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Written Answers - Social Welfare Offices

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 760 No. 3

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 306.  Deputy Simon Harris Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris  asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton  the guidelines she has issued to local social welfare offices regarding the manner in which staff must interact with clients; if she will outline the manner of conduct expected from staff; the number of complaints she has received from clients unhappy with the manner in which they have been treated by local social welfare office staff; the complaints procedure she operates in this regard; the number of disciplinary actions that she has taken against staff in this regard; the sanctions that have been handed down; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16377/12]

 342.  Deputy Alan Farrell Information on Alan Farrell Zoom on Alan Farrell  asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton  the number of formal complaints received by her from social welfare applicants; the process in which complaints are undertaken by her; the standard timeframe in which complaints are dealt with; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16986/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I propose to take Questions Nos. 306 and 342 together.

My Department is committed to delivering a quality customer service. The Customer Charter sets out the commitments and standard of service people can expect from the Department. Customers will be served in a fair, courteous and timely manner and their privacy will be respected. They will be informed of their rights and entitlements and provided with full and [827]clear information. The Customer Charter is prominently displayed in all our public offices and is also available on my Departments website, www.welfare.ie.

My Department makes 1.4 million payments each week, when adult and child dependants are taken into account that constitutes payments to almost 2.1 million people. Annually over 87 million payments are processed and approximately 6.5 million telephone calls answered in respect of all schemes and services. In 2011, some 1,734 complaints were received of which 947 were complaints regarding Social Welfare Local Offices, which represented a decrease of 20% from 2010.

If a customer is dissatisfied with the standard of service they receive from a staff member, they can make a formal complaint in person, by telephone, by email, in writing and on line at www.welfare.ie. The complaint is immediately acknowledged and referred to a complaints officer for investigation. A response to the customer normally issues within 15 working days of the date of receipt of the complaint. If the customer is not satisfied with the response they have the option of requesting a review by a more senior officer. If the customer is still dissatisfied a formal complaint can be made to the Ombudsman.

Two cases were referred to the Personnel Officer, over the past two years, for consideration of disciplinary action following complaints made against staff of my Department by customers. In one case no disciplinary action or sanction was applied and the other case is currently under investigation. My Department is committed to delivering the best possible service to its customers and continuously strives to achieve the highest standard of customer service.


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