Skerries Citizens Information Celebrating 40 years in the community
The Skerries Citizens Information Centre today celebrated 40 years providing a free, confidential and impartial information and assistance service to the people of Skerries on all their rights and entitlements. Volunteers, past and present, attended an open day at the centre to celebrate this milestone, as well as recognising the hard work and dedication of the first committee and its volunteers in establishing an essential service in the community.
The first Chairperson of the Skerries Citizens Information Centre was Mary (Maisie) Grimes, Vice-President was Carmel Boylan, Treasurer Helen Fullan and Honorary Secretary Frances (Fran) McDonough. The service was established with grant-aid at the time from the NSSB (National Social Services Board) as well as fundraising in the community through local events.
The first query dealt with in 1976 was in relation to a Medical Card, and 40 years later, the service is still dealing with Medical Card queries. Other queries dealt with in those early days include queries on tax, consumer right (hire purchase), PRSI records, delays with Social Welfare payments, free electricity allowance, social welfare entitlements, and quite a topical one, social housing needs and grants. Today the queries while similar in nature are more complex. In 1976 the centre dealt with a total of 250 queries.
In 2015, the centre dealt with 4,578 queries with 44% being related to social welfare, 12% being health (including medical cards), 11% travel and recreation and 8% being money and tax.
The centre has come a long way from those early days of paper based information and local fundraising. Now accessing information is at your fingertips via www.citizensinformation.ie and direct funding is provided by the Citizens Information Board on an annual basis.
“Although time has moved on, the service is still needed now more than ever” stated Andrew McCann, Development Manager of the Fingal Citizens Information Service. Andrew is also responsible for the Swords, Balbriggan and Malahide centres as well as the Skerries centre. “In the early days the centre dealt with simpler queries and application form requests. Now we deal with much more complex cases such as, social welfare eligibility and entitlements, social welfare appeals, working out your taxes, employment, family and consumer issues as well as many more complex queries which may need more direct intervention and advocacy. Our team is required to complete mandatory training to ensure they are knowledgeable and professional in their dealings with the public. Even in the age of technology and access to instant information, people still need to be heard, listened to, helped and guided with all life’s difficulties” he stated.
“I would like to take this opportunity to thank all volunteers, past and present, the founding committee, some of whom are with us today, and other team members, for developing, enhancing and growing this service to meet the needs of the people of Skerries” he stated.
The Skerries Citizens Information Centre is open Monday to Friday from 9.30a.m. to 1p.m. & 2p.m. to 4.30p.m. and located at 13 New Street, Skerries, Tel: 0761 07 7500.
Pictured L-R: Andrew McCann, Development Manager, Brendan Ryan TD, Helen Fullam (founding member), Frances McDonagh (founding member) Cllr Tony Murphy (Deputy Mayor), Mary Conway (Skerries Community Association)