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EACEA National Policies Platform


4. Social Inclusion

4.6 Access to quality services

Last update: 28 November 2023
On this page
  1. Housing
  2. Social services
  3. Health care
  4. Financial services
  5. Quality assurance


According to the National Youth Council in Ireland (NYCI), many young people living in Ireland are either unable to afford to move out of home or struggle to access affordable housing. Youth homelessness is also an increasing issue as young people find it difficult to access affordable and quality housing in the private rented sector and/or the social housing sector.

Young people leaving care are at higher risk of social exclusion and homelessness. The Child and Family Agency (Tusla) provide assistance to young people up to the age of 21 who have been in care, or up to 23 years if they are completing an education course. Aftercare plans can include arrangements for accommodation.

Social services

Young people can access social services through local Social Welfare Offices. Information on social services can be accessed through local Citizens Information Centres. The Citizens Information website also provides comprehensive information on social services.

The Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) is a form of social housing support for people who have a long-term housing need. Recipients must qualify for social housing support to be eligible for HAP.


Health care

Ireland has a government funded public healthcare system called the Health Service Executive (HSE). A person living in Ireland for at least one year is considered by the HSE to be 'ordinarily resident' and is entitled to either full eligibility (Category 1) or limited eligibility (Category 2) for health services. 

People who have not been resident in Ireland for at least one year must satisfy the HSE that it is their intention to remain for a minimum of one year in order to be eligible for health services. Dependents of such individuals must also contact the HSE to confirm their eligibility. 


Category 1 - People with Medical Cards

Over 30% of people in Ireland have medical cards. Medical Cards allow people to get a wide range of health services and medicines free of charge.


Category 2 - People without Medical Cards

People without medical cards can still access a wide range of community and hospital health services, either free of charge or at reduced cost.

Further details on the HSE and medical cards are available in Chapter 7.


Financial services

The social welfare system in Ireland is divided into three main types of payments

  • Social insurance payments
  • Means-tested payments
  • Universal payments. 

The main target groups of social welfare payments are

  • One-parent families
  • Job-seekers
  • People with a disability
  • Carers. 

During Covid-19 a lot of young people received the ‘Pandemic Unemployment Payment’ (PUP) as discussed in Current Reforms and Debates and in the Employment Chapter.


Quality assurance

The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) is an independent authority that deals with quality assurance for people using health and social care services in Ireland.

HIQA’s role is to develop standards, inspect and review health and social care services and support informed decisions on how services are delivered. HIQA reports to the Minister for Health and engages with the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Affairs. 

HIQA inspects children and young people's services including:

  • The Child and Family Agency (Tusla)’s child protection and welfare services to measure their compliance with the National Standards for the Protection and Welfare of Children (2012)
  • The Child and Family Agency (Tusla) and private foster care services to measure their compliance with the National Standards for Foster Care (2003) and the regulations.
  • The Child and Family Agency (Tusla)’s statutory children’s residential centres to measure their compliance with the National Standards for Children’s Residential Centres (2018).
  • The Child and Family Agency (Tusla)’s special care units to ensure that services meet the requirements set out in the Health Act 2007, regulations and the national standards, in order to be registered to operate.
  • Oberstown Children Detention Campus to measure their compliance with the Standards and Criteria for Children Detention Schools (2008)
  • HIQA also inspects all of the above services for the implementation of Children First: National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children (2017).