Written Answers. - Community Welfare Service.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

143 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs if he is concerned at the high level of uncertainty and low morale in the community welfare service at present; and the response he is taking to the issues raised on the administration of supplementary benefits and assistance by SIPTU on behalf of community welfare officers. [20453/00]

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

144 Mrs. B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs the reason workers representatives have been excluded from interdepartmental and working review groups on supplementary benefit and the community welfare service. [20454/00]

Michael Joe Cosgrave

Question:

151 Mr. Cosgrave asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs if he has met representatives of community welfare officers in regard to the concerns expressed by them regarding changes he has introduced to their job description. [20289/00]

Frances Fitzgerald

Question:

779 Ms Fitzgerald asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs if has met representatives of community welfare officers in regard to concerns expressed by them regarding changes he has introduced to their job description. [20317/00]

Denis Naughten

Question:

781 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs the reason the unions were not included in the review of the structure of supplementary welfare allowance; when he will receive the conclusions of this review; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20349/00]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 143, 144, 151, 779 and 781 together.

The supplementary welfare allowance, SWA, scheme is administered on my Department's behalf by the health boards. An interdepartmental committee is currently reviewing the scheme as part of my Department's series of programme evaluations.

Two health board officers, from the Eastern Regional Health Authority and the Mid-Western Health Board, were nominated to the working group by the health boards. Both have extensive experience in this area, having worked in the community welfare service for many years.

Both SIPTU and IMPACT have indicated that they wish to be represented on the interdepartmental committee that is undertaking the review. As Deputies will be aware, it is not normal practice to have trade union representatives on interdepartmental committees that are preparing policy proposals for consideration by Government. In the circumstances, this request was not granted.

However, there is no question of unions being excluded from this review. On the contrary, the unions representing community welfare staff, SIPTU and IMPACT, were invited to make a submission to the working group last June. This was received last week. In addition, they have been and will continue to be consulted directly at specially convened meetings by my officials during the review. The most recent such meeting took place on 6 September 2000 and the next is scheduled for 29 November 2000.

The current review is a fundamental appraisal of the scheme aimed at improving customer service and administrative efficiency. It also provides an opportunity to refocus the scheme, and the health boards' community welfare service of which it is part, to become more effective in tackling poverty and social exclusion.

I expect that the proposals of the interdepartmental committee will be finalised by the end of next year and I am confident that they will address any uncertainty or low morale in the community welfare service.

Question No. 144 with Question No. 143.