Public service integration in hard times: Merging unemployment benefit and labour market activation measures

Open access


The creation of Intreo as a one-stop shop for jobseekers in Ireland occurred during the financial and sovereign debt crisis period of 2010–16. The organisational merger was the product of an extensive programme of successful administrative reorganisation and service integration that deserves attention. This article begins with an overview of the policy to merge insurance-based unemployment benefit, discretionary social welfare payments and labour market activation measures, as well as the various political and institutional rationales that led to this development. Drawing on the special issue framework concerning how the interaction of ideology, institutions and interests comes into play during policy change, we consider the contextual factors that facilitated the rapid implementation of the programme and its overall successful execution. Whilst focusing on the success, we also critically point out the inhibitors in the implementation chain, some of which predated the crisis, as well as problems during the implementation process, such as delays in the national rollout and back-office supports. We identify the main contributing factors for successful implementation of a one-stop shop for activation and unemployment services as (a) a high problem pressure, (b) a small and agile implementation team, (c) changing labour relations (e.g. binding arbitration, weakened unions) and (d) a modern communication strategy.

If the inline PDF is not rendering correctly, you can download the PDF file here.

  • Department of Health and Children. (2006). Core functions of the health service report. Retrieved from [26 April 2019].

  • Department of Social Welfare. (1986). Commission on social welfare. Dublin: Department of Social Welfare.

  • Department of the Taoiseach. (2011). Programme for government 201116. Dublin: Department of the Taoiseach.

  • Esping-Andersen G. (1990). The three worlds of welfare capitalism. Cambridge: Polity Press.

  • Government of Ireland. (2010). The national recovery plan 20112014. Dublin: The Stationery Office.

  • Grubb D. Singh S. & Tergeist P. (2009). Activation policies in Ireland [Social employment and migration working papers 75]. Paris: OECD.

  • Hardiman N. (2012). Introduction: Profiling Irish governance. In N. Hardiman (Ed.) Irish governance in crisis (pp. 1–22). Manchester: Manchester University Press.

  • Hardiman N. & Regan A. (2012). The politics of austerity in Ireland. Intereconomics 48 (1) 9–13.

  • Hick R. (2018). Enter the troika: The politics of social security during Ireland’s bailout. Journal of Social Policy 47 (1) 1–20.

  • IMF. (2014). Greece [Country report no. 14/151]. Retrieved from [26 April 2019].

  • Kelly E. McGuinness S. Redmond P. Savage M. & Walsh J. R. (2019). An initial evaluation of the effectiveness of Intreo activation reforms [Research series no. 81]. Dublin: Economic and Social Research Institute.

  • Kingdon J. W. (2011). Agendas alternatives and public policies (2nd edn). New York: Longman.

  • Köppe S. (2018). New deal for Irish families. Berlin: Social Europe.

  • Köppe S. & O’Connell P. J. (2017). Case-study on Intreo: The one-stop-shop for job seekers in Ireland. Case studies on innovation and reform in the public sector. Dublin: Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

  • Laffan B. (2017) International actors and agencies. In W. K. Roche P. J. O’Connell & A. Prothero (Eds) Austerity and recovery in Ireland: Europe’s poster child and the great recession (pp. 177–93). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  • Lødemel I. & Moreira A. (2014). Activation or workfare? Governance and neo-liberal convergence. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  • MacCarthaigh M. (2014). Agency termination in Ireland: Culls and bonfires or life after death? Public Administration 92 (4) 1017–37.

  • MacCarthaigh M. (2017). Public sector reform in Ireland: Countering crisis. Basingstoke: Palgrave.

  • MacCarthaigh M. (2018). Reforming the Irish public service: A multiple streams perspective. Administration 65 (2) 145–64.

  • Martin J. P. (2015). Activation and active labour market policies in OECD countries: Stylised facts and evidence on their effectiveness. IZA Journal of Labor Policy 4 (4) 1–29.

  • Muffels R. & Luijkx R. (2008). Labour market mobility and employment security of male employees in Europe: ‘Trade-off’ or ‘flexicurity’? Work Employment and Society 22 (2) 221–42.

  • Muffels R. & Wilthagen T. (2013). Flexicurity: A new paradigm for the analysis of labor markets and policies challenging the trade-off between flexibility and security. Sociology Compass 7 (2) 111–22.

  • Murphy M. (2016). Low road or high road? The post-crisis trajectory of Irish activation. Critical Social Policy 36 (2) 1–21.

  • O’Connell P. (2017) Unemployment and labour market policy. In W. K. Roche P. J. O’Connell & A. Prothero (Eds) Austerity and recovery in Ireland: Europe’s poster child and the great recession (pp. 232–51). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  • OECD. (2013). OECD employment outlook. Paris: OECD.

  • Radha J. & Camasso M. J. (2013). Protecting children in the age of outrage: A new perspective on child protective services reform. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  • Weishaupt J. T. (2011). From the manpower revolution to the activation paradigm: Explaining institutional continuity and change in an integrating Europe. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.

Journal information
All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 0 0 0
Full Text Views 254 254 17
PDF Downloads 181 181 16