Social Services in Ireland

Education (Primary and Secondary Education)

Education in Ireland is compulsory from age 6 to 16 or until students have completed three years of second level education. The primary education sector serves some 506,000 pupils. there are over 3,200 schools at first-level.

The second-level sector comprises secondary, vocational, community and comprehensive schools. There are over 350,000 students in this sector attending over 750 schools.

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Third-level Education

The third-level education sector consists of universities, institutes of technology colleges and colleges of education. All of these are substantially funded by the state and are autonomous and selfgoverning.In recent years, several independent private colleges have opened offering mainly business-related courses.

There are more than 140,000 students in full time third-level education. Almost half of Ireland’s young people proceed from second to third level and some 50 per cent of these take degree level programmes. 

Department of Education and Skills
Higher Education Authority

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Health Services

Public expenditure on health accounts for approximately one quarter of Government current spending. The expenditure is allocated to hospitals, community health services, community welfare services, community protection services, psychiatric services and services for those with disabilities.

The health services in Ireland are centrally directed by the Department of Health and Children. The provision of services is the responsibility of the Health service executive (HSE). Those with low incomes receive medical services free of charge. The rest of the population can avail of the public hospital services at a relatively low charge.

Patients in public hospitals may opt to be treated privately. There are a number of private hospitals, some 14 per cent of the total, which essentially serve private patients.

Department of Health and Children
Health Service Executive (HSE)

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Social Welfare

The social Welfare system covers all of the internationally recognised forms of social protection. Incorporating a mix of both social insurance and social assistance programmes, it provides financial support to people such as the unemployed, the elderly and those suffering from illness.

Other features of the system include supports for people seeking employment, in-work benefits and family support for people at work on low pay, free or reduced-cost dental and optical care, and a range of secondary benefits such as free travel for pensioners and financial support towards the cost of fuel, TV licences and telephone rental charges.

Spending on social welfare accounts for approximately one quarter of gross current  Government expenditure and provides benefits to more than 1.5 million people.

Department of Social Protection 

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Contact Details

Consulate General of Ireland,
100 Pine Street,
Suite 3350,
San Francisco,
CA 94111
Tel: +415 392 4214
Fax: +415 392 0885
Public opening hours:
Monday to Friday 9:00am to 12:00pm.

Pacific Standard Time.