SWI - Code of Practice For Social Welfare Inspectors

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1.1 When visiting a customer or interviewing at a departmental office the Inspector, appointed under Section 250 of the Social Welfare (Consolidated) Act 2005, should identify himself/herself by name before the interview commences.

1.2 The Inspector's Certificate of appointment should always be carried and produced to all persons being visited outside Departmental offices.

1.3 The purpose and intent of the Inspector's interview/visit should be made clear at all times.

1.4 Customers should be clearly advised of the purpose of documents they are asked to sign such as declarations on claim forms, authorisations for banks etc.

1.5 Inspectors should ensure that customers are aware of their obligations to fully disclose their circumstances when making a claim and to notify subsequent changes which might affect payment.


2.1 All customers are to be treated equally, fairly and with respect.

2.2 The Inspector should bear in mind any special circumstances of the customer e.g. advancing age, recent widowhood, desertion etc. and conduct the interview with tact, sympathy and empathy.

2.3 Apart from the initial introduction and exchange of pleasantries that an Inspector might use to establish a rapport with a customer all questions asked should be relevant to the case on hands. Personal questions outside of this, to which a customer might reasonably take exception, should not be asked.

2.4 Polite language should be used at all times and even if a customer uses abusive or aggressive language the Inspector will be expected to be restrained and disciplined. All cases where a customer has been seriously abusive/ threatening should be reported to a superior officer and the Gardai.

2.5 The use of the Inspector's powers to enter premises for the purpose of enforcement of the Social Welfare Acts should be exercised with discretion and courtesy and at reasonable times.

2.6 Inspectors should maintain a comfortable distance from a customer. While body contact, other than a handshake should be avoided, Inspectors may find it necessary on occasion to offer assistance to an elderly or infirm person.


3.1 Written communication with customers and enquiries to third parties, should be on headed notepaper or on form IN 74, showing clearly the address and telephone number of the issuing office, the issuing date, a reference identifier and the name of the person issuing the letter clearly printed thereon.

3.2 All correspondence should use language capable of being understood by members of the public and the use of official jargon is to be avoided.

3.3 Customers should be addressed formally in written communications e.g. Dear Mr/Ms as appropriate.

3.4 Inspectors should never communicate with the media in relation to their work without the express permission of their superior officer. If contacted by the media they should refer the enquirer to the Press Office.


4.1 Inspectors should ensure that files and documentation relating to customers are held in a safe place at all times.

4.2 When interviewing in a customer's home the Inspector should ensure that all those present during the interview are present with the customer's consent.

4.3 Inspectors, while in a customer's home, can, in certain circumstances, request permission to seek entry to other rooms.

4.4 In public offices interviewing should be conducted in private using interview rooms, where available, or the Inspector's own office (if others are not present) and never within earshot of other customers.

4.5 All correspondence with customers, including correspondence left at their homes by Inspectors, should be addressed in sealed envelopes.


5.1 Inspectors will be familiar with the two rules of natural justice which should be applied to their work procedures.

First Rule.

5.1.2 The first rule is that "no one shall be the judge in his own cause".

5.1.3 Inspectors should have no personal, financial or other interest in any case with which they are dealing. They should not investigate any claim from a relative or personal friend and if they receive any such claim alternative arrangements should be made for dealing with it.

5.1.4 Reports should never contain direct instructions to a deciding officer. For example, the expression "for disallowance please" should not be used as it could be construed as directing the deciding officer. The expression "for consideration of disallowance please" is acceptable.

Second Rule.

5.2 The second rule of natural justice is "Hear the other side".

5.2.1 All evidence which comes to light which would affect a customer's entitlement must be put before the customer so that s/he can rebut or explain it as the case may be.

5.2.2 Where evidence given by a customer is disproved by subsequent investigations, the further evidence must be presented to the customer and an opportunity for comment given.

5.2.3 Customers (or their legal representatives) may be entitled to see reports which are written about them. For this reason care should be taken to avoid making any derogatory references or comments about customers in reports. However, this does not preclude the Inspector from expressing an opinion.

5.2.4 Reports should not contain references to information provided by any persons who are unwilling to be quoted or unwilling to attend a hearing if summoned.

5.2.5 Pension books or other payment instruments should not be impounded during the course of an investigation where it appears to the Inspector that the payment is not properly due unless the customer agrees that the payment is not due.


6.1 If an Inspector is assaulted in the course of his/her official duties s/he should report the incident at the earliest opportunity to the local Gardai and give whatever statements or details they may require. The matter should also be reported to Head Office through local management. In addition, the results of the Garda investigation and any resultant court action should likewise be reported without delay.

6.2 If an Inspector anticipates the possibility of an assault or intimidation, perhaps due to a previous experience with a customer the matter should be discussed with a superior who may arrange for the Inspector to be accompanied by another Inspector or by a Garda. The Garda should of course remain a discreet distance from the interview and not overhear any confidential information.

6.3 The enforcement of compliance with Social Welfare law requires Inspectors to be firm and assertive. However experience and training should enable them to recognise potentially dangerous situations from which they should withdraw.

6.4 In the event of such a case being appealed, the Appeals Office should be advised of the circumstances giving concern for the safety of staff or witnesses. These concerns should be conveyed to the Deputy Chief Appeals Officer or the Manager of the Appeals Office. Under no circumstances should this information be put on the case file which will go before the Appeals Officer for determination as this could be regarded as prejudicial to the appellant.

NB. In the event of a threat / assault on staff, managers should be as supportive as possible and see to any follow-up that might be necessary in regard to medical attention or Employee Assistance Service back-up etc.


7.1 Speed of delivery of service to customers is a priority and Inspectors should organise their work to ensure that all claims are handled with speed and accuracy.

7.2 Requests for information should be confined to what a customer can reasonably be expected to obtain and a reasonable time should be allowed for this.

7.3 Inspectors should have a copy of the "GUIDE TO SOCIAL WELFARE SERVICES" ( SW 4 Booklet) available to them when on duty so that they will be able to answer basic questions from the public.

7.4 Inspectors should identify themselves to members of the public who phone them for any reason.

7.5 Every effort should be made to ensure that members of the public who require information will not be referred elsewhere. If it is necessary to direct a customer to another section of the Department s/he should be given the name and telephone number of the contact person.


8.1 Inspectors should bear in mind that, in the eyes of the public, they represent the Department and the Minister. Accordingly they should always dress neatly and appropriately while dealing with the public.

8.2 Good relationships should be maintained between Inspectors, indoor colleagues, subordinates and superior officers bearing in mind that team effort is more often required today to deal with the pace of change. 

Last modified:07/07/2010

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