Written answers

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Department of Public Expenditure and Reform

Social Welfare Code

Photo of Brendan GriffinBrendan Griffin (Kerry South, Fine Gael)
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To ask the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he has considered the merits of a central State means testing body to facilitate the efficient implementation of fair and progressive social protection, education and health care policy, amongst others; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [57694/12]

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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I am advised by my colleague, the Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Joan Burton, that the delivery of means tested payments is constantly under review and that there are two important projects currently underway in the Department of Social Protection which will streamline the delivery of means tested payments.

The objective of the first project is to facilitate the capture and storage of means information and the calculation of customer means across social assistance schemes. This application now is in use in four scheme areas and is in the process of being rolled out to further schemes. One of the benefits of this project is that the Department of Social Protection will, where appropriate, be able to re-use means information already held which in turn will provide better customer service by reducing the need for different parts of the Department to request information from the applicant.

The Department of Social Protection is exploring the possibility of sharing means data with other agencies involved in the administration of means tested payments. A ‘pilot’ exercise was undertaken across quarters 2 and 3 of 2012 with two other agencies to assess the usability of the available data, to devise the technical infrastructure required to support data sharing and to identify other issues to be addressed in order to share data across all agencies. Work on this project will continue in 2013 and will inform any future developments in relation to means testing arrangements across a range of Government bodies.

The second project involves the establishment of Intreo, the new integrated employment and support service provided by the Department of Social Protection. This integrates the former FÁS employment services and community programmes and the former HSE Community Welfare Services (CWS) with the income maintenance role of the Department. This project is transforming social welfare offices into one-stop-shops where clients can access their entitlements and get help with planning their return to work. This means a more coordinated approach to the provision of service to the public and will create opportunities to remove duplication of work, including in the area of means assessment.

The Intreo service will be operational in ten social welfare offices by the end of 2012 and will be rolled out to all areas of the country by end 2014.


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