Social Work Department


Social Work is a confidential family-focused and person-centered service, available to children and adults with a learning disability and their families. The Social Work Department has its professional social workers based throughout Co. Mayo to offer a localised and easily accessible service. The social worker supports children, adults and families, concentrating on the challenges that arise for a person with a learning disability and /or autism and their families.

The needs of individuals and families are assessed in a supportive professional approach, addressing the concerns of the individuals with learning disabilities and their families at any given time. The service is delivered through the provision of a home-based approach or within Western Care Association offices.

The focus of the Social Work Department is to support and enable people to address difficulties as they arise.  This can be facilitated through the use of 1:1 counselling, family counselling, group counselling, group supports, networking, and other appropriate interventions as required.

The role of the Social Worker is to respond to the emerging needs of the individual and their family (where appropriate) in a planned co-ordinated approach, focusing on the particular areas of self esteem, self confidence, independence, individual rights and entitlements.

The Social Work Department operates as part of a community-based multi-disciplinary team put in place to support and respond to the needs of individuals with a learning disability and their families.
The Social Work Department also provide the following services;
Through discussions with the individual and their family, particular supports maybe required.  The Social Worker may be positioned to put in place supports to address these requirements for a defined period of time.

What is Home Sharing About?

Home Sharers provide a service in their community, to our service users, having been recruited, screened and trained to undertake the role of providing a break in their own home for a child/adult who has a learning disability for usually short periods of time. Homesharing provides opportunities for the child or adult to develop new relationships, participate more in their communities, and experience an increased sense of inclusion in their community and environment.

Who can apply?

Anyone over the age of 18 years, who is interested in becoming a Homesharer.

Are any qualifications needed?

No, academic qualifications are not a necessary part of any application.  Common sense, warmth, understanding, patience and flexibility are the qualifications necessary.  A training programme will be provided to applicants once the initial application process is completed.  Applicants are also asked to take part in an assessment and sign consent forms to allow us to process Garda Clearance, a HSE check, and two references, plus a reference from your G.P.

How long of a commitment am I expected to give?

Being a Homesharer is a very individual thing.  Home sharing schemes fit in with most individuals own lifestyle and commitments.  Homesharers themselves determine the level of availability they can provide.     

For example, one Homesharer may be in a position to offer a child or adult three weekend breaks a year, another might be available for occasional day or overnight stays, weekends monthly or indeed some Homesharers prefer a more regular and long term commitment, like every weekend, or Monday to Friday.  Some like to offer a week or two weeks holiday type break in summer.  

If at anytime Homesharers feel they are no longer in a position to provide a service, they can at any stage talk to a Social Worker about their changing circumstances and can agree a planned ending to their placement.  They will not be contacted about further placements unless they wish to remain on our panel for future reference.  

Homesharers do take breaks from offering placements and may decide to return to being available again at some later stage.  

Do I know who is coming to stay?  

Prior to placement, Homesharers are provided with a descriptive picture of the child or adult, they are considering having in their home, outlining their abilities and needs.  In all cases, the children or adults, are “matched” to a Homesharer they are going to stay with, bearing in mind your availability and level of commitment you are offering and their abilities.  This is to ensure, in so far as possible, the success of the placement.       

Introductions are made gradually between the Homesharer and the child/adult, through the Social Worker involved.   In preparation for placement a number of other visits will occur before the child or adult first stay on their own.  

What support do I get?        

Homesharers are provided with contact telephone numbers and details of back up supports which they can contact.  They also have ongoing contact with their Social Worker.  The child/adult’s parents also provide the Homesharer with relevant information and contact numbers.  

Why is there a need for Home Sharing?         

Irish Society is changing, family units are becoming smaller.  Increasing social mobility, can lead to people becoming isolated in their communities. Close, family networks, which used to be a greater source of support, may no longer be the norm for a lot of people.      

