Waterford Fianna Fáil TD, Mary Butler has said that Minister Varadkar must halt the restructuring process currently underway in the Money Advice and Budgeting Service and the Citizens Information Service and ensure that staff and volunteers have their voices heard properly.
Deputy Butler was commenting as her party’s private members motion was debated in the Dáil on Tuesday, 28th March.
“Both MABS offices in Co. Waterford, in West Waterford and in the City, provide significant and essential services by providing information, advice and advocacy and helping people to manage and overcome debt.
“The three Citizens Information Centres in the county play a major role in supporting people with advice on their statutory entitlements. At present there are 48 volunteers in the city, and a further 15 in the Dungarvan.
“There is of course scope to deliver greater efficiencies and effectiveness in both organisations. Fianna Fáil is not opposed to change and reform where necessary.
“However, we are nevertheless troubled by the very real concerns that that have been voiced by staff and volunteers regarding the potential implications of the restructuring of MABS and CIS from local companies into a regional model.
“Volunteerism is at the core of the services that MABS and CIS provide. They are embedded at a grassroots level within communities.
“Many volunteers have been in touch with me in the past number of weeks worried about how the restructuring will affect their involvement.
“There is significant concern that the restructuring model will disenfranchise volunteers. This would have become apparent to those driving the restructuring if they had engaged meaningfully with staff and volunteers before they began the process.
“Fianna Fáil is calling on the Minister for Social Protection to immediately utilise the power he has under the Citizens Information Act of 2007 to issue a directive to halt this proposed regionalisation.
“We must listen to, and heed, the concerns of those who have voiced their strong reservations to the restructuring process, and who have real experience of the services.
“It is imperative that all stakeholders involved are consulted and allowed to engage in meaningful, constructive dialogue to secure an outcome that is agreeable to all. I hope the Minister listens and does the right thing on this matter,” concluded Butler.
In 2016, Waterford CICs provided Information, Advice and Advocacy to 13,699 people in Waterford City and County in 2016 and dealt with some 21,038 queries from them.