The Intreo service is not being given the task of delivering disability services such as those delivered by the health service and the education sector. In line with the Comprehensive Employment Strategy and building on developments in recent years, it is expected that the Department has a greater role in the delivery of employment services and supports to persons with a disability.
In recent years, the social protection system in Ireland has undergone significant reforms, moving away from passive income supports to an ‘active inclusion’ approach that seeks to maximise the potential of working age adults, with the appropriate supports and services. The Intreo service, which is the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection’s integrated income support, employment and support service, is central to this process.
In line with commitments under the Comprehensive Employment Strategy for people with disabilities and Pathways to Work 2016-2020, the Department has progressively expanded the mainstream Intreo service to cater for people with disabilities. Across the Intreo service network of 62 offices, people with disabilities may, on a voluntary basis, seek an appointment with an employment supports case officer to discuss their employment ambitions and develop an appropriate personal progression plan. The Intreo service has also undertaken a programme of upskilling staff to better support persons with disabilities who want to pursue further education, training or work opportunities. While the Intreo service, as the mainstream employment service, acts as the primary gateway or access point to employment supports, it may also refer those with more complex support needs to other relevant bodies, such as the Employability service for training or employment supports.
It is my intention to continue to build the capacity of the Intreo service so that it has the ability to address the public employment support needs of people with disabilities.
Last year, the Make Work Pay for people with disabilities report made a number of recommendations on how people with disabilities who want to work and can work could fulfil their employment ambitions. One of the key recommendations relates to the principle of early engagement. Early engagement means that the State will support people with disabilities at the earliest stage possible to help them achieve their employment goals. To this end, people with disabilities would get advice from the Intreo service when they apply for a disability income support payment. The service would be provided on the following basis:
- Engagement would be voluntary.
- Engagement would encourage new recipients of disability income support payments to use the Intreo Service and supports.
- Engagement would focus on an individual’s needs.
- Engagement would be effectively resourced.
- Engagement would be joined up with other service providers to make sure that the process is as seamless as possible.
- Engagement would address barriers to work faced by people with disabilities
No decision has yet been made as to when this approach would start. Earlier this month, a national consultation process commenced to seek the views of people with disabilities, their families and advocates on the implementation of this recommendation. The Government wants to get the views of stakeholders before considering whether any changes, if any, might be introduced. The national consultation process will continue until mid-April and will be followed by further consideration with a number of stakeholder bodies. It provides stakeholders with an important opportunity to make their views known on this significant issue. I look forward to the outcome of the consultation process in due course.