The Public Service Reform plan highlights information and communications technologies (ICT) as key enablers to delivering improved public services. The Department recognises that implementation of the ICT elements of the reform plan will ensure a strong focus on the customer and that better and more innovative use is made of technology to improve the customer experience. To this end, the Department’s commitments under the Government strategy document eGovernment 2012-2015 were published by the Department of Public Expenditure & Reform on 23rd January 2013 on the eGovernment reporting website e.gov.ie.
The Department’s eGovernment plans reflect the major programme of business, organisational and technological change underway as it transforms from a passive transaction focused model of income support to a proactive model which is customer centric and progressive. Fundamental to this is developing customer contact channels that maximise customer service and minimise cost of delivery, including online services.
Visits to the Department’s website have increased from 3.2 million visits in 2010 to 4 million visits in 2011, and some 5 million visits in 2012. A project to redesign www.welfare.ie was completed in December 2012 and the new website provides a more dynamic, user-friendly interface for customers, particularly jobseekers, with improved accessibility and search functionality. The new website reflects the extended role and functions of the Department which now includes the Rural Social Scheme and Community Services programme, the Redundancy and Insolvency Payments schemes, the Community Welfare Service and, most notably, the Employment Service programmes. Extensive information on social protection schemes and services is provided on www.welfare.ie and the website will continue to be updated as schemes and services change.
There are a range of online services available on www.welfare.ie. These secure services include online claiming for State Pension Contributory, Child Benefit, Widow(er) or Surviving Partner's (Contributory) Pension, and Redundancy and Insolvency Payments. Online claiming for Jobseekers is also available in 59 local offices.
The new website includes a dedicated sub-site www.intreo.ie providing a single point of information, and access to services, as part of the recently launched Intreo integrated employment and income supports service under the Pathways to Work programme. In addition the 'Find a Job' service on the homepage of www.welfare.ie provides access to an extensive job bank currently hosted at www.jobseeker.fas.ie. Over the coming months and year, as the Pathways to Work programme progresses and the Intreo service is rolled out nationwide, the number and range of online services will be increased.
Potential customer authentication mechanisms under the Public Service Card rollout are also being explored. This will influence the range and type of new online services developed by the Department, including online services for jobseekers.
As well as providing applications for benefits online the Department provides a range of other online services available from the home page of www.welfare.ie. These include ‘close my claim’ for jobseekers; request a statement of payment; report suspected fraud; request a copy of social insurance record; request an application form; make a comment or complaint; and ask a question.
Under the Department’s new Customer Action Plan 2013–2015, which is due for publication in Quarter 1 2013, the Department will seek to progress and broaden the range of online services available. The Customer Action Plan has been developed taking account of best practice in this area and involved consultation with members of the public, representative groups and staff of the Department.
I am satisfied that the Department is continuing to seek to develop the range of online services available to our customers in order to secure service improvements and efficiencies.