Serving the public with trusted information, advice and advocacy services during a pandemic

Citizens Information Board publishes Annual Report 2020

It was a year like no other. Providing an information, advice and advocacy service to the public during the COVID-19 pandemic was a challenge. Offices were closed for much of the year and face-to-face services were forced to move online to continue remote communication with clients. However, despite the challenges, the Citizens Information Board and its network of services continued to support the communities we serve. Innovative approaches to disseminating information ensured we kept citizens fully informed, despite the pace of change and the unprecedented lockdowns and restrictions to day-to-day life in Ireland.

It was an extraordinary year for citizensinformation.ie. Over 15 million users found the website to be a trusted source of information and viewed over 55 million pages during the year. The Digital Content team added 35 new documents related to COVID-19 to the website during the year. The combined traffic to these COVID-19 documents accounted for almost 10 million page views and 18% of all traffic to the website in 2020.

In 2020, as a result of the pandemic and our response to it, Citizens Information also cemented our reputation as a trusted source of information on social media, following the decision to significantly increase our use of social media to get accurate information out quickly.

The Citizens Information Facebook account was activated in September 2019, and by the end of 2020 it had over 17,000 followers. Our Twitter account increased its followers by 52% to over 10,000 in 2020. Citizens Information had an engagement rate of 16.8% on Facebook, and 1.2% on Twitter (the average engagement rate for public sector bodies in 2018 was 0.3% on Facebook and 0.4% on Twitter).

Most visited pages on citizensinformation.ie in 2020

Page Users Page views
COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment 120,2670 2,168,195
Social welfare payments and COVID-19 602,332 1,001,987
Your employment rights during COVID-19 restrictions 547,283 829,606
Public health measures for COVID-19 483,507 667,574
Returning to Ireland and COVID-19 395,893 569,396
Jobseeker's Allowance 328,429 545,963
Illness Benefit 283,576 518,744
COVID-19 Wage Subsidy Scheme 319,914 529,877
State Pension (Contributory) 257,674 456,442
Irish citizenship through birth or descent 319,468 431,637

CIS and CIPS

The Citizens Information Service and the Citizens Information Phone Service continued to deliver information and advice to the public during a confusing and challenging time. Information Officers from the CIS network were assigned to support CIPS phone lines during peak times. A dedicated national COVID-19 email address was set up to meet demand as was a Request a Call Back service. The CIS service helped 369,745 people and answered 726,658 queries. The query categories were similar to other years with Social Welfare ranked highest at 42%, followed by Employment at 9.5% and the newly created COVID-19 category ranked third most popular at 9%.

MABS

Money Advice and Budgeting Services (MABS) dealt with 13,480 new clients last year, while the MABS Helpline received 22,951 calls. New clients in 2020 owed their creditors €1.186 billion with the average recorded debt for each new client being €88,000. Over 90% of the debt was owed to a bank or other financial institution, a sub-prime lender or a debt collection agency. Utility arrears was the number one ranked issue to the MABS Helpline during 2020 with 5,400 calls on the topic.

MABS had a new role in relation to the Residential Tenancies Act 2020 which gave additional protection to tenants who find themselves in rent arrears due to the pandemic. If tenants want to avail of these protections, they must engage with MABS.

A MABS webinar series took place in autumn highlighting Covid-19 topics such as Self Employment and Business Survival Essentials. An online chat service was also launched on mabs.ie.

National Traveller MABS

NT MABS developed an information campaign called Managing Your Money During COVID-19. As part of that a number of supports aimed at the Traveller community were produced including Five things to know before taking out a loan and Changes to payments and schemes following the Government 2020 budget.

Social Policy

During the pandemic government policy in many areas had to change quickly. The role of CIB to support, promote and develop information on the effectiveness of social policy and social service provision is more important than ever.

The collection and analysis of data helps to determine what is working well for the public and where changes are needed. Such changes make social services more responsive and easier to access. Among the 17 social policy submissions made in 2020 was the pre-budget submission “Leaving Nobody Behind: Protecting Citizens’ Rights and Entitlements Post Covid-19” (pdf).

ICT and Digital Strategy

Other highlights included the completion of the upgrade of the Information Communication Technology (ICT) infrastructure. Lockdowns made access to sites more difficult but the project proceeded. CIB and the network of service delivery companies will have a new ICT and telephony infrastructure fit for the 21st century.

The pandemic has also accelerated development of the CIB digital strategy, which focuses on using technology to reach more citizens but also retaining the face-to-face services that the public, particularly those who are more vulnerable, need.

Annual Report 2020 – the Numbers

The CIB Annual Report 2020 is available online at https://www.citizensinformationboard.ie/en/about/annual_report/

ENDS