THE CLOSURE of eight community welfare service clinics across the county this week has been described as “yet another major blow being inflicted by the Government into the heart of rural communities”.
As part of a review of all the services across its remit, the Department of Social Protection has taken the decision to close eight clinics in locations including Adare, Ballingarry, Fedamore, Croom, Bruff, Hospital, Bruree and Knocklong.
The clients who currently attend these clinics are to be facilitated at other clinics in Rosbrien, Newcastle West and Kilmallock.
“What we have is an agenda by the Government to withdraw essential services from our communities,” said Seamus Sheahan of Croom who is a Fianna Fail candidate in the upcoming local elections.
“Garda stations, small schools, Post Offices, transport services and now our community welfare clinics are all on the Government hit-list. It is simply not good enough that this is happening and I am now calling on the Government to reverse this anti-rural people agenda,” said Mr Sheahan.
The majority of the work carried out in community welfare clinics is by community welfare officers.
According to a spokesperson for the Department of Social Protection, there will be no job losses as a result of the closures with staff being relocated to other centres.
Community welfare service clinics process applications for supplementary welfare allowance which consists of basic supplementary welfare allowance, rent supplement, mortgage interest supplement and other supplements including diet supplement, heating supplement, travel supplement, exceptional needs payment and urgent needs payments.
“The clients who currently attend these clinics will be facilitated by attending another clinic,” explained the spokesperson for the Department of Social Protection.
“If a person is unable to travel to the new clinic, for example due to illness, a phone number will be provided for the client to contact the Community Welfare Service or, if required, a member of staff may arrange to visit the client’s home.”
Mr Sheahan meanwhile said that the net effect of removing the local provision of these services will be “to disadvantage vulnerable people, in particular the sick and the elderly”.
“People will be very angry when they hear of this latest decision. The financial saving to be accrued here is little or nothing yet the human cost to people will be enormous. It time for the Government to use a degree of common sense and make decisions with the public in mind.”