Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Questions (305, 306)

Willie O'Dea

Question:

305. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will provide, in tabular form, the number of community welfare service clinics that have closed in 2013 or will be closed in 2014 on a county basis; the number of community welfare service clinics that existed in January 2013 on a county basis; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4877/14]

View answer

Willie O'Dea

Question:

306. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Social Protection the policy reasons for the closure of community welfare service clinics in rural Ireland; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4878/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 305 and 306 together.

A key objective of the transfer of the Community Welfare Service (CWS) from the Health Service Executive to the Department on 1 October 2011 was to provide a streamlined and consistent service to the customer. As part of this process and to support the Department’s activation commitments under the Pathways to Work Programme and the development of Intreo services nationally, it has been necessary to review the administration of all its services across its remit including the CWS. The Pathways to Work Programme represents a significant reform in the social welfare system and highlighted the need for the Department to focus its resources on the provision of opportunities, supports and assistance to unemployed people. The Department is intensifying its level of engagement with the unemployed, in particular, those who are, or become, long-term unemployed. The new Intreo service offers practical, tailored employment services and supports for jobseekers, a model which is currently being rolled out across the country.

Overall, this is resulting in a rebalancing of resources across the Department’s range of activities including the relocation of some staff to main centres, primarily Intreo offices, which will provide a full range of services, including the CWS and these will, in general, be available in one location. Since October 2011 to date, some 370 clinics have been closed. A tabular statement follows, showing the number of CWS clinics that were closed in 2013 and in January 2014 on a county basis. Approximately 750 clinics existed in January 2013, a county breakdown of these is not available.

Where the community welfare service has been re-structured, alternative arrangements have been put in place to ensure that customers are provided with on-going access to the supports provided by the service. In general, this means that the frequency of available public clinics has increased. Improved phone services have been put in place, allowing in many cases, for customer queries to be processed without having to attend a clinic on a face to face basis. If a person is unable to travel to a clinic, for example due to illness, alternative arrangements are in place including arranging a visit to the client’s home if necessary.

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 staffing needs for all areas within the Department are continuously reviewed and will continue to be examined during 2014, 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 and that the services provided are reconstituted, where necessary, to meet the changing needs of Irish society.

Tabular Statement - CWS Clinics 2013 and 2014

County

Clinics Closed 2013

Clinics Closed 2014*

Carlow

7

0

Cavan

0

0

Clare

0

0

Cork

35

2

Donegal

15

0

Dublin

25

0

Galway

33

0

Kerry

18

0

Kildare

2

5

Kilkenny

6

10

Laois

4

0

Leitrim

7

0

Limerick

0

8

Longford

3

0

Louth

0

0

Mayo

0

0

Meath

0

0

Monaghan

1

0

Offaly

7

0

Roscommon

5

0

Sligo

10

0

Tipperary

24

0

Waterford

6

0

Westmeath

3

0

Wexford

0

0

Wicklow

13

0

Total

224

25

(*as of 30/01/2014)