Social Services

Education, Health Services and Social ProtectionThird-level Education
Health ServicesSocial Protection                           

Education, Health Services and Social Protection

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 550,000 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 715 schools.

Third-level Education

The third-level education sector consists of universities, institutes of technology and colleges of education. All of these are funded by the State and are autonomous and self-governing. There are also several independent private colleges have opened offering mainly business-related courses.

There are more than 180,000 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 (

Health Services

Public expenditure on health accounts for approximately (24%) 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. 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 and can choose to buy private health insurance.

The Department of Children and Youth Affairs deals with policy matters affecting early childhood care and education, youth justice, child welfare and protection.


Department of Health (
Department of Children and Youth Affairs (
Health Services Executive (

Social Protection

The Social Protection 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, and free medical care.


Department of Social Protection (