Wednesday, 21 September 2022
Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection
Community Welfare Services
87. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if her attention has been drawn to the additional workload that community welfare officers are facing due to the huge demand for the additional needs payment; if additional staff will be recruited to help with the backlog; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [46157/22]
The delivery of crucial community welfare services to meet the challenges and the needs of citizens across the country remains a priority for me and my Department. It is important that the Community Welfare Service (CWS) remains an accessible, flexible, and responsive service to meet the varied needs of vulnerable people, particularly in a time of crisis or emergency.
The Department has maintained staffing levels in the CWS nationwide in recent years during times when demands decreased, reflective of the commitment to continue to support the delivery of locally based services to customers.
In addition, there has been a number of innovations this year to increase efficiency in processing applications for SWA payments. One of these is the establishment of a back-office team to undertake the preparatory work on applications - for example, the gathering of supporting documentation that is necessary to assess and finalise a claim.
This method of processing applications supports a number of CWS areas across the country and it has been found to be very effective in releasing Community Welfare Officers (CWOs) from the requirement to undertake administrative tasks and to focus on delivery of services. It allows increased capacity for CWOs to meet with people as required and to process claims. This model will be extended to cover all CWS areas across the country in the coming weeks.
In addition, a new National CWS Claims Decisions Team is being established this month to work on finalising SWA applications. The focus of this team initially will be on claims for Additional Needs Payments. Where claims require further contact with the person or a home visit is required, the claim will remain with the local CWO to be finalised. This Claims Decisions Team is based in multiple locations around the country.
While changes to modernise and improve the service for customers are a feature of the service, it is important to remember that continued in-person engagement remains a pivotal feature within the community welfare service. The delivery of a locally based CWS remains a cornerstone of the service.
I trust this clarifies the matter.