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Community Welfare Services

Community Welfare Services are provided by Community Welfare Officers (CWOs) who work for the Dept of Social Protection. Before 2011, this services was provided by the HSE.

The majority of the work carried out by Community Welfare Officers involves the administration of the Supplementary Welfare Allowance SchemeE.

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, funeral costs etc.

Community Welfare Officers hold a number or clinics per week usually in a health centre and an appointment is not necessary to call to your local community welfare officer.

As well as administering community welfare services, CWO’s will actively refer individuals to other state agencies and/or voluntary organisations if it is appropriate to their client's needs. For example, the CWO’s may refer you to the Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS) or the Department of Social Protection.

Some assessments may involve home visits to verify a person's place of residence for Rent Supplement purposes or simply to interview someone in surroundings that are more comfortable if he or she has special needs or is unable to visit the local health centre in person.


You will normally qualify for Supplementary Welfare Allowance if you satisfy the following conditions:

  • You are living in the state 
  • You satisfy the means test 
  • You have applied for any other benefit/allowance you may be entitled to
  • You satisfy the habitual residence test, except for the Exceptional Needs Payment.

As everyone’s individual circumstances differ it is best to contact the community welfare officer directly to discuss your particular situation.

If Supplementary Welfare Allowance is paid while you are waiting for a social welfare benefit, assistance or pension, the amount paid will be deducted from the arrears of your social welfare payment.


The basic Supplementary Welfare Allowance for weekly income payment is made up of a personal rate for the applicant and additional amounts for any adult dependant and/or child dependant(s).

How to apply

You should apply for Supplementary Welfare Allowance or advice on services in your area to your Community Welfare Officer at your local health centre as soon as the need arises.

Exceptional and Urgent Needs Payments

An Exceptional Needs Payment is a single payment to help meet an essential once-off exceptional expenditure, which a person could not reasonably be expected to meet out of their weekly income.

Examples might include payments made to assist costs in relation to funerals, or to assist payment with electricity or natural gas bill (only in exceptional circumstances).

An Urgent Needs Payment may be paid to people in emergency situations to help with the immediate cost of food and clothing in the case of a fire, flood or other disaster. You may be required to pay back all or part of what you receive, particularly if you have an insurance claim settled.

To apply for either type of needs payment you should call to your Community Welfare Officer at your local health centre.

You can get information on this and all other Social Welfare Services on the Internet at www.welfare.ie

You can get information booklets and application forms from your local Social Welfare Office, or by telephoning the Department’s LoCall Leaflet Request Line at 1890 20 23 25.

For further details, see the Supplementary Welfare Allowance leaflet (SW54), [link to http://www.welfare.ie/publications/sw54.pdf] which is also available from your local health centre.

HSE National Information Line, Monday to Saturday, 8am-8pm
Call Save: 1850 24 1850 Email: info@hse.ie

Citizen’s Information Centres, LoCall: 1890 777 121
Monday to Friday, 9am-9pm Website: www.citizensinformation.ie
Citizens Information provides comprehensive information on all aspects of Public Services and entitlements for citizens in Ireland and is based on a personal approach to the presentation and delivery of information on public services and the social and civil rights of everyone in Ireland. Citizens Information is also available by calling in person to a Citizens Information Centre near you. This is a free and confidential service.