Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Questions (238)

Barry Cowen

Question:

244 Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will outline the role of community welfare officers and eligibility of applicants for support to community welfare officers, her future plans for the position; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34366/12]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Social Protection)

On 1 October 2011, the community welfare service transferred from the Health Service Executive to the Department of Social Protection. Former community welfare officers (CWOs) are known as ‘Designated Persons' for the purposes of the administration of the supplementary welfare allowance (SWA) scheme.

The purpose of the transfer was to provide a streamlined, consistent and enhanced service to the customer. The process of integration is ongoing and significant progress has already been made with preparations for an integrated service almost complete in four offices and ten further offices due to be developed before the end of the year. However, the assignment and integration of functions, and full transformation and integration of staff and skills is a programme of work which will take a number of years to complete.

The Department fully recognises the skills, competencies and experience of former Community Welfare Officers. One of the projects underway as part of the transformation programme is to conduct an audit of skills and competencies so that the organisation can maximise its resources to meet requirements and address skill gaps and overlaps where they exist.

The supplementary welfare allowance (SWA) scheme is the safety net within the overall social welfare system in that it provides assistance to eligible people in the State whose means are insufficient to meet their needs and those of their dependants.

Designated officers play a vital role within the overall social welfare system in providing a responsive and flexible approach to meeting the needs of the disadvantaged. The role of the community welfare service and the objectives of the SWA scheme are compatible with the goals and objectives of this Department having regard to income support, social inclusion and integration of services.

The need for a flexible and responsive approach to meet the needs of members of the public experiencing disadvantage continues to remain central to the community welfare service following its integration to the Department. The community welfare service will continue to remain a community based service providing key information, advice, advocacy and referral links between agencies.