Written Answers. - Departmental Staff.

Michael Ring

Question:

70 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs the plans, if any, he has to increase the staffing levels in the back to work allowance scheme section in view of the fact that it is taking a minimum of one month for awarded claims to be processed and paid. [19830/98]

Since it was introduced in 1993, the back to work allowance has formed the corner stone of the supports available under my Department's employment support service which is designed to encourage unemployed people, particularly the long-term unemployed, to take up employment or self-employment opportunities. To date, it has been particularly successful in encouraging over 40,000 people to leave the live register.

The success of the allowance has under-standably given rise to an increasing level of claims and inquiries which has placed heavy demands on the staff involved. Staffing requirements are kept under regular review to ensure that an effective service is maintained. In the recent past, additional staff have been assigned and an additional allocation of overtime has been made available. I am satisfied that the current backlog will be reduced to a satisfactory level within the coming weeks.