Issues with access to Community Welfare Officers highlighted

A local TD has hit out at the lack of availability of Community Welfare Officers across Co Cavan.

A reply to a parliamentary question from Fianna Fail Deputy Niamh Smyth revealed clinics are only held in Cavan town and Ballyconnell, the latter on an appointment basis only.

“The Community Welfare Officers provide supplementary welfare allowance to those who are eligible that attend their clinic. They also provide rent supplement assistance and the additional needs payment which help so many people financially”, said the Deputy.

She highlighted the lack of access presently across Co Cavan when compared with previous years.

“Cavan at present has a Community Welfare Officer in Cavan Town and Ballyconnell by appointment. The community welfare outreach clinics were once held in towns like Bailieborough and Cootehill and were vital in assisting people in their hour of need.”

Carmel Timmins from the Regional Management Team within the Department of Social Protection, confirmed the arrangements in Cavan.

“A CWO is available to meet with customers at the Intreo Centre in Cavan town during business hours from Monday to Friday and at the Ballyconnell Branch Office by appointment.”

However, she continues by saying an appointment is not needed to avail of the supplementary welfare allowance or rent supplement assistance.

In a letter responding to the query, she said a freephone helpline was launched earlier this summer to allow people access “assistance and support”.

“Since the phone line commenced operation, more and more people are availing of the opportunity to have their issues resolved by this method rather than by calling into an office.”

Arrangements can be made for a follow up meeting with a CWO if necessary.

The letter does show a striking difference in the availability of CWOs in Cavan compared with neighbouring County Monaghan.

Four offices in Monaghan, Carrickmacross, Monaghan town, Clones and Castleblayney, are open at various points throughout the week on a walk in basis.

In Meath, the Intreo centre in Navan is open Monday to Friday, with centres in Kells and Trim operating by appointment only. Other parts of Meath come under the remit of centres in surrounding counties.

The disparity has been highlighted by Deputy Smyth:

“Whereas in comparison with Monaghan the Community Welfare Officer continues to meet people in Carrickmacross, Monaghan Town, Clones and Castleblayney. While in Meath clinics are held in 14 locations operating for clinics.

“People deserve the same local service in Cavan. Many of the applicants in east Cavan have difficulty in getting to Cavan town to meet the local CWO. It’s 40-60 minutes away depending if you are travelling from Mullagh, Kingscourt or Bailieborough. The increased workload of the CWOs in Cavan dealing with the entire county is another factor that requires consideration.”