The possibility of the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Scheme (BSCF) for Waterford being co-ordinated by Health Service Executive (HSE) officials based in Cork is unacceptable according to City Councillor Hilary Quinlan.
However, the HSE has rejected such a claim, and confidently stated that all 18,000 anticipated applications from the south east will be dealt with before the new school year commences.
The scheme, which is administered between June and September annually, is believed to be one of several pressing matters which Community Welfare Officers (CWOs) in Waterford are struggling to deal with.
“They’ve already got a massive workload and they’re doing their best to get through the backlog,” Cllr Quinlan told The Munster Express.
“So it’s important to state that this isn’t a case of the existing CWOs not being capable of dealing with all the applications coming their way.
“They simply don’t have the time to get through everything in the manner that they would like to and this is where the HSE should step in, take on some extra help, thereby easing the burden on the existing and already over-worked staff.”
According to information ascertained by Cllr Quinlan, a directive from HSE management has instructed its Waterford staff to address the BSCF applications by working overtime.
“In many cases, the CWOs are already working overtime, much of it unofficial, so what’s being expected of the staff in Waterford is grossly unfair,” he stated.
It’s also believed that management made it clear that should applications not be dealt with though such means that the Waterford BSCF could be dealt with externally – namely, through Cork.
“I think whoever is behind this has some bloody cheek,” said an angry Cllr Quinlan.
“It’s my understanding that additional resources have been made available to Community Welfare in Cork – which I don’t begrudge them in the slightest – I just want to know why is it when a similar level of demand exists in Waterford that we’re not being treated the same?”
The BSCF is designed to help parents with the cost of school clothing and footwear, a demographic that’s considerably expanded during the economic downturn.
In a statement to this newspaper, the HSE confirmed that a regional centre is currently working through applications received from Waterford, Kilkenny, South Tipperary, Wexford and Carlow. To date, 18,000 applications have been received with 6,000 of those processed as of Friday last (July 23rd).
“Whilst the HSE remains confident as to the timely processing of applications in the South East, there have been ongoing discussions with the relevant staff representatives regarding the resources available,” the statement continues.
“To ensure the Scheme is managed effectively and efficiently for those who require the allowance in advance of the school term in September, additional temporary community welfare officers (CWOs) and other temporary support staff (including temporary clerical officers) were recruited.”
Cllr Quinlan added: “I take exception to even the suggestion that this local scheme could be co-ordinated or administered anywhere other than in the very community which stands to benefit from it. What’s been done in terms of additional, albeit temporary recruitment in other areas serviced by the HSE should also be happening here in Waterford.”
The HSE’s dedicated BSCF phoneline to assist existing and potential applicants is 1890-300-654