The Intreo Record of Mutual Commitments
One of the changes that the Department of Social Protection has introduced with the new Intreo service (the new employment and entitlements service) is a Record of Mutual Commitments that the Department and the individual unemployed person both sign.
This includes both the Department’s promise to the individual and the individual’s promise to the Department. Some of what is included is really useful for the unemployed individual. There is a promise from the Department to ‘treat you with dignity and respect’, to ‘work with you to help you prepare your personal progression plan to assist you to take the right steps to employment’ and to ‘do all we can to process claims as quickly and efficiently as possible’.Similarly, some of what is in the unemployed person’s promise is also positive, including the reciprocal promise to ‘treat the staff of the Department with dignity and respect’.
While some of this record is positive, other aspects are stacked against the individual – should a Case Manager decide to fully utilise the wording. Nowhere is this clearer than when the unemployed person promises ‘to take up any work placement, work experience and/or training/personal development places notified by the Department’. However the problem is the lack of the words suitable or relevant beside ‘work placements, work experience and/or training/personal development places’ or a line to suggest that these options should be in keeping with the personal progression plan. As the unemployed person signs under the line ‘I understand that failure to adhere to my promises above may result in the reduction or withdrawal of any income supports’, there are very real concerns that unemployed people could have their payments reduced or withdrawn through refusing unsuitable work, work experience or training notified by the Department. It would also be very useful to have written into this Record that the Individual has the right of appeal. Informing customers of their right of appeal should be as integral to the contract as the customers own undertaking.
There are other changes that would emphasise the partnership aspect of the Record of Mutual Commitments. A change so that the Department will work with the unemployed person rather than for the unemployed person to ‘identify suitable employment, work experience or training/education/personal development opportunities’ would be useful. Similarly, the promise to ‘provide the Department with all information requested to assess any claim for income support’ would be improved by a change to ‘provide all the relevant information’.
These changes need to be made as a matter of urgency. Intreo is a new service that could offer real hope. It could also implement real hardship. If this Record of Mutual Commitments can be changed so that it is a real partnership between the individual and the department, it would be a very hopeful start.
We will be raising this issue with the Department and the Minister and we will be pressing for these and related changes to be made.