Foreword from the Minister
The availability of reliable data is an important tool in the development and implementation of policies to build social inclusion and progress social cohesion. Accurate information is vital to support evidence-based policy-making and enable the measurement of progress in these areas.
For this reason, I welcome the publication of this, the 21st edition of the Statistical Report of the Department of Social and Family Affairs. The report outlines the key statistics from the range of the Department's social welfare supports in 2003 and points to trends within these schemes for the last 10 years which serve to inform policy decisions.
Expenditure on social welfare increased to €10.5 billion in 2003 - an increase of 10.3% over the previous year. This represents the Governments' real commitment to caring and supporting those less well off in our society. This level of investment reflects my desire to achieve real social progress and which, allied with a will to reform where necessary, displays how our social protection system is now framed to step up to the challenges facing those who are vulnerable and others in our changing society.
The main features of my Department's activities in 2003 were:
- Social Welfare Expenditure in 2003 was €10.5 billion which represented 28.9% of Gross Current Government Expenditure.
- Over 959,000 people were in receipt of a weekly Social Welfare payment, which was paid in respect of over 1.5 million beneficiaries.
- 534,009 families received a monthly Child Benefit payment which was paid in respect of 1,034,851 children. Expenditure on Child Benefit increased by 13.9% to nearly €1.7 billion.
- Expenditure on Old Age has increased by 8.9% to €2.5 billion. The number of recipients in this group has increased by 10,774 to 298,169.
- Expenditure on Carer's Allowance and Carer's Benefit increased by 14.5% and 19.6% respectively. The numbers in receipt of a Carer's payment increased by 4.5% to 21,955.
- Back to School Clothing and Footwear allowances were paid in respect of 172,123 children, an increase of 16,312 on 2002. Expenditure rose by 16.3% to over €17.7 million.
This report illustrates my ongoing commitment to securing real social welfare improvements for my Departments customers. I am committed to safeguarding the living standards of those who rely on social welfare income and other supports and to prioritising the allocation of resources in favour of those most in need.
Finally, I would like to express my appreciation to the staff throughout the Department for their continuing efforts in implementing the Government's programme of social welfare protection.
Mary Coughlan TD
Minister for Social and Family Affairs