Submissions and Policy Recommendations 2011

Self-employed and Social Insurance

Publication Date: November 2011

The Citizens Information Board (CIB) welcomes the opportunity to make a submission to the Advisory Group on Tax and Social Welfare on the issue of providing social insurance cover for the self-employed. We will be publishing shortly a social policy report on access to welfare supports for the self- employed based on the growing numbers of self- employed using Citizens Information Services (CIS’s) and MABS. The lack of PRSI insurance cover for self-employed people whose businesses have failed completely or where income from self-employment had reduced significantly has been a regular and recurring issue for CIB delivery partner clients during the past three years. Under the current social insurance system, self-employed people are considered in a similar manner to an employer in that they are not deemed to require protection against and/or compensation for the labour-related risks of unemployment and incapacity for work. The fact that self-employed people do not have the option of paying a social insurance contribution that would cover them for unemployment and illness/disability is regarded by many as inequitable. Self-employed people have difficulty in verifying their current level of income when applying for means-tested social assistance payments. Issues to do with access to means tested payments are detailed in the submission. The question of social insurance for the self-employed should be considered in the broader policy context of how entrepreneurship and related self-employment is to be promoted in the current economic climate where the clear emphasis is on job creation.

Self-employed and Social Insurance.doc Word document icon

Submission on the future of Disability Policy in Ireland (Department of Health)

Publication Date: November 2011

The CIB welcomes the Report of the Disability Policy Review prepared by the Expert Reference Group on Disability Policy as a very comprehensive document which sets out the context and challenges facing future disability policy in Ireland. The Board sees as most significant the following conclusions of the Expert Reference Group that people with disabilities and their families, more than anything else, are looking for more choice in the services they receive and more control over how they access them; that policy objectives for people with disabilities have not translated into specific objectives for disability services, or into desired outcomes for those using disability services and that there is a gap between policy objectives and what is provided by many disability services.

The CIB agrees with proposals for a very significant reframing of disability services towards a model of individualised supports, underpinned by mainstreaming of all public services. A policy of individualised supports is a natural progression to the mainstreaming of services for people with disabilities. It would also provide a timely model to facilitate the move of all people with disabilities out of congregated settings. In this submission, the CIB identifies a number of elements that need to be in place if the individualised support model is to become effective. An independent planning mechanism is necessary in order to provide initial planning support and brokerage to individuals and networks. It is also necessary to help people explore the potential of community and family supports. Other aspects of such a mechanism would be costing supports, applying for funding, negotiating agreements, arranging support providers, funding management, and ongoing planning and support management.

Future of Disability Policy in Ireland.doc Word document icon

Pre-Budget Submission

Publication Date: October 2011

This submission draws on the experiences of Citizens Information Services and MABS in dealing with the complex difficulties and challenges faced by families struggling to meet the costs of daily living and coping with, amongst other things rising utility and school costs as well as mortgage repayments and rent. During the past two years, services have experienced a substantial increase in the number of queries relating to over-indebtedness. A number of services report the cumulative negative impact on many low income households of various cutbacks in social welfare and increased tax charges, in particular, the Universal Social Charge (USC) together with increases in utility and other costs.

Recommendations in the submission focus on the need to: maintain current levels of income support for children in low income households and those on primary social welfare payments, address the issue of benefit traps and system anomalies which see households with similar incomes being treated differently, reform eligibility criteria for Mortgage Interest Supplement, explore the concept of minimum income retention which would allow indebted families have a guaranteed minimally acceptable standard of living; consider social lending and access to short term credit options; develop initiatives to help sole traders, micro enterprises deal with indebtedness; create more flexible mechanisms to meet the income support and training needs of people in atypical employment and casual self-employment and the need to continue to address the issue of fuel poverty.

Pre-Budget Submission.doc Word document icon

Review of Mental Health Legislation

Publication Date: October 2011

The Programme for Government included a commitment to review the Mental Health Act 2001. This submission to the Department of Health’s review draws on the experiences of the Board’s National Advocacy Service for people with disabilities which includes people with mental health problems. During the first 9 months of 2011, almost 19% of cases referred to NAS were people with mental health problems. Areas addressed in the submission inter alia include the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, integration of legislation, role of advocacy, voluntary and involuntary detentions, supported decision making, consent to treatment, presumption of capacity and the position of people with intellectual disabilities and young people under the legislation.

