Functions of Educational Welfare Officers under the Education (Welfare) Act, 2000
Educational Welfare Officers (EWOs) are employed throughout the country to offer advice, support and guidance to parents who need support in ensuring that their child attends schools regularly.
In schools participating in the Department of Education and Skill’s DEIS initiative (Delivering Equality Of Opportunity In Schools), EWOs also work closely with two other school support services under the remit of the Educational Welfare Services of Child and Family Agency, namely the Home School Community Liaison Scheme (HSCL) and the School Completion Programme (SCP) to secure better educational outcomes for children and young people
If a school contacts an EWO with concerns in relation to a student’s school attendance, the EWO will talk to the school principal or designated school staff member and find out what efforts have been made to date to help the child. The EWO may then decide to contact the family and meet with them. Home visits are an essential part of an EWO’s work and the first meeting with an EWO very often opens up a pathway of solutions for a child and family in need. Once underlying problems or issues are identified, the EWO can then seek to address the family’s unique set of circumstances in conjunction with school staff and other local support services as necessary.
Protecting a child’s right to education
The main work of an Educational Welfare Officer (EWO) is around the welfare of the child and the family and on ensuring that concerns and problems are dealt with before school attendance becomes a crisis issue.
However, if a parent fails in his or her duty to ensure that their child attends school, then the EWO has the power to take legal action against the parent under the Education (Welfare) Act, 2000.
Taking legal action against a parent or guardian is a very serious matter. It is an action of last resort when all other offers of support have failed and the parent has refused to co-operate with the EWO.
Imposing a sanction on parents or guardians for non-attendance is the responsibility of the local District court in each case having heard all the evidence including that of the EWO and the parent/guardian. The law provides that upon conviction either a fine or up to one month's imprisonment, or both, be imposed.
Parents and schools can contact the EWOs directly if they have a concern about a child’s education here.