There are approximately 10,000 military personnel and civilian employees (excluding Civil Servants) working in the Defence area of the Public Service. The Defence Forces are assigned a broad range of important roles which include: the contingent role of defending the State from armed aggression, providing assistance to the civil power, participating in international peacekeeping missions, providing a fisheries protection service, and providing air ambulance and air transport services. The Defence Forces also form an essential support element in the emergency response plans for which other areas of the Public Service have lead responsibility. Tasks to be undertaken include, inter alia, search and rescue, assistance during severe weather events and the maintenance of essential services.
Like the rest of the Public Service, Ireland’s Defence Forces must be able to work with greatly reduced resources and yet remain capable of addressing the changing domestic and international security environment, as well as discharging other day-to-day roles. Ongoing reform in the Defence Forces has been very much a part of its work in recent years, with the result being a more streamlined and efficient service.
The key reform priorities for the Defence sector include:[i] Completion of the reorganisation
of the Permanent Defence Force and the Reserve Defence Force to facilitate greater efficiency while minimising any impact on operational capacity;[ii]
Development and publication of a new White Paper on Defence
in 2014 to update Ireland’s defence policy in light of changes in international and domestic defence, security and economic environments; and[iii]
Enhancement of capability
and achievement of the required interoperability
to operate alongside other forces in overseas peace support and crisis management operations, in line with Ireland’s EU and international obligations.
The benefits of these reforms will be modern, responsive Defence Forces which are capable of discharging all roles assigned by Government.
Non-Commercial State Agencies
The non-commercial State Agencies in the Irish Public Service comprise around 10,000 staff, dealing with a diverse range of functions and services. Very often, these agencies are at an important point of interaction with citizens and businesses.
Some of the services provided by State Agencies include regulating and setting standards for critically important economic sectors, protecting citizens and consumers, protecting and promoting vital national resources, supporting Irish business, research and innovation and the provision of other vital services (e.g. housing and social care).
The sector has also seen significant reform in recent years with implementation of the State Agency Rationalisation programme, the Strategic Framework for Economic Regulation and the more general drive for greater efficiencies across the Public Service. Steps have also been taken to deploy improved systems of management and governance as well as service improvements.
While it would not be possible to reflect the level and volume of reforms taking place across the very diverse non-commercial State Agency sector, a small sample of priority reforms are set out below.[i]
The new Child and Family Agency
will be a vehicle for reform to ensure a more consistent, integrated and effective response to the needs of children and families. It is made up of a range of professionals numbering some 4,000 drawn from three existing agencies (i.e. the HSE, the National Education Welfare Board and the Family Support Agency) and working in partnership with local communities, the voluntary sector and other statutory bodies;[ii]
The Higher Education Authority
(HEA) is working with the Department of Education and Skills on a major reform of higher education to improve the quality of the experience of students, to improve the quality of the outcomes from the system and to enhance accountability and the efficient use of resources. This will see the number of institutes of technology and the providers of teacher education reduced, in addition to the development of five regional clusters of universities and institutes. The HEA has agreed a detailed Service Level Agreement with the Department of Education and Skills with agreed targets and indicators relating to the implementation of the higher education reform process and key operational areas. This will be revised on an annual basis;[iii]
The Pobal Maps
system has provided local communities and service planners with a set of clear, easily used tools to examine the needs of local areas. Pobal will expand the set of data available through these tools to allow easy access to both powerful sets of data based on a disadvantage index and to the full set of census data about their area, therefore supporting informed local service planning;[iv]
The Environmental Protection Agency
(EPA) is developing a new map based section of its website - ‘what’s in my backyard’ – which will give the public information on the quality of the environment in their local area;
The Medical Council is working to ensure that the profession is facilitated to engage with the Council quickly and easily in relation to their registration status. The Council is developing an online portal to will allow doctors to interact with the Council on a 24/7 basis to request certificates, submit applications and pay fees;[v]
The Private Residential Tenancies Board
will assume responsibility for the registration of property and provision of Dispute Resolution Services in the Social and Voluntary Housing Sector during 2014. This significant expansion in the Board’s role will be funded from their own resources and will not require Exchequer funding; and[vi]
A programme of reforms of Workplace Industrial Relations Services and Structures
– involving the Labour Court, Labour Relations Commission, National Employment Rights Authority and Employment Appeals Tribunal – will reduce costs, improve administrative efficiency through streamlined processes and increased online services, and will enhance accessibility for users of the services provided.
The State Agency sector will become a more efficient and responsive sector in delivering on their service objectives in the coming years, increasingly integrated within the Public Service.