Dáil Éireann - Volume 642 - 04 December, 2007

Written Answers. - Departmental Offices.

Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the level of late night or non-standard office hours opening hours operated by his Department; his plans to expand current arrangements; the estimated rate of on-line applications received by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32171/07]

  Deputy Martin Cullen: None of my Department offices [1947] operates late night or non-standard opening hours for public access and there are no plans to expand the current opening arrangements.

The majority of Social Welfare Local Offices are open to the public from 9.30am to 4pm, Monday to Friday, including lunch hours. Some Local Offices, including Social Welfare Branch Offices, do not open during lunch hour as it would not be feasible given their customer base and the small number of staff working in them. The majority of Social Welfare Local Offices however do provide a phone service from 9.30am to 5.30pm, including lunch hour, each week day.

Information in relation to all my Departments schemes and services is available 24 hours a days from the Departments website www.welfare.ie, and application forms, in respect of all schemes, can be downloaded from this site. The facility to complete scheme application forms on-line does not currently exist on the website.

Customers can however use an on-line form to notify the Department that they are unemployed and wish to make a claim for Jobseekers Benefit. My Department subsequently contacts them to enable them to make their claim. Each month some 450 customers use this on-line facility.

My Department’s website is currently being redeveloped and the new website over time will facilitate the introduction of new on-line services including on-line applications for welfare benefits.