Social Protection Committee calls on Citizens Information Board to halt flawed and ill-considered MABS & CIS restructuring

The Citizens Information Board restructuring plan for the Money Advice and Budgetary Service (MABS) is flawed and ill-considered and should be discontinued, a report from the Oireachtas Committee on Social Protection has concluded.

The Report on the Proposed Restructuring of the Money Advice and Budgeting Service and the Citizens Information Service which was published today, Thursday, 1 June 2017 says that any future restructuring proposals must be by agreement, evidence based and supported by a thorough and transparent cost-benefit assessment.

The Committee requests the Minister to issue a policy directive to CIB under Section 9 of the Citizens Information Act 2007 to abandon the restructuring proposal pending the examination of a workable alternative which can only be brought about with proper consultation with all stakeholders.

Recognising that all stakeholders contributing to this investigation expressed a willingness to engage in a meaningful process on restructure and reform, the Committee recommends that a new inclusive and transparent consultation process be embarked upon with all relevant bodies to allow the identification of new pathways to improvement while maintaining the essential local and community links of the CIS and MABS networks,  protecting their independence and advocacy role and the quality, effectiveness and accessibility of services to citizens.

Among the Committee’s other recommendations are:

•    Stakeholders must be allowed to engage in meaningful, constructive dialogue towards agreed solutions.  The committee strongly feels that this cannot be achieved through a limited consultation around implementation alone.

•    The Department should support restoration of staffing levels within CIB to strengthen capacity in governance and other key areas. The employment control framework should be reviewed and increased, particularly in light of needs identified by the C&AG.

•    CIB and the Department should restore public confidence by reaffirming long term commitment to local CIS and MABS. The Minister should also reaffirm his Department’s policy commitment to the importance of community context, advocacy and independence within MABS and CIS services.  

Committee Chairman John Curran said: “Early this year, Members of the Joint Committee on Social Protection started to receive correspondence from many people and organisations concerned about a prospective re-organisation of the Money Advice and Budgetary Service (MABS) and Citizens Information Service (CIS). Both organisations had independently evolved from the ground up, as examples of local volunteerism of the best kind. The Citizens Information Board (CIB), the organisation with responsibility for management of the two services, was embarking on a plan of re-structuring that would see both organisations formulated into regionally-based companies.

“Those raising the matter as a concern were particularly worried that the regional structure would precipitate a loss of local volunteers, the life blood of both organisations. They also felt that such consultation as had taken place was not real or meaningful.

“Having heard from many stakeholders, the Joint Committee is satisfied that the fears of those opposed to the prospective restructuring are justified. The regional proposal will distance the services from their local customers, volunteers, staff and board members; will irretrievably alter the actual essence of both organisations. The Joint Committee acknowledges that some re-organisation is necessary, and that no structure is so perfect that it can’t be improved. However, the proposed course of action is wrong.

“During the course of the Joint Committee’s consideration, it was noteworthy how many stakeholders expressed a willingness to engage in meaningful consultations to map a new way forward. I strongly urge the initiation of a new process, engaging with and listening to all stakeholders.”

Access the report here.

ENDS/

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Committee Membership:

Deputies

Maria Bailey        Fine Gael
John Brady        Sinn Féin
Joe Carey        Fine Gael
Joan Collins        Independents4Change
John Curran        Fianna Fáil
Gino Kenny        AAA-PBP
Willie O’Dea        Fianna Fáil

Senators

Catherine Ardagh    Fianna Fáil
Ray Butler        Fine Gael
Alice Mary Higgins    Independent
Kevin Humphreys    Labour