A key objective of the transfer of the Community Welfare Service (CWS) from the Health Service Executive to the Department on 1st 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. Overall, this has resulted 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. 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 including increased frequency of clinics and improved phone services. 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. Feedback from the community welfare service staff and interaction with customers in relation to the restructured service is positive and the service is providing benefits to customers including the removal of unnecessary travel to clinics through greater use of the phone system, meetings by appointment which has improved queuing times and increased availability of officers in particular locations to process and investigate applications.
The Department continuously reviews all areas of its business, to ensure that the best use is made of 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.