Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton has confirmed the revamp of the new welfare.ie website is costing the State €570,000.
Minister Burton said that US tech giant Hewlett Packard has secured the three-year €569,957 (incl Vat) contract to provide consultancy support for the design, development and implementation of the welfare.ie website.
Ms Burton told Fianna Fáil’s Willie O’Dea in a written Dáil reply that the contract, which commenced last year, includes the ongoing maintenance and support of the website for three years. However, the Fianna Fáil spokesman for Social Protection said yesterday: “Hand on heart, I have yet to meet a person claiming social welfare that has used the website. Nobody I have ever spoken to has used the site.”
Mr O’Dea said claimants get their information on social welfare from their local Citizens Advice Bureau or from their local TDs or councillors. He described the spend on the website as “unnecessary”. He said: “There are one million people in the country living directly or indirectly from social welfare payments and the money should be going direct to them who are out there trying to survive rather than wasting money upgrading a website.”
Ms Burton also told the Limerick deputy it has cost €2m to upgrade 12 social welfare offices to one-stop-shop Intreo offices.
Ms Burton said, in two instances, the cost of revamping social welfare offices has topped €330,000 in each case. She said that the cost of revamping the Newcastle West office in west Limerick totalled €381,735 with the cost of upgrading the Blanchardstown office totalling €336,609.
Ms Burton said the first 10 Intreo offices, with all elements in place, went live in 2012 and are located in: Sligo, Arklow, Tallaght, Kings Inns, Ballymun, Buncrana, Coolock, Dundalk, Finglas and Killarney.
She said that a further two Intreo offices have opened in Newcastle West and Blanchardstown.
She said that it is intended “to have the full service available from a total of approximately 40 offices this year and to complete the full roll-out of all service elements to all 63 offices of the Department in 2014”.
Ms Burton explained that the main elements of the Intreo office is to integrate the various welfare decision-making processes to speed up decision making and minimise recourse to supplementary welfare payments and delivery of one-stop shop from an integrated office location. “Expenditure on the rollout of Intreo offices to date is estimated at almost €2m.”
Mr O’Dea said the costs associated with the roll-out of the Intreo offices “are too high and the whole process is occurring at a snail’s pace”.
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