Fianna Fáil TD for Offaly Barry Cowen has criticised the Government for further eroding community services in Offaly.
Deputy Cowen made the comments after receiving confirmation that Clara will no longer be served by a full time Community Welfare Officer.
Deputy Cowen commented, “I’ve been informed that the Department of Social Protection is set to cut back on services in Clara in the coming weeks. There are plans afoot to withdraw the fulltime Community Welfare Officer from the area.
“A Community Welfare Officer is the point of access for people needing assistance in dealing with social welfare issues, and now the Government is pushing ahead and withdrawing this vital support. They provide financial assistance as well as give information on entitlements and aiding people in filling out their application forms. Community Welfare Officers are also of vital importance for older people who do not have access to transport services.
“This cutback means that there will no longer be an emergency on-call service in Clara for people who need support. Communities in Clara, Ferbane, Pulagh, Ballycumber and Tubber are losing what is a vital support service. In excess of 6,000 people will be affected as a result of this latest cutback.
“This is just another example of the total disregard that Fine Gael and Labour have towards small towns and villages in rural Ireland. How can the Government expect private companies to continue providing a service in these when they themselves are closing Garda stations, boarding up Post Offices, cutting transport routes and now reducing community supports? The Government is setting the wrong example here.
“It’s disappointing to see that the Government representatives are allowing this cutback to take place. In April 2013 there were 11 Community Welfare Officers across Offaly. However following consistent cutbacks there are now only 6 remaining. When will Fine Gael and Labour stop their attack on our communities?” said Deputy Cowen.