Rural east Tipperary has been hit hard by the downgrading of Community Welfare Offices (CWO), according to a local County Councillor.
Community Welfare Services are provided by Community Welfare Officers (CWOs).
The types of payments made under this scheme include: weekly Supplementary Welfare Allowance, Rent Supplement, Mortgage Interest Supplement, Diet and Heating Supplements, Back to School Clothing and Footwear Scheme and exceptional needs payments for items such as buggies, clothing, and funeral costs.
Cllr Imelda Goldsboro (FF) said the CWO in Mullinahone has been reduced to one day a week, (strictly for payments only), a CWO in Fethard is suspended until further notice, and offices in Ballingarry, Ballysloe and Ballingarry have been closed in the last year.
“Now people have to travel all the way to Clonmel if they want to speak with their community welfare officer,” said Cllr Goldsboro. There is no public transport connecting the affected areas with Clonmel, while a one-way taxi ride can cost up to €30 from Ballingarry.
Cllr Goldsboro is calling on the Dept. of Social Protection to re-instate the services.
“They’re taking away these services, without having discussed it with anybody. Nobody knew of this move until they went to the offices and saw the sign up on the door. I would like to know how management came to this decision without discussing it with the public, because there are a lot of people quite angry right now.” Some people are having to car-pool due to their financial circumstances. The cuts will hit people across all rural villages in east Tipperary.
With no extra staff on the phones, customers will only get an answering machine service when they inquire for help.
“I can anticipate the backlogs, and application process will be very long,” added Cllr Goldsboro.