Dáil Éireann - Volume 396 - 22 February, 1990

Written Answers. - Sligo Services.

[451] 51. Mr. Bell asked the Minister for Social Welfare the level of services operating from his Department's offices in Sligo; the complement of staff engaged in each service; the level promised in each service; if each service has a full complement of staff as planned; if there are delays caused by a shortage of staff; if so, the plans he has to correct same; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Social Welfare (Dr. Woods): As part of the Government's decentralisation policy, three branches of my Department were transferred to Sligo where they now form the pensions services office. The pensions services office administers old age, retirement, widows and orphans pensions together with the various social assistance allowance schemes and the free schemes.

The pensions services office has a planned staff complement of 319 and there are 318 serving at present. The one vacancy is at a junior level. My Department is satisfied that the level of staffing in the pensions services office is sufficient for the efficient discharge of the work of the office.

I am aware that some delays are being experienced by some claimants to pensions. It was inevitable, given the sheer size of the decentralisation project, that service levels would initially be affected somewhat by the transfer of staff, and from the loss of experience arising from the replacement of long serving staff by new staff recruited locally in Sligo and by staff redeployed from other Government offices. For this reason a major training programme was undertaken by my Department. This programme began well before the transfer took place and also included lengthy periods of on-the-job training. I have ensured that the full complement of staff is available and I am confident that the measures being taken will result in the elimination of any delays being experienced.