Social Protection pulling more services from rural Ireland – Fitzmaurice

Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice has criticised the decision by the Department of Social Protection to close a number of community welfare offices across rural counties: “The Minister for Social Protection needs to intervene immediately to reverse the decision by her department to close community welfare offices in County Roscommon and indeed around the country.

“It has come to my attention that more services are being withdrawn from rural Ireland, with the Department of Social Protection deciding to stop providing Community Welfare Officer (CWO) meetings in the towns of Carrick on Shannon, Castlerea, Ballaghaderreen, Strokestown, and Elphin – just to name a few. CWOs used to meet clients face to face in these smaller towns, but this will no longer be the case.  This will cause a serious problem, particularly for older people or indeed anyone looking for this service. Locally, people who need these services will now have to go to Roscommon town where there will be two Community Welfare Officers on duty.

“The system that is being used from now on is that there will be a hub made available, not unlike the one in Tuam, that will be dealing with claims and problems from different parts of the country. The facility where Community Welfare Officers were attending in these other towns be it a day a week or two days a week, where people could meet an officer face to face and assess a situation will now not be available without adding extra expense to people. The whole thing is in chaos at the moment and claims are in complete disarray.

“Minister Humphreys talks about helping rural Ireland, yet this is another example of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael pulling services away from the most vulnerable people across rural parts of our country. I have given County Roscommon as the example but this is happening country-wide, and we are now losing more local services, leaving vulnerable people who could be in emergency situations with nowhere to turn. There are no facilities in these areas as they have all been pulled away.

“I am calling on the Minister to reverse this decision. Why change a system that worked and is working, to a system now that is in chaos at the moment?”, he concluded.