Nearly 20 million people visit Citizens Information website
Citizens Information Board publishes Annual Report 2017
With over 19.8 million visits to the citizensinformation.ie website and over 770,000 people helped through the Citizens Information Service (CIS) and the Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS), 2017 was a busy year for the Citizens Information Board. The Board is creating a new regional service delivery structure – reducing 93 individual companies and boards to a more responsive 16-company model comprising 8 CIS and 8 MABS companies. This will help to make the Board more responsive to the needs of more citizens in the way that suits them best.
This restructure is now almost complete with no job losses (16 senior MABS and CIS posts have been created). Equally, there has been no loss of accessibility for members of the public and no closure of local centres.
A major focus of the work of the Citizens Information Board in 2017 has been supporting people who found themselves in difficult circumstances due to a changing political landscape or economic circumstances. Angela Black, Chief Executive said: “The work of the Citizens Information Board in the service of our citizens continues to grow, not least in line with our population, but also in line with the complexity of daily life. For every situation from birth to death, CIB hopes to provide high quality information and clear advice to those who are most in need of answers and assistance.”
Brexit - ‘Irish citizenship’ and ‘Irish passports’ continued to be some of the most used search terms on the citizensinformation.ie website. This reflects the continued interest in citizenship and rights issues among visitors to the website (particularly from the UK) following the Brexit referendum. Citizenship through birth or descent and applying for or renewing an Irish passport are two of the most popular areas.
|Most popular documents on citizensinformation.ie in 2017
Abhaile – In response to the mortgage arrears crisis, the Abhaile communications campaign was launched. As part of the service, over 10,000 aid and advice vouchers were issued for free legal and financial expertise. The European Commission cited the scheme as positively contributing to a 20.6% reduction in non-performing loans (NPL).
Personal Microcredit – It Makes Sense loan – This new and innovative scheme was developed through an initiative of the Citizens Information Board, Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS) and the Social Finance Foundation. MABS clients were finding it difficult to access low cost credit for contingencies. This left little option but to use moneylenders. The aim of the scheme is to move people away from high cost moneylenders (charging up to 190% APRC +collection fees) and provide convenient access to low cost personal loans (value from €500 to €2,000). The scheme is accessible via MABS, credit unions, post offices and other voluntary organisations with a maximum interest rate charge of 12.68% APRC.
Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) report – This report was launched following the rollout of HAP. The key issues experienced by clients of the Citizens Information Service were the nature of the private rental market and the interaction with local authorities in the HAP application and assessment process.
Feedback from the public
The majority of queries last year related to social welfare (55%), housing (14%), health (9%), money and tax (6%) and employment (3%). Specific issues highlighted include: Medical Card, PRSI Records, Housing Assistance Payment (HAP), Jobseeker's Allowance, State Pension (Contributory), Disability Allowance, Carer’s Allowance, Family Income Supplement (now known as Working Family Payment), Illness Benefit and Rent Supplement. This pattern was mirrored in the breakdown of social policy reports received. Overall 4,579 social policy cases were documented by Citizens Information Services. One of the key topics to emerge from CIS feedback during 2017 was the difficulty caused by the ongoing shift to online access amongst key public service agencies.
Other highlights for 2017 included:
- 2,744 people contacted the National Advocacy Service for people with disabilities (NAS). Two thirds of those accessing the service had an intellectual or physical disability. The top three areas where they required assistance were Housing (43%), Health (20%) and Justice (13%).
- A research report Making an Impact- The Public Value of Citizens Information Services was launched. It highlighted the need for a face-to-face service with one in six adults living in Ireland making contact with their local centre.
- The redesign of citizensinformation.ie resulted in a consistent, modernised look and feel. The website can be accessed through multiple browsers, on mobile devices and is fully accessible to the widest possible audience.
- Over 100,000 publications with high level accessibility were distributed. Titles included: ‘Information for school leavers’, ‘Entitlements for over sixties’ and ‘Entitlements for people with disabilities’. The Benefits and Taxes wallchart which summarised benefits in 2017 with comprehensive tables of rates and income thresholds remains popular both with the network of services and Government departments and agencies.
- The Sign Language Interpreting Service (SLIS) is the national agency for the provision of sign language interpreting services in Ireland. In 2017, IRIS (Irish Remote Interpreting Service) provided 4,036 interpreting assignments, an increase of 30% on the previous year. With the publication of the National Disability Inclusion Strategy 2017-2020 there was a commitment to extend the hours of IRIS, increase the number of trained interpreters, develop a quality assurance and registration scheme and continuous professional training and development programme.
- Celebrating Volunteers -180 Citizens Information volunteers were honoured at a national celebration event in the Royal Hospital Kilmainham, Dublin.
The Citizens Information Board also works closely with many government departments and agencies linking its expertise in information provision with their subject-specific expertise.
The Annual Report 2017 is available below and also in hard copy by contacting the Citizens Information Board at 0761 07 9000 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ita Mangan, Chair, Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Regina Doherty T.D and Angela Black, Chief Executive
Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Regina Doherty T.D
Ita Mangan, Chair and Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Regina Doherty T.D
Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Regina Doherty T.D and members of the Board of CIB
Citizens Information Regional Managers at the launch. Front row from left: Lorraine O'Donovan, Susan Ryan, Jennifer Moroney Ward and Sharon Dillon. Top row from left: Noel O'Connor, Simon Monds and Diarmuid O'Sullivan.
MABS Regional Managers at the launch. Front row from left: Michelle O'Hara, Gwen Harris and Rosaleen Maher. Top row from left: Michael Laffey, Ali Fitzell and Michael Doherty.
Pictured at the launch of the Citizens Information Board Annual Report 2017 are Board members: Ian Power, Tina Leonard and Nicola Walshe (above and below)