Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers (Resumed). - Housing Welfare Officers.

271.

asked the Minister for Local Government if he will, as a matter of urgency, review the salary scale and conditions of employment of housing welfare officers employed by local authorities, in view of the general inadequacy of the scale and the inability of local authorities to recruit such staff.

Any review of the remuneration for this grade would be a matter appropriate to be dealt with in the first instance under the scheme of conciliation and arbitration for local authority staff. The existing salary scale, which is of general application, has emerged following the implementation of an arbitration award made in 1967 and the application to the scale then approved of any "general round" increases in remuneration granted to local authority officers generally in the meantime.

In order to broaden the field of recruitment it was agreed by my Department during last year, following consultation with the Department of Health, to reduce the lower age limit for appointment to the grade and to allow males to compete. In addition, local authorities were allowed to provide in individual cases for entry to the salary scale above the minimum.

May I ask the Parliamentary Secretary whether he is satisfied that this salary scale is sufficient to attract housing welfare officers into local authorities? There is a dire shortage of such officers within many local authorities. Would the Parliamentary Secretary have a look at this problem with a view to improving this position? Many local authorities cannot recruit housing officers. What is the maximum of the scale?

Would the Parliamentary Secretary not agree that this scale is unattractive for a male applicant? I believe in equal pay anyway.

The salary scales are tied up with Civil Service regulations. There is conciliation and arbitration machinery. One cannot deal with any group in isolation.

Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary would take some initiative in this matter. A number of local authorities cannot get staff. Men are not interested in being housing welfare officers. We have changed some regulations and the situation has improved in some areas.