The Department's facilitators work with social welfare recipients of working age, including people in receipt of jobseeker's payments, people parenting alone, people in receipt of disability welfare payments and people providing care, to promote participation and social inclusion.
Facilitators work with customers to identify appropriate training or development programmes which will enhance the skills the individual has and, ultimately, improve his or her employment chances as well as help him or her to continue to develop personally. Facilitators develop individual progression plans with the customer, are located throughout the country and are assigned to cover a geographical area. Facilitators work closely with FÁS and other agencies at a local level to identify and target appropriate education, training and development opportunities.
The social and economic participation programme, under the national development plan, provides for the enhancement of the facilitator network of the Department of Social and Family Affairs. This commenced in September 2008 and to date, 20 additional facilitators have been appointed. A further ten facilitators will be appointed in the coming months bringing the total number in place to 70.
A facilitator deals with referrals from local offices, the Department's inspectorate and people in receipt of social welfare payments who may decide to seek the service of a facilitator. The facilitator service may also be sought by someone who has a business idea, who wishes to avail of the back-to-work enterprise allowance or by someone who intends to return to education under the back-to-education programme. In addition, one of the roles of the Department's facilitators is to engage with other agencies to enhance local working relationships and to ensure that agencies work together to provide services to customers in receipt of welfare payments. Facilitators are also engaged in extensive information provision to individuals, organisations and communities about the services of the Department.
In addition to the local referral system, a formal targeted programme of activation was introduced under the NDP. Under this programme, the Department actively selects cases for referral to facilitators. The first cases issued to facilitators in September 2008. Currently, 40 such cases are referred to each facilitator each month. The current economic climate has determined that a large part of a facilitator's work is with people on the live register.
The work carried supports people to progress from welfare to work and complements the Department's control activity. If a person on the live register is offered an opportunity to engage with a facilitator but refuses to do so, he or she is referred to the Department's local office for control follow up.
The facilitator service was enhanced under the national development plan's social and economic participation programme. There will shortly be 70 facilitators. Clerical support is provided.
Facilitators work in co-operation with other relevant service providers such as FÁS, VECs, the adult education guidance initiative, the HSE and other local agencies. The number of facilitators in place, their workload and the effectiveness of the service will continue to be monitored under the national development plan.