To ask the Minister for Social Protection the criteria for the establishment and location of Intreo offices; if it is appropriate that these services should lead to existing well supported amenities being relocated.
R E P L Y
One of the guiding principles of the Intreo service is to have the ability to provide access to all services in a single location rather than multiple locations serving the same community. The one-stop-shop element is being rolled out to all existing Social Welfare Local Offices (SWLO). However, providing all services in a single location is a complex task given the wide variety of existing locations, lease arrangements and physical layouts of offices. In some locations the Department has had to operate the one stop shop service from more than one office through the use of integrated IT, standardised service offers and common branding to provide a seamless and consistent service to the customer.
There are many different criteria used in the assessment of whether to use the existing office accommodation or seek new office accommodation, but the principle criteria include:
(a) The current office space available in our SWLO and the degree to which it can accommodate all Intreo services;
(b) The condition of the building and the quality of the accommodation;
(c) Whether the building is State-Owned or State-Leased, and if leased, the terms and conditions of the lease.
Where the current accommodation is inadequate or needs to be vacated, new accommodation may be required and the Department relies on the Office of Public Works to source new accommodation. The first preference is for the use of existing State-owned property and failing this, the OPW will examine all other potential options available on the open market. The Department’s preference is for central locations in towns and cities, served by strong public transport connections, easily accessible to our customers.
Where the Department’s Community Welfare Service has been re-located to Intreo offices, alternative arrangements have been put in place to ensure that customers are provided with on-going access to the supports provided by the service. In general, this means that the frequency of available public clinics has increased, an improved phone service is available and alternative arrangements are in place for those who cannot travel, for example due to illness, including arranging a visit to the client’s home, if necessary.
The Department’s services are continually monitored and kept under review by management taking account of the views of staff, users of the service and public representatives to ensure that the best use is made of all available resources with a view to providing an efficient service. I am very conscious of the need to provide efficient and effective customer facing services at a local level for clients of the Department. It is therefore essential that the services provided are reconstituted to meet the changing needs of Irish society.