I propose to take Questions Nos. 5 to 11, inclusive, together.
Staff of the strategic communications unit met with the Office of Emergency Planning to discuss the winter ready campaign and provided it with the Government of Ireland identity, which appeared on the cover of the winter ready booklet. The Government of Ireland identity replaced 17 logos of Departments and State agencies whose names were listed instead. This serves to simplify the message and illustrates to the citizen how Departments and agencies are working as a whole to deliver a co-ordinated approach to Government communications. The booklet, which incidentally has some excellent tips and advice, assists households in preparing for severe weather and coping with it when it actually happens. Merrionstreet.ie also provided social media support when the booklet was launched.
The Cabinet has approved that the unit in my Department will work on the following campaigns in the coming months: the ten year capital plan, a campaign related to Brexit and the consequences thereof, the national children's hospital, the Healthy Ireland campaign, the Creative Ireland campaign, global Ireland and rural Ireland. Further campaigns will be added to this list in due course.
The role of the unit is to streamline communications by working with other Departments to deliver on these major cross-Government campaigns. It will help us to ensure simple citizen-focused communications, so that it is evident when the Government of Ireland is communicating or delivering a service. This will lead to more co-ordinated and cost effective communications that will generate efficiencies and increased value for money.
The costs associated with the unit, since its establishment in 2017, have been met from existing resources within my Department. No moneys have been sought from other Departments to fund the unit.
In 2018, my Department's budget will decrease by 2% compared to this year. The unit’s budget of €5 million is from existing resources within my Department's budget for 2018. The vast bulk of the budget is being earmarked for major cross-Government information campaigns, which I have already outlined. These campaigns will include an allocation for media buying across all media platforms, both traditional and digital. This will maximise efficiency and provide value.
It is intended that the unit will drive savings across all Departments over time through efficiencies generated by, inter alia, cross-governmental collaboration on major campaigns, more efficient use of technology platforms, consolidated media buying, efficient third-party contract management, rationalising design projects, streamlining participation in national events and increased communication capacity within Departments.
The press and communications function in my Department has evolved and grown significantly over many years. This reflects the growth in demand for the service, longer hours, the large increase in media outlets and, in particular, the growth of social media. The Government press office will continue to operate as it has before in dealing with day-to-day media queries, under the direction of the Government press secretary.
The practical benefits of the unit will be to simplify Government communications and increase efficiencies across the public sector when dealing with the Irish public. It will achieve this, as I mentioned, by streamlining communications for citizens, developing and delivering major cross-Government communication campaigns and improving communications capacity across Government.