May 11, 2004
(Human Resources, Labour and Employment)


Department moves to next step of Redesign Initative

Joan Burke, Minister of Human Resources, Labour and Employment, today announced the next phase of the departmentís Redesign Initiative as outlined in Budget 2004. The actions taken today reflect the departmentís goal to offer clients the best possible level of service and to use available resources most effectively.

"The current service delivery system is outdated, having been developed in the 1960s. Since then, transportation and communication systems have improved significantly and computer systems have also evolved dramatically," said Minister Burke. "We must also recognize that the provinceís population has shifted and our service delivery network should reflect where people currently live."

To this end, the department is consolidating services provided from the following district offices:

Bay Roberts, Conception Bay South, Ferryland, St. Maryís, Whitbourne, Bay LíArgent, Botwood, Gambo, Grand Bank, Harbour Breton, Fogo, Wesleyville, Bonne Bay, Burgeo, Englee, Deer Lake, Piccadilly, Stephenville Crossing, Cartwright and Forteau. The change is planned for early fall. Clients will be notified in a timely manner.

"The department has made every effort to minimize the impact of redesign on our employees," said Minister Burke. "As a result of the consolidation of 20 district offices, the final number of staff impacted by an actual layoff is 22. The majority of the positions affected are transfers to other offices or anticipated retirements, over the long term." Another six (6) positions will be affected by a lay-off at the provincial office.

The department has already made significant improvements over the past few years in the way it delivers services. With the use of new computer technology, income support can be delivered more efficiently, through fewer district offices. Policies and procedures have changed so that in most cases, clients do not have to visit an office for service. Mail-in applications are used extensively now, and in the very near future, technology will allow clients to access the income support system through telephone application in the privacy of their own homes.

The new structure also allows for a more effective use of staffing resources. Staff will have greater flexibility to work with clients on employment and career opportunities, helping them prepare for meaningful employment.

"This is especially critical, given the numbers of young people who currently find themselves on income support," said Minister Burke. "In 2003, 50 per cent of all new cases applying for income support were youth. This must change. Creating greater access to employment and career services will play a role in addressing the issue of an under-supply of skilled labour, a challenge that has already been identified by employers, the labour sector and the departmentís own research."

With these current challenges, government must redirect its resources to where they are most needed. While the delivery of income support is fundamental to the business of the Department of Human Resources, Labour and Employment, this service can be provided more efficiently with the use of our new computer technology. But, in order to meet the needs of all our clients, we must focus more attention on employment and career services.

"Though some financial savings will be realized through this stage of the Redesign Initiative, that is not the main intent of this exercise," said the minister. "The changes to the service delivery structure will provide a less intrusive and more efficient delivery of the Income Support Program and will allow staff greater flexibility to provide employment and career services, facilitating clientsí access to meaningful employment."

Media contact: Jacquelyn Howard, Human Resources, (709) 729-4062 or (709) 689-2624

2004 05 11                                        1:25 p.m.

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