In February 2006 as part of its reform of the Health Sector, the Government decided to transfer certain functions from the Health Service Executive to my Department. Administration of the supplementary welfare allowance (SWA) scheme, as well as certain other functions, will be transferred to my Department. The SWA scheme is currently administered by some 700 Community Welfare Officers (CWOs), 59 superintendents and other staff within the Community Welfare Service of the HSE. The transfer of functions will not change the role of the CWOs who will remain community based and, in addition to providing financial supports to individuals, will continue to provide key information, advice, advocacy and referral links between agencies.
The implementation of the programme will be carefully managed to ensure that continuity of the SWA scheme and related services is maintained. Community Welfare Officers and other staff in the Community Welfare Service will be integrated into my Department in a way that will allow sufficient time for consultation and negotiations to take place.
My Department is engaged in a programme of modernisation of services to enhance customer service, provide greater choice in payment types and improve overall control of social welfare payments. I am satisfied that the transfer of administration of the SWA scheme offers both a challenge and an opportunity for all staff within the Community Welfare Service and my own Department to contribute to this programme and to develop a model system for supporting those most disadvantaged in society.