Written Answers. - Delivery of Public Services.

John Bruton


158 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs if he will elaborate on the points made at the launch of the Public Services Broker and the REACH agency; the way in which his Department will participate in the service; the estimated audience for the live webcast from Government Buildings at the launch; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20323/00]

The REACH agency is a cross-departmental agency established by the Government to implement a programme for the electronic delivery of integrated public services to citizens. The programme involves the development of a Public Services Broker which would act as the common gateway to public services and would provide common services such as identity validation, storing and sharing of data and secure environment for electronic Government services.

REACH and the Public Service Broker are about providing the best possible service to customers, allowing them to conduct their dealings with the public service in the ways that best suit their needs. This will allow improvements in service through the traditional channels of contacts in local office and over the telephone as well as making services available through the new electronic channels.

The REACH programme is a major undertaking that will take a number of years to develop fully and that will involve nearly all public service agencies. It is expected that new information provision elements of the system will start to appear by the end of the year. The overall project is currently at design stage and consultation is under way with various parties involved.

My own Department has an essential role in the REACH initiative.

My Department is responsible for allocating and managing the personal public services number which is a key enabler for the integration of public services across the different delivery agencies.

In addition, my Department has the central role in managing the personal data of customers which will be an essential part of the broker's operation.
The public services card will be further developed as part of the REACH initiative, and my Department will participate fully in the consultation and research involved in its development and will have a key role in the issue and management of the card.
As well as participation in REACH, my Department is undertaking a major project to transform the way in which it delivers its own services to its customers.
We are developing a new approach to provide our customers with a more integrated service that is easy to access and that simplifies the process of applying for the range of schemes and services. This new service delivery project is fully in line with the principles of the REACH initiative.
One of the key access channels to public services is a person's local office. My Department has a wide network of offices that will provide advice and assistance on a wide range of services to customers who call in person or on the telephone. These services will not just be welfare-related because, as part of the development of the broker, local offices will be able to provide information on services provided by other agencies. This is key to saving the customer from the inconvenience of having to visit a number of different offices in order to avail of the full range of services they require.
A key aspect of improving and integrating public services will be bringing the civil registration system up to the best modern standards. I am pleased to report good progress on the project to modernise civil registration being undertaken jointly by my Department and the Department of Health and Children.
The launch of the REACH and Public Services Broker projects was the first time that a live webcast was made available within the public service. The number of actual hits registered on the day was small. However, information has also been made available on the REACH website itself, www.reach.ie, and some 3,500 hits were registered on that site in the week following the launch. The information on the site will be updated to reflect progress on the design and provision of services and to provide a communication channel for the parties involved.