Foreword from the Tánaiste and
Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton
I welcome the publication of the Department of Social Protection’s Annual Report for 2015. The developments that are outlined in the report show clearly the progress that has been made in implementing real and significant improvements in the Department, which has, in essence, been transformed from a passive benefits provider to a delivery-focused, innovative organisation that puts the client firmly at the centre of all its activities.
The report is also a reflection of the Government’s commitment to providing a social protection system that meets the challenges faced by Irish society. The expenditure of some €20 billion for the provision of social protection services in 2015 underpins that commitment. I was particularly pleased with the introduction of a range of targeted improvements for welfare recipients, as part of Budget 2016, including the first increase in weekly pension rates since 2009 and the restoration, to the value of 75 per cent, of the Christmas bonus, which benefited some 1.2 million social welfare recipients and provided a boost to the domestic economy.
There is no doubt that the Department of Social Protection played a pivotal role in 2015 in supporting Ireland’s economic progress. The single most important aspect of that progress has been in the initiatives targeted at jobseekers. Each new job created brings with it real and tangible benefits to the individual and, in many cases, to the families they support. Unemployment has fallen from a crisis peak of 15.1 per cent in 2012 to 8.8 per cent at the beginning of 2016 and, while there is much more work to do, the Intreo service, which has integrated the employment services previously offered by FÁS and the welfare services previously provided by the Health Service Executive (HSE), is paying real dividends for jobseekers.
An independent customer satisfaction survey of jobseekers, conducted towards the end of 2015, found that 75 per cent of those surveyed believed that the Intreo service had improved their prospects of getting a job. The survey was contracted by the Department, in keeping with commitments under the government strategy Pathways to Work, to help jobseekers into work, training and education.
After becoming Minister for Social Protection in March 2011, I became more directly aware of the vital role of the Department in the life of the nation.
The schemes and services operated by the Department benefit everyone in society, either directly or indirectly, and it is fitting that the Department has a continuous focus on modernising service delivery in order to provide modern, efficient and dynamic services to its diverse customer base.
The staff of the Department of Social Protection can be justifiably proud of their achievements in 2015 and I thank them for their valued contribution and commitment to change during a very challenging period.
Joan Burton T.D.
Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection
25 April, 2016