Historical Background

Historical background

The period from the mid-1940s until the Independence of the Republic of Cyprus (1960), witnessed the gradual establishment of a Social Service, whose main objective was to provide services to disadvantaged families, children, the elderly, young offenders and in general vulnerable groups of people. The establishment of such a Service, which would promote the organisation, advancement, and provision of social welfare services, was considered a novel idea at the time.

The Social Welfare Services, as they are known today, were established in 1952 and initially consisted of a small team of 5 Probation Officers, appointed in the mid-40s to supervise juvenile offenders and to oversee the operation of the Lambousa Reform School.

Essentially, the need to create a Social Service was triggered by the problem concerning the handling and provision of care for certain children who were deprived of a normal family life and who were often led to an anti-social behaviour and ended up at the Lambousa Reform School or became victims of exploitation and maltreatment.

The approval granted in 1951 for the expansion of the programme of guardianship to adult offenders, as well as the implementation of the programme of post-institutional care for released convicts aiming at their social rehabilitation, resulted in a significant expansion of the Services in personnel, and the Social Services permanent recognition as a state agency for the provision of social services.

The financial assistance scheme introduced in 1953 which was established to combat extreme forms of poverty, was the first demonstration of government concern towards the public. It also formed the basis for the development of programmes to provide services to the elderly, the disabled, single mothers and families, where either the breadwinner of the family had passed away or was unable to work.

Further expansion of the Services was accomplished when the Adoption Law of 1954 and the Children Law of 1956 were passed, which conferred legal responsibility to the Director of Social Welfare Services to handle the issue of the care and responsibility of deprived children and to establish Children's Homes, Hostels and other Institutions.

By 1956 the Services had been so well established to a point that a Welfare Officer was posted at a Bureau set up in London, to act as a liaison officer between Cypriot migrants? and the social welfare services.

Since 1960, the SWS, within the context of the general policy of the newly established Republic of Cyprus, developed close relations with international organisations and European agencies, such as the United Nations, the Council of Europe and the International Social Service.

Over the 1962 – 1972 period, the Social Welfare Services put greater emphasis on the creation of programmes which would meet the needs of pre-school children and the elderly. Meanwhile a Community Work and Youth Services Programme was introduced in 1968, their aim being to improve the organising of Communities and Voluntary Organisations, as a means of contributing to social development. The youth services programmes which had been established previously, operated until 1989, when they were transferred to the then newly established Central Youth Agency.

During the 1972 – 1974 period, the Social Welfare Services paid special attention on research and programme evaluation in order to better plan family and child services. At the same time, emphasis was placed on upgrading institutional care and day care programmes.

The military coup and the Turkish invasion of 1974, followed by the tragic consequences to both the economic and social life of the country, marked the post-Independence progress and development of the Services. It further called for a readjustment of the policy and the objectives of all existing programmes, shifting the emphasis from social development to social reconstruction.

The need to address the problems caused by the invasion and the displacement of thousands of people from their homes, contributed to the sharp and rapid expansion of the Social Welfare Services, being the key agency for the promotion of social cohesion and management of social institutions.

The Social Welfare Services played a leading role in the struggle to provide care and housing for the displaced, to alleviate immense hardship to the masses of refugees who fled from their homes, to combat unemployment, reconstruct communities and work towards the recovery of the economy. Prompt and prudent decisions and adjustments to the traditional methods and practices, contributed to the effective handling of the unprecedented and turbulent conditions prevailing at the time.

The fast moving socioeconomic developments which have marked our country in recent years created new and complex social challenges, which the Social Welfare Services are called upon to address, to the extent that the available means and resources permit it.

Currently, the programmes / competencies of the Social Welfare Services fall under four separate Sectors (Sectors A, B, C and D) of the Central Welfare Offices.

Frontline services to the public are provided by the five District Welfare Offices, namely those of Lefkosia, Lemesos, Larnaka, Pafos and Ammochostos. The responsibilities of the District Welfare Offices of Lefkosia, Lemesos and Larnaka are separate and provide services through a total of nine Local Offices. District Offices also run specialised Units which handle issues concerning adoptions, parental responsibility and children in care, foster care and State Institutions.

