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 within Western Care Association.  The service is based in Castlebar town and immediate area, and in recent times has developed supports for individuals in Westport town.  The service was initiated in 2001 when the Social Work Department recognised that there were a large number of people with intellectual disabilities who were living and working and striving for independence in the Castlebar town area.  Many of these individuals had found themselves in vulnerable situations where they required a particular discreet support and at that time had nowhere to turn.  In 2001, the Community Facilitation service was set up to support 14 individuals; this has now developed into a more comprehensive service while maintaining its discretion, supporting up to 60 individuals.

Community Facilitation offers;

  • A confidential person centered service.
  • A positive, original, innovative and individualised service which strives to meet the needs of each person.
  • Discreet supports to adults with intellectual disabilities living independently in the community and also support to individuals who are moving towards independent living.
  • Supports to individuals who work in the community, together with supporting individuals who are seeking employment.
  • Individuals an opportunity to address key areas of their lives, e.g., loneliness, isolation, poverty, relationships, sexuality, personal safety, rights, social inclusion, housing and health.
  • An inclusive and fresh approach to opportunities that are an essential aspect of the service mission, to deliver a holistic and meaningful intervention.
Key Areas of Support
Health and Wellbeing
  • Encourage and support individuals to live and maintain a healthy lifestyle by providing information and evidence-based research to enable people to make informed decisions, based on their individual needs.
  • Support and facilitate individuals to attend medical, dental and other personal appointments as needed to support a fulfilling life.
  • Support and guidance where necessary in the process of applying for Medical Cards/GP Visitors cards and other entitlements.
  • Support, liaise and work in partnership with the Adult Mental Health Team to address health concerns that may arise for individuals given their chosen lifestyles.
  • Explore with individuals how best to facilitate their needs in order for them to attain a healthy lifestyle from a holistic approach, e.g., healthy diet, good mental health, sexual health and healthy relationships and general well-being.
Housing and Finance
  • Work closely with Mayo County Council and private Landlords in obtaining secure, affordable quality accommodation for individuals, their partners and/or children.
  • Support and facilitate individuals to apply and attend meetings for the necessary social housing benefits e.g., House Assistance Payment (HAP), Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS), Rental Allowance and Council Housing.
  • Support and Apply for entitlements for each individual, e.g. Household Benefits Package, Fuel Allowance, Living Alone Allowance etc.
  • Facilitate individuals to maintain independent living by addressing areas of concern and putting supports in place to assist with same, e.g. Personal Assistant, Volunteers and/or Home Help hours.
  • Support and facilitate individuals to live within their means e.g. budget to pay bills, food expenses etc., and contact Money Advice Budgeting Service (MABS) as needed.
  • Support and encourage individuals to strive toward and attain the highest level within their capacity from an educational and/or employment perspective.
  • Liaise with and facilitate individuals to attend meetings and educational institutions and support them to decide on programmes that best suit their needs and ability.
  • Research and provide the necessary information to individuals around community run courses/activities that may be of interest to them e.g. Le Cheile, Family Centre, Recovery College etc.
  • Liaise with Employability West to register and seek advice around employment needs and support for individuals.
  • Support individuals in putting together Curriculum Vitae.
  • Facilitate individuals to attain voluntary employment that may enable them to gain experience to move towards permanent employment.
Safety (Safeguarding and Self-Guarding)
  • Encourage and support individuals to keep safe, using a holistic approach, e.g. safety in the home, road safety, personal safety, sexual safety etc.
  • Arrange and facilitate informational talks and/or attend same at external agencies around keeping safe.
  • Liaise with the local Gardaí to raise awareness around vulnerable adults in the community and how best to address safeguarding.
The Community Facilitation Service provides a safe place for individuals to share their worries, concerns and future plans.  Its focus is also on helping individuals celebrate and internalise good things that are happening in their lives.  To address issues such as loneliness and lack of interpersonal contact, the Community Facilitation service operates a Drop-In system on a fortnightly basis as a support and an opportunity to facilitate attending events and out of town initiatives, widening and supporting people's general interests.

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.