Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Questions (436)

Damien English


436. Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Social Protection her views on the recently published European Commission country specific recommendations for Ireland under the Europe 2020 strategy which recommended that faster progress in implementing certain key policies, including in terms of activation redeployment of staff as case managers, outsourcing certain activation functions to private sector providers and reforming employment support schemes, is needed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31513/13]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

There are currently no country specific recommendations (CSRs) for Ireland given that we are a programme country subject to the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) agreed with the IMF/ECB/European Commission under the Programme for Financial Support. The recommendations referred to by the Deputy are contained in the European Commission’s Economic Adjustment Programme for Ireland – Winter 2012 Review.

With regards to redeployment of staff, it is true that the implementation of a more intensive and rigorous case management will require additional resources to be devoted to the activation process. However, the implementation of the new Intreo process and the integration of previously separate functions in FÁS, the Community Welfare Service (CWS) and the Department of Social Protection also generates efficiencies and will enable staff to be freed up for redeployment to activation/case management duties. A target to redeploy three hundred staff in the current year has been set and the Department is currently in the process of planning this redeployment. I expect that the redeployment will be completed on target by the year end.

With regards to outsourcing activation functions, the Pathways to Work initiative launched last year signalled the potential of contracting with third party providers to complement the existing capacity of the department to deliver employment services. The potential contribution of such contracting and the design of a contracting approach has since been considered by the Department working with an Interdepartmental group, comprising representatives of this department, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, the National Economic and Social Council, the Offices of the Attorney General and the Chief State Solicitor. The Department also availed of expert international advice. Arising from this evaluation, the Cabinet Committee on Pathways to Work approved in principle a proposal to tender for the provision of employment services and agreed to the issue of a Prior Information Notice (PIN) which was published on 28 June. This notice formally notifies the market that the State intends to procure employment services. A PIN is a discretionary and exploratory first step in a procurement process. The publication of a PIN will enable the State to engage with potential vendors and other interested parties to gauge the level of market interest and assist in finalising tender/contract design.

With regards to the reform of employment support schemes, the Department conducted an extensive review of employment support in 2012 which was published by the Minister in January of this year and followed up by a stakeholders’ conference in February which the Minister convened. The stakeholder forum canvassed the views of stakeholders on review recommendations and was a very important step in the review process and all inputs were recorded and published in a separate review available on www.welfare.ie . The Department has now moved to the implementation phase and work will be on going through 2013. The process of re-aligning work schemes into community support and activation focused strands has commenced and will gather momentum later in the year, following a review of existing administrative processes and the roll out of a revised childcare programme. The selection of community employment scheme participants is now the responsibility of DSP case officers and this change will facilitate the implementation of further changes.