Service users have demonstrated to us that Homesharing is an option that they would like to consider and quite often prefer to avail of, as a first preference in service supports run by Western Care at the time.

Constant caring can be demanding and at times may become overwhelming.   The provision of Home Sharing has been found to reduce stress, strain and burnout in families, and so providing a valuable means of enhancing families’ coping resources.  As some families don’t have the option of help from family, neighbours or friends, it remains with the service providers to make available alternative forms of support.  

Why Home Sharing?       

Homesharers, create further opportunities for participation and inclusion for our service users in their communities.  The concept of “family/partner/individuals” based support not only provides support in the community but also support by the community.  It upholds the principle of social inclusion, which is the right of every individual.  It promotes choice for the individual service users as to who (s)he might like to live with and what social and leisure activities (s)he may want to get involved in.      

Homesharing takes account of service users, right to be treated with dignity and respect, their right to presence in ordinary places, their need for opportunity to develop a wide range of relationships. It supports their right to make choices about daily life and activities and follow their personal goals in life. Finally it recognises the need we all have, to have opportunities to develop new skills and abilities which will enable us to become more involved and contribute to our community.


The Community Facilitation Service is an integral part of the Social Work Department at Western Care Association.  The service which is exclusive to the Castlebar area came into operation in 2001.  It was identified that a number of people with intellectual disabilities were living & working independently in the community.  Some people found themselves in vulnerable situations where they required support but had no where to turn.  As a result of this need the Community Facilitation service was developed.

Community Facilitation offers;

  • A confidential person centered service.
  • It aims to provide support to adults with intellectual disabilities living independently in the community and also to support individuals who are moving towards independent living.
  • It provides supports to individuals who work in the community together with supporting individuals who are seeking employment.
  • It is a positive, original, innovative and individualised service which strives to meet the needs of each person.
  • It enables people to address key areas of their lives, e.g., loneliness, isolation, poverty, relationships, sexuality, personal safety, rights, social inclusion, housing and health.
  • Inclusion and new opportunities are an essential aspect of the service and are continually explored in new and exciting ways with people.
  • A number of workshops are delivered to meet the needs of people and include group work on self esteem, recognising stress, assertiveness, health & well being, relationships & sexuality.
  • It offers a women's and men's group where people can explore and talk about areas specific to men or women without feeling embarrassed especially around health and sexuality.

The Community Facilitation service has worked closely with Mayo County Council and Castlebar Town Council in obtaining secure, affordable quality accommodation for people.  This has culminated in the development of the first integrated housing project in County Mayo which has been very successful.  Working in partnership with these two bodies affords the community facilitation service the opportunity to put forward the housing needs of people availing of the service particularly if a person requires wheelchair accessible accommodation.  This insures that people’s individual needs are met.

The Drop In  

The Drop-in, as the name suggests, is a place for people to "drop in" and have a chat with the Community Facilitators.     People can share their good news and also seek support with anything that may be worrying them.  A wide variety of concerns are addressed, basically anything that the person identifies as a worry or an area to work on for themselves.

There are a number of activities organised by service users with the support of staff where necessary.  Some of the activities are based at the Drop-in but people are encouraged to use their community wherever possible. 

Activities can range from art, relaxation, music, cookery, bowling, concerts, drama and all these can be seen at a glance on the social events calendar.  The service users are responsible for the social events calendar which is prepared three months in advance.  They decide the activity, the date and organise any bookings that may need to be done.   This helps build people's self esteem and also offers the opportunity to acquire new skills around planning and organisation.  Shopping trips, weekends away, city breaks and sun holidays are all part and parcel of the drop-in activities with people having ventured to a variety of far off destinations. 

If you are interested in availing of the Community Facilitation service please contact Director of Services on (094) 9029100
or email

Click on this link "Community Facilitation Service" to view Information Leaflet.

The Social Work Department operates a Duty Social Work system between 9.30 am - 5.00 pm Monday to Friday at Western Care Association offices, Castlebar (094) 9025133.