Review of Mental Health Legislation.doc Word document icon

'Your Health is Your Wealth' – A Public Health Policy Framework for a Healthier Ireland 2012-2020

Publication Date: September 2011

The Department of Health is developing a public health policy, which aims to improve the health of the population and reduce health inequalities by addressing the causes of preventable illnesses. This policy will cover the period 2012 to 2020. Some 8% of all queries to Citizens Information Services refer to health-related matters and difficulties around Medical Card eligibility and applications account for about 60% of such queries. The Submission focuses on access to health services, equality of provision, access to entitlements, factors that impact on health and draws attention to the impact of indebtedness on people’s mental and physical health. Such indebtedness is, as is widely reported, very much on the increase in recent years and its impact on people's lives is a key issue identified by MABS. The submission proposes greater equality of access to health services and the addressing of current 'private'/ 'public' discrepancies. As far as resources permit, there should be a stronger emphasis on community care services, with particular reference to home help, home care support, supports for family carers and respite care services.

Your Health is Your Wealth.doc Word document icon

Disability Sectoral Plan Review Consultation - Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport

Publication Date: September 2011

The Submission draws on the CIB’s previously published policy report Getting There: Transport and Access to Social Services 2010 and feedback from CIB delivery partners and highlights significant difficulties still being experienced by people with disabilities in accessing public transport. People with disabilities are also heavily dependent on private transport operators where significant accessibility issues are encountered.The issue of the additional costs of transport for people with disabilities and the transport needs of persons with disabilities living in isolated areas should be kept under active review taking into account current social policy principles of social inclusion and independent living. Existing transport/mobility support schemes should be reviewed to achieve both better resource efficiency and greater co-ordination and integration.

Disability Sectoral Plan Review Consultation.doc Word document icon

Reform of the State's Employment Rights and Industrial Relations Structures and Procedures (Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation September 2011)

Publication Date: September 2011

Ten per cent of queries to Citizens Information Services nationally are employment rights related. In recent years, assistance and advocacy work has developed as a growing component of the work of CISs. An important part of this support is advising, supporting and sometimes representing clients in taking cases to the Rights Commissioner Service and to the Employment Appeals Tribunal and/or negotiating with an employer on a client's behalf. Such support contributes to workers getting awards to which they are entitled under the Redundancy Payments Acts, the Payment of Wages Act and the Unfair Dismissal legislation. Queries on employment rights to CISs and CIPS suggest that people who seek information and advice in relation to employment protection matters are generally non-unionised employees, people in low-paid jobs, part-time workers and people working for smaller employers. In the past couple of years, there is, as might be expected, an increasing number of queries relating to rights in redundancy or short-time working situations. The experience of CISs points to the substantial difficulties experienced by people seeking to assert their employment rights in terms of identifying the appropriate redress pathway and negotiating their way through it. The submission emphasises the need for easier access to institutions involved in employment rights enforcement. Issues raised include fostering a stronger ethos of compliance among employers, a single point of contact, easier access at regional/local level and a Specialist Enforcement of Awards Unit (to assist employees to follow through on awards granted by redress bodies).

Reform of the State's Employment Rights and Industrial Relations Structures and Procedures September 2011.doc Word document icon

Submission to the Advisory Group on Tax and Social Welfare September 2011

Publication Date: September 2011

The CIB believes that the outcome of the deliberations of the Advisory Group can play a significant role in shaping a fairer and more equal society and in ensuring that those most in need are targeted in the most effective manner and in a way that ensures that the progress made in improving social inclusion and reducing numbers in poverty is, as far as possible, consolidated. The submission draws on the experience of CISs, CIPS and MABS which clearly reflects the current economic environment with an increasing number of clients who require additional support from the State. Citizens Information Services dealt with almost a million queries on all aspects of social service provision in 2010. Social welfare accounts for almost half of queries to CISs, many of which point to difficulties and challenges faced by newly welfare dependent and low -income (usually work-poor) households. Almost 70% of MABS clients are social welfare recipients. In the welfare system there needs to be a complementary balance between the provision of income supports, the provision of quality support services, activation measures and the enforcement of conditionality requirements. Tax, social welfare and activation programmes need to be commensurate with stopping the growth in unemployment and facilitating a quick return to suitable work of those who have become unemployed.

