Minister Burton publishes Department of Social Protection Annual Report


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2.3 million people benefited from weekly welfare payments in 2013

Pathways to Work strategy contributed to significant fall in unemployment

Continuing to protect the vulnerable in society, helping jobseekers back to work and rooting out welfare fraud will be the Department of Social Protection’s key aims this year, the Minister for Social Protection, Joan Burton TD, has said today (10th April 2014).

The Minister was speaking upon the publication of the Department’s annual report for 2013, which showed how core welfare payments were protected during the year, while the Department’s Pathways to Work strategy contributed to a significant fall in unemployment.

Almost 1.5 million people received a weekly social welfare payment in 2013, and when spouses and partners and children are included, 2.3 million people benefited from these payments. Some 600,000 families received Child Benefit payments in respect of almost 1.2 million children each month during 2013.

At the same time, the Department’s progressive focus on helping people back to work through the Pathways to Work strategy saw the Live Register fall from 14.1% at the end of 2012 to 12.1% at the end of 2013 (and it has since fallen further, to 11.8% at end March 2014).

All this was achieved while the Department continued to reduce overall welfare spending as part of the necessary effort to get the public finances under control and exit the EU-IMF bailout programme.

Despite the need to reduce overall spending, the Minister protected core weekly payments and Child Benefit in the October Budget, as well as a range of supplementary benefits, including Fuel Allowance, Electricity/Gas Allowance, Free Travel, Free TV Licence and the Respite Care Grant.

Overall Department spending was estimated at €20.23 billion in 2013, the largest portion of which (31.9%) went on pensions and the smallest (2.8%) on administration of the Department’s 70-plus separate schemes (see chart on page 2).  Projected Department spending for 2014 is €19.6 billion, reflecting the ongoing reductions in unemployment and the Department's progress in that regard.

Minister Burton said: "The best way of reducing welfare expenditure is by getting people back to work – and we are doing exactly that through the Pathways to Work strategy. Every 10,000 fall in the Live Register saves approximately €95 million. At the end of 2013, 61,000 more people were in work, an employment increase of 3.3% on 2012, while the Live Register continued to fall steadily over the year. Through Pathways and key reforms such as the new Intreo Centres, where jobseekers can get income and employment supports in the one place for the first time, we will build on that progress this year.

"The vast majority of people on the Live Register have an overwhelming financial incentive to work, receiving just €188 or less per week and no additional benefits, and the Department is doing everything it can to help them back to work, not alone assisting jobseekers, but also deepening our engagement with employers to help them with their recruitment needs, as the report demonstrates.

"The annual report also demonstrates that, contrary to some beliefs about how the welfare budget is spent, the largest single block of expenditure is on protecting pensioners – and this will continue to increase in the years ahead because of demographics. I have and will continue to protect the State pension because of its crucial importance to older people. We can do this because overall welfare spending is reducing, and the Department is maintaining disciplined control of its budget."

 

2013 Department expenditure by programmeAnnualReport-Expenditure.jpg

During 2013, the activities of the Department included:

  • 2.1 million applications processed;
  • 88.5 million scheme payments made;
  • more than 1.1 million control reviews carried out;
  • 8.3 million telephone calls answered;
  • 38,500 social welfare appeals finalised;
  • over 106,000 job opportunities advertised nationally through the Department’s JobsIreland.ie employment website;
  • over 164,000 PPS numbers allocated to clients from over 174 countries; and
  • over 500,000 Public Services Cards issued to clients.

In addition to the focus on employment and activation measures, 2013 saw the introduction of a number of new job-related supports for employers, including the new recruitment incentive scheme, JobsPlus. 

Significant reforms were brought forward in the area of pensions during the year, most notably a number of legislative measures to strengthen pension regulation and support defined benefit pension schemes.

During the Irish Presidency of the EU, Minister Burton succeeded in achieving political agreement on the Youth Guarantee to deliver enhanced work, training and education opportunities for jobseekers under the age of 25.  On foot of this, in October 2013, Ballymun was selected as one of the first Youth Guarantee pilot schemes in the EU following funding approval by the European Commission and the Government.  Minister Burton, together with the Minister for Education and Skills, Ruairí Quinn TD, recently published the Government’s plan to implement the Youth Guarantee nationwide.

While the Department met the many challenges in service delivery to its customers throughout 2013, it also continued to focus on minimising social welfare fraud and abuse. Work in this area achieved control savings of €632 million in 2013. Approximately 1.1 million reviews were carried out during the year.  Control activity also focuses on the prevention of fraud and error at new claim stage when a person applies for a payment.  This has proved to be the most cost-effective mechanism of reducing losses through fraud and error in social welfare schemes.  Measures that have enhanced control during 2013 include:

  • Intreo, the now integrated employment and support service, provides a more integrated approach to fraud control;
  • The Public Services Card, which gives significant assurance as to the identity of the cardholder and reduces the opportunity for a person to fraudulently claim to be someone else;
  • Ongoing systematic and regular data matching exercises with external agencies;
  • The ongoing receipt of anonymous reports, almost 25,000 in 2013, which act as a trigger for an investigation;
  • Legislative processes have been put in place to improve the Department’s ability to recover overpayments. These include a provision allowing the Department to make a recovery from an individual’s social welfare payment up to 15% of their weekly personal rate.

To further strengthen its identity registration process, the Department utilises facial image matching software to help detect and deter duplicate registrations.  A number of suspected cases of identity fraud have been referred to the Department’s Special Investigation Unit for further investigation.

It is the Department's policy to consider for prosecution cases of fraud against the social welfare system. The Department ensures that all cases that merit prosecution are forwarded for consideration of legal proceedings and that all necessary evidence is available.  There were 674 cases in the courts system during 2013.

ENDS

Last modified:10/04/2014
 

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