Tuesday, 30 November 2010
Department of Social and Family Affairs
Question 229: To ask the Minister for Social Protection his plans to assume responsibility for community welfare officers who are currently treated as employees of the Health Service Executive; if he will identify the relevant legislation governing this change; the policy reasons justifying this change; his plans to assume ownership of the buildings and centres belonging to the HSE from which community welfare officers currently operate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45026/10]
The Government decided in February 2006 to transfer the Community Welfare Service of the HSE, which currently administers the Supplementary Welfare Allowance on behalf of the Department. This initiative had been mooted several times in the past including the Report of the Commission on Social Welfare in 1986, The Report on the Commission on the Status of People with Disabilities 1996 and The Commission on Financial Management and Control Systems in the Health Service 2003.
Since 2006, the HSE has been in negotiations with unions representing the Community Welfare Officers (CWOs) on the detailed implications of the transfer including terms and conditions of employment. Recently, during talks under the auspices of the Labour Relations Commission, the Unions agreed to put a management offer to their members. This offer provides for the transfer of the full cohort of staff of the Community Welfare Service to the Department of Social Protection with effect from 1 January 2011 on a secondment basis initially, for a period of 9 months until September 2011. During this period of secondment staff will remain employees of the HSE and as such, will retain their existing terms and conditions, and will be represented by SIPTU and IMPACT. The Unions and management side are committed to working together to resolve the outstanding industrial relations issues and ensure these dates are met, using the existing process under the auspices of the LRC.
Legislation to enable the Department to administer the Supplementary Welfare Allowance scheme directly was introduced in the Social Welfare and Pensions Acts 2007 and 2008. This legislation is subject to a Commencement Order. Legislation will be required also to provide for the transfer of Community Welfare Service staff, as civil servants, to the Department and, where relevant, of buildings to the Commissioners of Public Works. The necessary legislation to give effect to this is being expedited.
The policy reason for the transfer is to enhance the quality of services provided to the public. The Department of Social Protection is committed to developing and implementing a case management approach with a focus on the individual, and the development of a tailored plan for each person. Such an approach produces better outcomes than the traditional transaction focused delivery of scheme services.
The Department of Social Protection vision is one in which skilled and knowledgeable case managers will work with individuals in need, to ensure that they not only receive the appropriate income supports but are also helped to find a way in which they can participate to the fullest extent possible in the community, economy and workforce. The transfer of the Community Welfare Service to the Department of Social Protection will strengthen the Department's capacity in that regard and facilitate the achievement of that vision.