The period between the mid 1940’s up until the Independence of the Republic of Cyprus in 1960, was the age of a gradual formation of a Social Service Department. The main goal of this Department was the provision of social services to needy families, children, the elderly, offenders, and generally to the vulnerable groups of the population. The creation of such a Department, that would promote the organization, advancement and provision of social welfare services, was considered as a novel idea for the time.
The Social Welfare Services, as they are known today, were established in 1952 and were originally consisted of a small group of 5 Probation Officers. These Officers were appointed in the mid 1940’s to keep an eye on minor offenders and supervise the function of the Lampousa’s Reform School.
Basically, the need for creating a Social Service came from the lack of caring and nursing for children who were deprived of a normal family life. Those kids were often lead to antisocial behavior and most of them would end up at Lampousa’s Reform School or would become victims of exploitation and maltreatment.
The approval granted in 1951 for expanding the program of supervision towards adult offenders, as well as the implementation of the program for post-institutional care of ex-convicts for their social inclusion, had as a result the significant increase of the SWS in personnel and the permanent recognition of the Services as a governmental body for providing social services.
The scheme for providing financial assistance that was introduced in 1953 to help fight the worst forms of poverty was the first exhibition of state-care towards the public. This scheme was the base for implementing programs that would aim to help the elderly, the disabled, single mothers and families who needed financial support. A further expansion of the Services came with the passage of the Adoption Law of 1954 and the Children’s Law in 1956, which gave legal responsibility to the Director of the SWS in order to deal with the problem of caring and nursing for children who were deprived of protection and to establish Children’s Houses, Hostels and other Institutions.
Up until 1956, the SWS were so well established, that a Welfare Officer was appointed at an office in London, to become the link between Cypriot immigrants and the local welfare services.
Since 1960, the SWS, within the frame of the wider policies of the new-formed Republic of Cyprus, have created bonds with international organizations and bodies, such as the United Nations, the European Council and the International Social Service.
During the 1962-1972 period, the SWS paid greater attention to the establishment of programs for covering the needs of pre-school aged children and the elderly. Meanwhile the program of Community Work and Youth Services was introduced in 1968, with the purpose of improving the organization of Communities and Voluntary Organizations, so that they can contribute in social evolution. The programs created to assist the youth were run until 1989, at which point they were assigned to the new-formed Central Youth Body.
A greater emphasis towards research and program evaluation was given during the 1972-1974 period, so that the services provided for children and families are upgraded. At the same time, the SWS were aiming to upgrade Institutional Care and Day Care programs.
The military coup and the Turkish invasion of 1974 followed by the tragic events in the socio-economic life in Cyprus scarred the post-Independence progressive growth of the SWS. These events called for a change in the policy and targets of all offered services, carrying the attention from social development to social restructure. The problems caused by the invasion and the relocation of refugees lead to a sudden exponential growth of the SWS as the need to address such problems was of primary nature.
The SWS played a significant role in the struggle for nursing and housing refugees, fighting unemployment, reorganizing communities and the resurging of the economy. The implementation of fast and practical maneuvers and readjustments to traditional methods and practices, contributed towards the effective confrontation of such unprecedented and unsettled events.
The radical socio-economic advancements of the last years in Cyprus have lead to novel and perplexed societal challenges; challenges which the SWS are called to face in the degree permitted by the economic and other capabilities of the State.
The SWS operate today the following four departments under which a variety of programs are run:
- Staff Development and State Institutions
- Public Assistance, the Elderly and the Disabled
- Community Work
- Families and Children
First line services towards the public are offered by the five Regional Welfare Offices, those of Nicosia, Limassol, Larnaca, Paphos, Famagusta and 9 local offices in Nicosia, Limassol and Larnaca.