Social Welfare Services yesterday came under heavy fire for allegedly failing to help a 40-year-old single mother with a severe medical condition who died in appalling squalor in her Larnaca flat this week.
Minister of Labour Zeta Emilianidou confirmed yesterday that an investigation has been launched to determine whether state services failed to intervene in order to protect the Romanian victim and her five-year-old son.
"We are waiting to find out if there was a system failure before we take measures that will ensure such a tragic incident does not occur again."
Firemen found the woman's body in the bedroom of her third-floor flat in Markos Drakos street on Thursday morning.
The authorities were alerted after neighbours found her five-year-old son wandering the halls of the block calling for help.
Within an hour photographs of the squalid flat the mother and child had been living in went viral with medical experts agreeing the conditions were so deplorable their health would have been at serious risk. Speaking to the media, Head of the Social Welfare Services Toulla Kouloumou confirmed she is currently in contact with the social workers in charge of the case to determine if it was handled correctly.
"I have requested a detailed explanation of the course of events which will reveal whether procedure was followed as it should have been."
According to Kouloumou, the victim first requested help from the Welfare Services in 2010. She also began to receive benefits from the state during this year until they were cut off in December 2013.
"She was offered two days work per week at an agricultural unit but turned down the employment which led to the termination of her benefits as required by law."
Kouloumou said that a social worker who last visited the victim's flat in mid 2013 deemed the living conditions "adequate".
"In 2010 she was active and would regularly visit the Labour Department where she was registered as unemployed," said Kouloumou. "She would always respond to calls from the Welfare Services and her child was registered at a nursery."
However, once the benefits were cut off the victim was not seen again by a social worker despite several visits to her flat.
"One of our workers visited the flat last year and left note on the door after there was no answer."
Commenting on the victim's child, Kouloumou confirmed the boy is safe, under constant supervision and in good health.
"We are currently trying to establish if the child has any other relatives before we decide on how to proceed with the case."
In an announcement yesterday, Disy vice president Stella Kyriakidou said her party was deeply saddened by the tragic death of the 40-year-old woman and questioned how she could have passed away in such squalid conditions while supposedly under the watch of the state services.
"This case was well known to the Welfare Services which begs serious questions over how they operate. We are waiting for these questions to be answered during the course of the investigation ordered by the Minister of Labour."
An autopsy conducted by state Pathologists Nicholas Charalambous and Sophocles Sophoclerous concluded the victim died of a serious infection called peritonitis which resulted from a stomach perforation.
The pathologists noted that the woman's lifestyle was likely a contributing factor to the condition which caused her death. Authorities confirmed yesterday that the victim has a second son - a 23-year-old who is currently serving time at Nicosia prison for burglary.