Social Protection warns on loss of key staff members

The Department of Social Protection has warned that it faces “a high risk of losing significant numbers of experienced staff with critical skills” over the next decade, at a time when it has been stretched because of a surge in demand for its services.

The claim is included in a briefing note to newly appointed minister Regina Doherty, published last night, which also explains how almost 1,000 staff have retired since the beginning of 2012, with the department keen to retain its approved 2017 staffing level into next year so as to “deliver its critical business”.

The note also shows an increase in absenteeism, the cost of which to the department in 2016 is estimated at just less than €9.6m. A strategy is in place to tackle the issue.

Elsewhere, the note shows there are 26 open disciplinary cases being managed within the department’s HR division: Two over allegations of suspected fraud/ misappropriation; seven are in relation to poor attendance and performance; four in relation to possible data breaches and compliance with correct data protection procedures; and 13 in relation to possible breaches of behaviour or compliance with guidelines and procedures. Five staff members are suspended from work on full pay while four have been dismissed from the civil service in the last year on completion of the disciplinary code process.

There are 21 grievance cases open, including complaints of bullying/ harassment. Last year there were 90 new cases of alleged breaches of the Data Protection Acts examined in the department, with earlier cases meaning a total of 110 cases reviewed.

There was no evidence of a breach in 44 cases but, in 58 cases, a Data Protection Acts breach was established.

“The vast majority of these breaches were accidental, e.g. posting correspondence to the wrong address,” it said. In eight of the 58 breaches a sanction was imposed under the Civil Service Disciplinary Code.

The briefing note also shows just over €89m in water conservation grants were issued to 890,107 householders as of May 22 last, while last year 55,000 people were assisted under the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived programme, including 112,000 food packs being issued.

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