Existing Organisational Structure of the Social Welfare Services

The aggravation of the social problems in recent years prompted the Ministry of Labour and Social Insurance, in collaboration with the Social Welfare Services, to draw up the "Social Welfare Services Restructuring Plan". The framework for the restructuring of the Social Welfare Services is posted on the home page of the Ministry of Labour and Social Insurance website as well as on the website of the Deputy Ministry of Social Welfare.


The most significant milestones in the history of Social Services and Social Welfare Services in Cyprus are the following:

A group of progressives and visionaries create the core of probation officers, the initial goal being that of supervising juvenile offenders and supervising the operation of the Lambousa Reform School. Gradually the programme was expanded to include adult offenders and also the care of convicts after their release from prison.

Introduction of the provision of government financial assistance to combat poverty. This was the first organised state provision for citizens and formed the basis for the expansion of services to the elderly, people with disabilities, single mothers and orphaned children.

1954 – 1956:
Passing of the Adoption Law and the Children Law and establishment of the first children's shelter and the first hostels.

A welfare Officer is posted in London to act as a liaison officer between Cypriot migrants? and state social services.

Establishment of the Republic of Cyprus

The Social Welfare Services begin to develop close relationships with international Organisations and with European agencies such as the United Nations, the Council of Europe and the International Social Service.

Upgrading of institutional care programmes and day care programmes.

Turkish invasion of Cyprus.

Readjustment of the existing social policy and the objectives of all the programmes provided. The emphasis shifted from social development to social reconstruction. The urgent need to deal with the problems caused by the invasion and the displacement of people, led the Social Welfare Services, being the main agency for promoting social cohesion and managing social institutions, to a sharp and rapid expansion. The struggle for providing care and housing for the displaced, relief of the hardship caused by the invasion to large numbers of people, establishment of hospitality hostels and student boarding schools for children and the reconstruction of society at all levels was the main concern of the SWS.

Operation of the “Nea Eleousa” Home as a 24 –hour care Institution for Persons with Disabilities which later was named “Centre for the Provision of Services to Persons with Multiple Disabilities”.

The SWS were assigned with the responsibility for intercountry adoptions effected under the Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (Ratification) Law of 1994.

Establishment of the Central Committee to monitor the Convention on the Rights of the Child, consisting of representatives of government agencies and non-governmental organisations.

Establishment of the Coordinating Body for Older People.

Participation in the Advisory Committee for the Prevention and Combating of Violence in the Family.

Revision of the Violence in the Family Law, under which Social Workers are empowered to act as Family Counsellors.

Introduction of a new computerised system, which provides facilities for efficient processing of work at all levels and better management of the services provided.

Introduction of the "Interdepartmental Procedures Manual for Handling Incidents of Domestic Violence" which was prepared by the Advisory Committee for the Prevention and Combating of Violence in the Family.

2006 - 2014:
Adoption of the Law on Public Aid and Services regarding financial support to financially vulnerable population groups. The Legislation was repealed in 2014 following the adoption the Law providing for the Guaranteed Minimum Income according to which a Welfare Benefit Administration Service was created, whose competence is the implementation of the Provisions of the relevant Legislation.

Amendment of state funding schemes in order to harmonise the same with the provisions of the European Commission regarding non-profit organizations.

Provision of material reception conditions to applicants for international protection.

Launching the operation of the Children's Home. Its management and operation have been assigned to the "Hope For Children" CRC Policy Center by the Ministry of Labour and Social Insurance, while the overall supervision and inspection of its programmes falls under the responsibility of the Social Welfare Services, which provide funding through the State Aid Scheme of the Deputy Ministry of Social Welfare.

The "Social Welfare Services Restructuring Plan" is formulated. The aim is to upgrade the role and mission of the Services, so that they can respond to social developments and trends, and to provide to the citizens more effective services.

Pilot operation of the Home for Women, as an interdisciplinary Centre, for the protection and provision of specialised support to victims of domestic violence and their families.

The Social Welfare Services, based on the Law providing for the establishment of the Deputy Ministry of Social Welfare (L. 89(I)/2021), were transferred from the Ministry of Labour and Social Insurance to the Deputy Ministry of Social Welfare and ever since they constitute a Department of the Deputy Ministry.

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