Wednesday, 1 May 1991
Dáil Éireann Debate
21. Mr. Ryan asked the Minister for Social Welfare if he will clarify the status and appointment procedure of staff in rural unemployment offices in the light of the inadequacy of facilities in certain unemployment offices throughout rural Ireland.
Dr. Woods: There are 51 employment exchanges throughout the country which are staffed by full-time civil servants who are recruited by the Civil Service Commission in the normal way. The employment exchanges are administered directly by my Department. Deputies are no doubt aware that the standard of employment exchange accommodation has greatly improved over recent years and I am determined that the quality of my Department's public offices be improved where necessary and maintained at a high standard. The improvements that have occurred have, of course, cost a considerable amount of money. By the end of this year my Department will have spent, since 1987, some £12 million on  the construction of new local offices and refurbishment of existing offices.
In relation to this matter generally, the Deputy will appreciate that the increase in the live register in recent times will have imposed an additional burden on the accommodation provided in all local offices.
In addition to employment exchanges, there are also 79 branch employment offices which are run by branch managers. They are employed under a contract for service which, among other things, requires them to provide suitable premises. The recruitment and appointment of staff in branch employment offices is a matter for each branch manager. My Department have no function in this process other than to ensure that prospective employees are suitable for employment in such offices.
I am satisfied that the facilities at the majority of the branch employment offices are of a reasonable and acceptable standard. I am aware that there are a number of offices where improvements are required. At my request my Department have undertaken an examination of branch office premises where improvements appear necessary and discussions are underway with the branch managers in question. I am satisfied from the response to date from branch managers that such improvements will take place on a mutually agreed basis.
Mr. Stagg: Would the Minister agree that privacy in the offices he talked about is of prime importance to ensure the dignity of the people who have to sign on? Would he further agree that it is extraordinary that the Minister has no function in the employment of staff in 79 of the offices around the country where the unemployed have to go to get information and everything else that is required to keep body and soul together?
Dr. Woods: The system which operates has been in existence for a long time and the branch managers have given great service to the country over the years. As I said in my reply, we are naturally very  anxious to ensure that the highest standards possible apply in these offices as well as in our own direct offices, and we are pursuing that matter.
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