An essential element of the delivery of social welfare services is the provision of comprehensive information in a clear and simple manner. The objective of my Department's information policy is to ensure that all citizens are made aware of their entitlements across all social welfare schemes and supports and are kept informed of changes and improvements as they occur. I am satisfied that objective is being met.
My Department directs information to citizens on new schemes and services through advertising, using an appropriate mix of national and provincial media, and through information leaflets, fact sheets, posters and direct mailshots. All our schemes and services are publicised on our website atwww.welfare.ie. Selective use is also made of freephone telephone services to provide information on new schemes and services and at particular times of the year, such as budget time.
With regard to information products, my Department produces a comprehensive range of information booklets covering each social welfare payment. These are widely available from the network of 130 social welfare local offices and branch offices throughout the country as well as from citizen's information centres and many local organisations. Information is also available from information officers located in SWLOs who give talks to many groups and organisations and attend exhibitions and seminars.
My Department also works closely with voluntary and community organisations involved in an information giving role. A number of such organisations receive funding on an annual basis towards the cost of providing welfare rights and information services for their target groups.
Consultation with our customers is another route towards understanding their needs and expectations. We use a range of methods such as customer panels, customer surveys and comment cards. The findings of our customer surveys are, in the main, positive and show a high overall satisfaction rating with the services provided, including information provision. My Department is planning an information campaign for later this year which will promote the role of our SWLOs, particularly the information officers, as a key information contact point in disseminating information on social welfare entitlements across all age groups.
Comhairle is the national information agency operating under the aegis of my Department. It supports the provision of independent information, advice and other supports to all citizens, including those with disabilities. The organisation supports a network of 85 citizen's information centres whose role is to provide information to members of the public on all social services.