Éamon Ó Cuív TD, Minister for Social Protection today (24 November 2011) introduced the Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions) (No.2) Bill 2010 in the Dáil.
The Bill will create a statutory basis for the full transfer of the employment services and community services programmes of FÁS from the Minister for Education and Skills to the Minister for Social Protection and the integration of FÁS staff within the Minister's Department.
The Bill also provides that from 1 January 2011, before rent supplement can be awarded to new claimants, the landlord's tax reference number must be supplied to the Health Service Executive (HSE). Landlords of existing claimants will be requested to supply their tax reference number at the time of their next rent supplement review.
The Bill also introduces a provision which will allow for certain people who receive Jobseeker's Allowance and Jobseeker's Benefit to complete their certification ("signing-on") process by electronic means.
Speaking today in the Dáil, the Minister said: "When I started my work as Minister for Social Protection, I said that I intended to be a reforming Minister and of course that task was set out for me by An Taoiseach in terms of integrating the functions around income support, employment services and work activation together in the one Department and in one comprehensive service. This Bill marks another step forward in that direction."
The Minister added: "This Bill provides for the full transfer of the employment services and community services programmes of FÁS from the Minister for Education and Skills to me as Minister for Social Protection. It also provides for the integration of FÁS staff with the Department of Social Protection.
"The practical arrangements to support this transfer of functions are now largely in place and it is intended to commence the relevant provisions of that Act with effect from 1 January 2011.
"From that date, FÁS will continue to provide employment and community services as it does now but under my direction and reporting to my Department. I should say that FÁS and my Department are already working closely together and considerable progress has already been made on a number of measures to enhance the delivery of services to people on the Live Register.
"The Bill will enable one of the most radical realignments of social welfare provision in the history of the State. The employment and community services of FÁS won't simply transfer but will be integrated fully with the Department to provide an end to end service to our customers. This will allow a transformational overhaul of service provision for people of working age. As well as income support, we will now focus our interventions on assisting them to find employment and to prepare themselves for entry into the labour market by accessing training, career advice, and work experience and job placement."
The Minister also said that the Bill will allow certain people who receive his Department's Jobseeker's Allowance or Jobseeker's Benefit to complete the certification or 'signing on' process by electronic means.
Minister Ó Cuív said: "We will be changing the current signing process in our Local and Branch Offices to collect signatures via a digital signature pad and we are exploring the possibility of using electronic channels for certification such as online through the internet or by using the mobile phone. These new channels are being introduced to enable us to carry out the certification process more efficiently while at the same time, delivering better customer service and maintaining the necessary levels of control inherent in the current manual process."
Another measure in the Bill requires that from 1 January 2011, before rent supplement can be awarded to new claimants, the landlord's tax reference number must be supplied to the HSE. Landlords of existing claimants will be requested to supply their tax reference number at the time of their next rent supplement review. The Minister said that Government wants to ensure that where tenants are in receipt of the State's rent supplement, that the landlords of those premises are fully tax-compliant.
The Minister also said that he will table a number of amendments to the Bill at Committee Stage.
"I intend to introduce an amendment to the Bill which will provide for the introduction of a Partial Capacity Scheme. The purpose of introducing a Partial Capacity Scheme is to begin to address a critical limitation of the current social welfare code which categorises people with long-term illnesses or disabilities as either 'fit for work' or 'unfit for work'. The focus within the welfare system on incapacity rather than capacity carries negative consequences for people with disabilities, and their families, who may be trapped in welfare dependency."
The Minister will also introduce an amendment at Committee Stage to provide for the transfer of the Community Welfare Service of the HSE which currently administers the Supplementary Welfare Allowance on his behalf, to the Department of Social Protection. The Minister said he looked forward to hearing informed debate and views on the measures contained in the Bill over the next two days.
To access a copy of the Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions) (No.2) Bill 2010 and its accompanying Explanatory Memo see
Issued by the Department of Social Protection