The Advisory Group should, as far as possible, look at ways of addressing anomalies, inequities and benefit traps identified in the social welfare system, mainly arising from the incremental introduction of provisions over the years. A key factor to be considered in all proposals for change is that all reductions in adult social welfare payments will have an adverse affect on children (as parents struggle with meeting the costs of daily living) unless compensatory targeted mechanisms for children are put in place.

Submission to the Advisory Group on Tax and Social Welfare September 2011.doc Word document icon

Development of Department of Social Protection Statement of Strategy 2011-2014 (September 2011)

Publication Date: September 2011

The submission focuses primarily on how the role of the CIB and its delivery partners as providers of independent and integrated information, advice and advocacy services can be optimised to support the delivery of strong citizen-centred income and other supports to meet the diverse needs of individuals and families in an equitable and integrated manner. The CIB through its main citizens' information website (www.citizensinformation.ie) and related microsites (www.losingyourjob.ie and www.keepingyourhome.ie) provides a current and comprehensive information source for all citizens across the life-cycle. With our three delivery partners – Citizens Information Services (CISs and CIPS), Money Advice and Budgeting Services (MABS) and the National Advocacy Service (NAS) – we strive to meet the information, advice and advocacy needs of people in a manner that complements and builds on the role of other agencies, including, in particular, the DSP. About half of queries to CISs and CIPS refer to social welfare matters and the breakdown of social welfare-related queries shows that people have information, advice and advocacy needs relating to income maintenance and related supports right across the life-cycle. In some instances, how to access basic income is at the core of the query.

Proposed Changes to Mental Capacity Law - Submission to Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality (August 2011)

Publication Date: September 2011

As part of an initiative to allow stakeholders greater input into the formulation of legislation, the Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality invited written submissions from interested groups in relation to proposals for possible inclusion in promised Mental Capacity legislation. CIB in its submission highlighted key points based on a 2010 response to the Scheme of Mental Capacity Bill. The submission is informed by feedback from the National Advocacy Service in relation to the vacuum created by the absence of capacity legislation and the difficulties encountered in day to day decisions. The presumption of legal capacity should be a major emphasis in legislation. Capacity should be assessed in a way which is fair and appropriate and which is free from prejudices based on external factors such as old age, mental illness or intellectual disability. It is important, therefore, that the legislation provides for that support and concentrates on supported decision making wherever possible as well as introducing fair and accountable mechanisms for substitute decision making. Consideration should be given to including provision in the mental capacity legislation for people having access to an independent personal advocacy service. As well as legislation on mental capacity, coherence with other measures is needed. In particular, mandatory standards should be set for all services, whether community-based or residential, and these need to be monitored. The Government's stated intention to expedite the formal implementation of the National Quality Standards: Residential Settings for People with Disabilities is important. The CIB also supports the suggestion that the legislation be renamed 'legal' capacity rather than 'mental' capacity legislation.

Proposed Changes to Mental Capacity Law - Submission to Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality (August 2011).doc Word document icon

Submission on Consumer Protection Code Review

Publication Date: April 2011

The CIB in a submission to the Central Bank on the review of the Consumer Protection Code in January 2011 welcomed the stronger focus on protecting vulnerable consumers in the Revised Code. The Submission highlights the need to ensure that all consumer information is accessible, palatable and transparent and identified difficulties with the complex sets of rules and procedures associated with financial products which may leave the individual consumer in a weak and vulnerable position vis a vis the provider. Providers of financial services and products should ensure that information is available at the point of contact/sale and that there is an appropriate balance between the various means of disseminating information – online, print and face to face. The submission also refers to the role of independent advocacy in ensuring that the rights of vulnerable people are fully protected. Access to financial services is a key component in social inclusion and some people, e.g., welfare dependent families and /or indebted households, may experience difficulties in securing access to financial services, including basic banking services. The submission argues that the Consumer Code should ensure that as far as possible people, for example, those with repayment arrears, are not denied a basic banking and short-term credit facility.

Review of Consumer Protection Codes Submission January 2011.doc Word document icon



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