My Department aims to ensure that all citizens are made aware of their rights and entitlements and that they are kept informed of changes and improvements in schemes and services as they occur. The provision of information in a clear and accessible manner is an essential element in the achievement of this objective. My Department takes a pro-active approach in advertising its schemes and services by using a mix of national and provincial media, information leaflets, factsheets, posters, direct mailshots, advertising on television screens in over 60 Credit Unions nationwide, and by distributing information booklets to health centres throughout the country. National advertising campaigns are undertaken periodically to promote greater awareness of a specific scheme or to highlight changes in schemes and services. During 2006, my Department undertook campaigns on the Family Income Supplement, Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance, supports for Carers (Carers Allowance, Carers Benefit, Respite Care Grant), the Department's PRSI information mailing service and budget information.
The first targeted advertising campaign of 2007 has been conducted over the last two months regarding All Ireland Free Travel. The scheme enables citizens aged 66 or over to travel free within Northern Ireland with effect from the 2nd of April, 2007.
LoCall numbers are provided for all campaigns from which the public can get further information or application forms. The campaigns also highlight other sources of information available to the public, including my Department's website (www.welfare.ie) and my Department’s network of Social Welfare Local Offices and the information services available through the network of Citizens Information Centres, including the Citizens Information Phone Service and website facility (www.citizensinformation.ie). The responses to the campaigns have been encouraging and resulted in increases in the number of applications received for the various schemes.
In view of the range of services available from my Department it would not be possible to highlight all of them in a single advertising campaign. Therefore, nationwide targeted advertising campaigns, focusing on specific schemes and services, will continue to be a key priority for me in the drive to ensure that citizens are aware of and claim their social welfare entitlements.