Question No: 71 Ref No: 25388-15
To the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection
To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection the extent to which community welfare services remain readily accessible in all areas throughout the country with particular reference to meeting out of hours/emergency needs where necessary; and if she will make a statement on the matter.
– Bernard J. Durkan.
* For WRITTEN answer on Wednesday, 24th June, 2015.
R E P L Y
Minister of State at the Department of Social Protection (Kevin Humphreys TD)
Following the transfer of the Community Welfare Service (CWS) from the Health Service Executive to the Department in 2011, the Department has re-engineered its business model to support the provision of integrated services across all business streams involved in the delivery of localised services. As part of this strategy, the Department is engaged in the delivery of integrated Intreo centres, which provide a full range of services, including the CWS, generally available in one location.
Where the CWS has been restructured alternative arrangements have been put in place to ensure that customers are provided with on-going access to the supports provided by the service. For example, where a customer is unable to travel to a clinic, alternative arrangements are available including improved phone services and if necessary arranging a visit to the client’s home.
People claiming supports under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme generally only interact with the Department on an occasional basis, for example, when seeking an exceptional needs payment or in claiming additional supports such as rent supplement, which are usually reviewed once to twice yearly. The availability of the CWS during normal office hours is therefore sufficient for general day to day requirements.
However, in response to emergency situations such as those caused by severe weather events, local staff are proactive in contacting households affected and in providing targeted supports to those in need as swiftly as possible. Community Welfare Services operating in the areas affected have in the past extended their opening hours providing additional emergency service which may be supplemented by facilitating clients with individual appointments and making house calls.
The staffing needs for all areas within the Department are continuously reviewed, to ensure that the best use is made of all available resources with a view to providing an efficient service to those who rely on the schemes operated by the Department.