly basis. Indeed, each week in Ireland over 1.3 million people receive a social welfare payment of one sort or another. My Department has spent over €20 billion in 2018 on schemes and benefits for families and individuals in our society, with around 80.6 million individual payments being made to social welfare recipients in the course of the year.
 
My Department is the largest in Government comprising of almost 6,000 civil servants. Owing to the wide range of services it provides, the Department positively 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 possible life event in between - including maternity, paternity, illness, disability, unemployment and redundancy. 2018 was a year of continued recovery in employment and stable economic growth. As a Government, our top priority for the coming year is to continue our prudent approach to the economy and the management of public spending. As a Department, our priority is to address the needs of those who most need our help, to reduce poverty and enhance access to employment. The Budget changes in 2018 are shown to have had the greatest impact on non-earning households, increasing their income, their opportunities and reducing poverty.
 
My Department is committed to the promotion of active participation and inclusion in society through the framework of employment rights and the provision of income supports, employment services and other services. I am committed to ensuring that it will always be more worthwhile to be in work, than to rely solely on welfare alone.
 
This annual report once again highlights the wide range of service and policy reforms implemented by the Department in the last year. In July, following a public consultation process, we published a report of the Review of the Gender Recognition Act. The Back to Work Family Dividend Scheme was extended beyond 2021 and my Department provided €54m in funding school meals to support over 250,000 children. Funding of €1.76m was provided for training and supports for carers and funding of €16m was provided for “Ability”- a new pre-activation programme for young people with disabilities.
 
My Department reaches the most vulnerable people in our society, providing services and payments that assist people to find work and help to mitigate the financial hardship when work cannot be found or when people are simply unable to work. During 2018, we continued to innovate and plan new measures and policies to achieve this aim.
 
In Budget 2019, we increased the weekly rate of the increase for a qualified child by €2.20 for children up to age 12 and by €5.20 for children aged 12 years and over – recognising that the costs of raising and caring for children increase once that child reaches their secondary school years. This was accompanied by a €25 increase in the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance.
 
Furthermore, in the Budget, I allocated funds to establish a pilot programme for a hot meals scheme in schools. Hot dinners will be provided on a pilot basis in up to 36 schools to some 7,200 children. If successful, I will work with the Department of Education and Skills in extending the scheme on a much wider basis in future years and establish the scheme on a permanent basis.
 
In the same Budget, we also increased the income disregard for lone parents – this means they get to keep more of their owned earnings and the National Minimum Wage was increased to €9.80 per hour to ensuring that work pays.
 
Recognising the importance of providing support for parents of young children and that the first year of a child’s life is of particular importance, I announced a new parental benefit​ scheme in Budget 2019 which will allow both parents to access Paid Parental Leave in the first year of their child’s life.
 
As part of our pre-budget consultation process during 2018, the issue of cost the of disability was raised. With the Budget, I announced my intention to commission research on this issue – a first step to comprehensively and effectively address this issue. This research, when complete, will provide a roadmap to inform policy direction in the future – from a whole-of-Government perspective – in relation to the adequate provision of support to meet the needs of people with disabilities.
 
By the end of 2018, I was also able to ensure the payment of a Christmas Bonus at a rate of 100% - restoring the Bonus in full and recognising the needs of people who are long-term financially dependent on their social welfare payment for all or most of their income, such as pensioners, people with disabilities and carers.
 
Furthermore I am committed to improving access to social welfare for those who are self-employed. This began in 2017 with the extension of Treatment Benefits and Paternity Benefit to the Self-employed. 2019 will see the introduction of a Jobseekers Benefit for the Self-employed for the first time.
 
We are continuing work on the reform and modernisation of our pension system and have undertaken a significant public consultation that will help to inform Government decisions on the operational structure for the Automatic Enrolment system- a State sponsored supplementary retirement savings system in which employees without personal retirement savings will be automatically enrolled into a quality assured retirement savings system. This new system will enroll its first members in 2022.
 
We have made progress on all of our priorities in Budget 2019. We increased the rate of weekly payments for over 1.3 million beneficiaries including pensioners, lone parents, jobseekers, carers, people with disabilities and widows. We enhanced working conditions for unsecure workers. My focus is firmly on employment, pension reform, and reducing child poverty. My goal is to ensure that people are rewarded for working by reforming the PRSI system and reinforcing the contributory principle. I want to ensure that economic recovery leaves no-one behind. Our long-term goals in this respect will be set out in a new Social Inclusion Strategy to be published in mid-2019.
 
Since my appointment as Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, I have been consistently impressed by the commitment and diligence of Departmental staff. I thank them for their commitment, on behalf of the millions who benefit from their work.
 
Regina Doherty TD Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection​
 
Last modified:29/07/2019
 

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