Wednesday, 20 January 2021

Questions (679)

Seán Canney

Question:

679. Deputy Seán Canney asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his plans to upgrade the new departmental website, given that farmers and planners are finding it extremely difficult to navigate and find nitrates recording forms, for example; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2213/21]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

On foot of a Government decision, the websites of all Government Departments are being moved to the gov.ie portal. The websites of 14 Departments are already hosted on this platform and the websites of the remaining Departments will be moved in the coming months.

The core principle of gov.ie is that information that the user needs is provided, in a way that is easily accessible. The objective is that users can be provided with all information relating to a particular topic without the need to search through the websites of different Departments. This model has been developed based around how the majority of customers seek on-line information. Specifically, rather than visit a front page and look for suitable links, users now typically enter their search into Google and are brought directly to the information they seek. The redesign emphasises the use of plain English for ease of accessibility. Brief summaries of schemes and services are available so that users can easily identify if the service is relevant to them and don’t have to trawl through a substantial amount of material to determine this.

Gov.ie has a particular format that all Departments must follow. This has involved a major redesign of our website to enable improved accessibility by all customers and to cater for different literacy levels, visual impairments and other accessibility issues. It is accepted that, for some users who are very familiar with the old website, it may take a while to get used to the improvements.

My Department emailed all approved Farm Advisory System (FAS) advisors on 27th November 2020 notifying them of the move to the new website and advising them specifically of the location of all schemes and Department online services. In relation to Nitrates, the Department emailed all FAS advisors, also on 27th November, providing the direct link to nitrates information. That information, including links to the forms, was also published in the press release of 4 December 2020.

It should be noted that forms in relation to 2021 schemes have not been published yet.