Guidelines for Departmental Representatives involved in Interagency Activity
1.1 The remit of the Department has evolved from being one of simple income support to one where a more holistic approach is now taken to our customers. As a result engagement by the Department's regional staff in locally based organisations and groups involving the statutory, voluntary and community sectors is now a feature of day to day regional business.
1.2 While benefits have accrued to the Department, staff and the organisations from interagency activity, the extent of such involvement has been increasing in recent years. In that context it has been decided to issue detailed guidelines for regional management and staff involved in this activity
2. Application Procedure
2.1 Written clearance from the Regional Manager must be obtained by a staff member before becoming a member of the committee/board of a regional or locally based organisation or group.
2.2 The rationale for having a representative from the Department of Social Protection on the committee/board of an organisation should be clear.
2.3 To establish this rationale, a number of questions must be answered :
- Why do the organisation or group want to have a representative from the Department? How will it benefit the organisation?
- What level of involvement is required? (Will the representative be a director or committee member?, How many meetings will be involved annually?, What role do the group expect the departmental representative to play?, etc.)
- How will the involvement of a departmental representative benefit the Department?
- Is there a potential conflict of interest either personal or departmental from the staff member's involvement in an organisation or group?
2.4 It should be clear to the organisation or group, the extent of the departmental representative's involvement from the start.
2.5 Any change in the departmental representative's role in an organisation or group should also be cleared in advance by the Area/Regional Manager e.g. if a departmental representative was asked to take an officer role or to represent the organisation or group at other fora.
2.6 It is also advisable to review on a ongoing basis the number and type of organisations with which the regional staff are involved to ensure that benefits are accruing to both the Department and the organisation or group.
3. Levels of Involvement
3.1 It should be recognised that there is more than one way of supporting interagency activity, 3 options are available to the Department:
- Full Membership of an organisation - This would be appropriate for organisations whose objectives and customers are similar to the Departments. In this instance, the departmental representative will become a full member or a company director of the committee.
- Associate Membership - This would be appropriate for organisations whose objectives/activities are relevant to the Department in some aspects. In this instance, the departmental representative could receive the agenda and minutes of meetings and attend when relevant issues arise
- Acting as a contact person on behalf of the Department.- This would be relevant for organisations where there is no benefit to the Department from our involvement. The contact person would be available to answer questions and advise the group on departmental issues as they arise. They would take no active part in the operation of the organisation but would attend meetings if invited to deal with a departmental issue.
3.2 It is also an option, if the focus of an organisation changes for the role of the departmental representative to be reviewed and changed as appropriate.
3.3 The Department should not be represented on the management committees of local non - statutory groups or organisations such as local mens or womens groups.
4. Role of Departmental Representative
4.1 The departmental representative fulfils a number of roles as a member of an organisation or group
- Advisory - providing information on the Department's schemes and services - dealing with queries relating the departmental issues
- Liaison - between the organisation or group and relevant sections/personnel on specific proposals/projects which may be appropriate to the Department.
Note: This liaison role should not take the form of lobbying/petitioning on behalf of the organisation
- To contribute to the activities of the organisation/group
- To bring issues of concern or policy matters to the attention of their management (early warning system)
- To promote/encourage the activities of the organisation or group to benefit the Department's customers
- To act as a Director of the organisation/group (if appropriate)
5. Officer Positions/Acting as an Organisation Representative
5.1 As a general rule, departmental representatives should not take officer positions on committees/boards such as Chairman, Treasurer, or Secretary or represent the group at other fora unless exceptional circumstances prevail.
5.2 Before taking an officer position in these circumstances, clearance must be received from the Regional Manager.
6. Regional Communication procedures
6.1 On a twice yearly basis, each departmental representative should prepare a short report on the activities of the organisation or group with which they are involved, highlighting relevant issues and concerns. The report should cover:
- Issues/concerns relevant to the Department
- The input of the representative to the organisation
- Benefits to the Department's customers
6.2 The activities of regional staff involved in this type of activity should be included on a regular basis on the agenda of regional management meetings.
6.3 The Regional Manager should consider establishing some form of network of departmental representatives on a regional basis e.g. via email or by arranging occasional meetings for staff involved in Interagency activity.
7. Responsibilities of Departmental Representative
7.1 Staff involved in committees/boards have a responsibility to keep themselves informed of the organisation or group's activities.
7.2 If they have questions, they must
- seek answers with which they are satisfied, and
- if not, should have their concerns recorded in the minutes of the organisation or group's meetings.
7.3 Consideration should be given to consulting the organisation or groups professional advisors, if required.
7.4 Departmental representatives who are concerned about an organisations activities should raise the matter with their own manager and/or relevant section/personnel at the earliest opportunity.
7.5 If a conflict of interest arises, either in their personal or departmental capacity, a departmental representative should consider having the conflict minuted, and absenting themselves from the committee.
7.6 Departmental representatives should be aware of the dangers of straying into politically sensitive areas, if concerned they should seek advise from their manager.
8. Departmental Support Structures
8.1 Staff becoming involved in interagency activity should be clear from the outset about their role with regard to an organisation or group.
8.2 Departmental representatives will receive a copy of these Guidelines, a copy of the Briefing Document for departmental representatives which outlines the range of the Department's services and supports to which communities and customers can access and a copy of the Document 'The Role of Partnership Directors'.
8.3 Each region will have a designated person at AP level who will provide support and advise to staff involved in this activity, similar to the Regional Decision's Advisory role (the RDO,in turn, will provide support to the Regional Advisor)
8.4 Departmental representatives appointed to interagency organisations or groups should avail of the training for this activity provided jointly by the RDO & SDU.
9.1 Any queries relating to these Guidelines should be directed to Carol McGann, RDO.
Regional Director's Office.