Guide to the Functions & Records of the Department - Part 3

Print page


Part 3. Overview of Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection
3.1 Description & Function
3.2 Mission Statement and Values
3.3 High-Level Goals
3.4 Structure & Organisation of Department
3.5 Agencies
3.6 Structural Breakdown by Branch
3.7 Records Common to different Branches
3.8 How Records are held

Return to Index

Part 3. Overview of Department of Social Protection

3.1 Description & Function

The basic functions of the Department are:

  • to formulate appropriate social protection policies;
  • to administer and manage the delivery of statutory and non-statutory social and family schemes and services.
  • to work with other Departments and agencies in the delivery of Government priorities.

Our work impacts on the lives of every person in the State and we are responsible for the delivery of a wide range of social insurance and social assistance schemes, including pensions, benefits, allowances and other supports. Services are provided to many categories of people (unemployed, older people, those who are ill or have disabilities, carers) and to families and communities in general. Payments are made to approximately 966,000 people each week and, on an annual basis, 1.7 million claims are processed.

3.2 Mission Statement and Values

Our mission is to promote a caring society through ensuring access to income support and other services, enabling active participation, promoting social inclusion and supporting families.

In delivering on our responsibilities we are guided by a set of underlying Values which need to be reflected in all our activities. We articulate these Values as follows:


We are concious of our role as a public service organisation and of the particular importance of the services we provide and of the need for those services to be provided to the highest standard.

Fairness and Respect

We recognise the need for fairness and mutual respect.


We are open to change.


We aim to apply the highest professional standards in every aspect of our work.

Flexibility and Responsiveness

We pride ourselves in our ability to respond to challenges in a flexible and creative manner.

Partnership and Consultation

We recognise that effective delivery of our services and management of our work require a partnership approach with staff and staff unions and associations. We believe in continuous and effective communication, built on trust and mutual respect.

3.3 High-level goals

Goal 1: Retired and Older People

To ensure adequate, secure and sustainable pensions for retired and older persons and provide additional services in response to changing needs which allow them to maintain a reasonable standard of living on attaining retirement age.

Goal 2: People of Working Age

To provide income supports and access to relevant services to people of working age who cannot secure an income (or an adequate income) from employment and facilitate them in taking up relevant employment, training, education or developement opportunities as appropriate.

Goal 3: Children

To ensure well-being of all children through income support that assists with child-rearing costs in general, including those which arise in circumstances of particular need or disadvantage.

Goal 4: Coverage, Access and Entitlement

To ensure that range and level of social security coverage is appropriate to the social and economic circumstances of different groups, that the services for which people are eligible are readily accessible and delivered in an efficient, effective and integrated way, through direct provision to our customers and by supporting agencies in providing services to our customers.

Goal 5: Poverty, Social Inclusion and Families

To support and promote families and to attain better outcomes in tackling poverty and achieving a more inclusive society through co-ordinating, developing and implementing national anti-poverty strategies, and through provision of income and other support services for people in debt or at risk of experiencing hardship.

Goal 6: The Department and its Staff

To develop an effective, adaptable and capable organisation and a culture of pride, innovation and performance with a high level of involvement by people at all levels and a climate which fosters personal and career developement.

3.4 Structure & Organisation of Department

The Department has over 4,700 staff. We deliver our services through our main offices in Dublin, Dundalk, Letterkenny, Longford, Sligo and Waterford, 58 Social Welfare Local Offices and 68 Social Welfare Branch Offices.

The Department is structured on Aireacht/Executive lines.

The Aireacht is composed of two distinct divisions - Corporate Services and Planning. Corporate Services comprises Personnel (including Employee Assistance Service), Finance Branch, Facilities Management (including Business Information Protection and Health and Safety), Corporate Developement (including Staff Developement) and the Internal Audit Unit. Planning Division is responsible for the formulation of social protection and other social support policies to meet the changing needs of Irish society and for the provision of support and advice to the Minister and the Government.

There are secretarial support units attached to the offices of the Minister, Secretary-General and the Director-General.

Social Welfare Services ( SWS) is the executive arm of the Department and is responsible for the day-to-day administration and management of social welfare schemes and services through a network of local, regional and decentralised offices. It is headed by the Director-General. Our local delivery of services is structured on a 10 region basis with regional offices in Waterford, Cork, Limerick, Galway, Longford, Sligo, Dundalk and three in Dublin.

The Social Welfare Appeals Offices (SWAO) is an independent office responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements. As an independent public body the SWAO has published a reference book similar to this to let customers know how to access information held by that body.

3.5 Agencies

There are, in addition, six statutory agencies under the aegis of the Department:

  • the Combat Poverty Agency which has responsibilities in the areas of advice to the Minister, research, action programmes and public information in relation to poverty;
  • the Pensions Board which has the function of promoting the security of occupational pensions, their development and the general issue of pensions coverage. The Board also had an advisory role to the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection;
  • Comhairle which has the function of ensuring that all citizens have easy access to the highest quality of information, advice and advocacy on social services. Comhairle also provides a mainstream information and support service from a network of local centres for people with difficulties.
  • the Family Support Agency which is responsible for the provison of a family mediation service, the support, promotion and developement of marriage and relationship counselling and other family supports, and the Family and Community Services Resource programme. The Agency's responsibilities also include undertaking research, providing and disseminating information abour parenting and family issues, and providing advice to the Minister on matters relating to families.
  • the Office of the Pensions Ombudsman, which investigates complaints of injustice due to maladministration, disputes of fact or law, in occupational pension schemes. The Pensions Ombudsman is a statutory officer and exercises his functions independently. He reports to the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection.
  • the Social Welfare Tribunal is an independent body, which adjudicates in cases where a claim for unemployment payment has been disallowed under the Trade Dispute provisions in the Social Welfare Acts and where the claimant, or a union on his or her behalf, argues that the employer refused or failed to follow the normal negotiating machinery available for settling disputes.

Appendix 1 at the back of this reference book shows the structure of the Department of Social Protection in diagram format.

3.6 Structural Breakdown by Branch

The Department is divided into Branches (sometimes called Offices or Units) headed by a Principal Officer (PO).

Parts 4 and 5 of this Guide describe the functions of each Branch, the categories of information held by them, and the means by which the information can be accessed, either through existing publications or through the procedures set out in the Acts.

The management structure chart at Appendix 1 shows the name of the Heads of each Branch and his/her functions.

3.7 Records Common to different Branches

A breakdown of the classes of records held by each Branch of the Department is outlined in Parts 4 and 5 of this Guide. The breakdown describes only those classes of records that are unique to the particular Branch involved. There are, however, classes of records which are common to the majority of Branches of the Department. These are as follows:

  • Administration of Schemes
  • Claim/Customer Records
  • Internal Administration
  • Legislation
  • Operational Policy
  • EU/International
  • Comptroller & Auditor General and Audit
  • Public Accounts Committee/Estimates/Administrative Budget
  • Information Technology
  • Instructions and Guidelines
  • Overpayments
  • Ombudsman
  • Dáil Questions and Representations
  • Control of Abuse
  • Management Information Systems
  • Speeches and Briefs

In general, files of the kind mentioned above are held in the appropriate functional area of the Department. In this regard, the Offices of the Minister, Secretary-General and Director-General do not hold such files - any such file submitted there is returned to the functional area. However, these Offices may hold copies of papers from files for reference purposes - see sections 4.1, 4.2 and 5.1 below.

3.8 How records are held

Records are held on paper files, on the computer systems of the relevant branches and on Office Automated Accounts of managers in the branches. The length of time that records are held varies depending on the particular branch.

Last modified:28/06/2010

 Application Forms