Dáil debates

Thursday, 19 May 2022

Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate

Citizens Information Services

3:50 pm

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party) | Oireachtas source

I am trying to clear up some confusion and doubt about the Wicklow Town Citizens Information Centre, a very much appreciated source of information and assistance to local residents not just in Wicklow town, but in the area around it. The centre operated very successfully up until April 2020. There was an issue around the building that the centre was operating out of, and it was closed down. I understand that there was an assumption or some reassurance given that another premises would be sourced for the service. It is a vital service. As the Minister of State is aware, Wicklow town is a big, thriving town with a big population. These services are very much in demand. I have engaged with the Minister for Social Protection and her Department on the matter. I received a response in March which stated that the Citizens Information Board had informed the Minister that new premises had been located in Wicklow town, that planning for the change of use of those premises had been granted and that the Department of Social Protection and the Citizens Information Board were in discussions in respect of funding required to complete the new premises and reopen the much-needed office. Everybody was quite satisfied and happy with that response.

On 13 May, just two months after I received the first response, the regional manager in Wicklow citizens information service was informed by the Citizens Information Board that the Wicklow Town Citizens Information Centre will not be funded by the Department of Social Protection. It gets more complex. I hope the Minister of State is following this. I then raised the issue with the Minister for Social Protection. I was told that the Citizens Information Board is independent and decides on issues of funding and what services it is going to provide. According to a note from the Citizens Information Board, funding will not be provided by the Department of Social Protection. I want to try to get the bottom of the matter.

There is no doubt that the service is required in Wicklow. Many people are extremely disappointed at the kind of messing around that has gone on. There are information services operating in Arklow and Bray quite successfully. However, the public transport links from Wicklow town to Arklow are not great. There are slightly better transport links to Bray. There are two vital services being provided at either extremity of the county. It is in Wicklow town that we need an information service. I want to know who decides to provide the budget for the information centre. Is it the Citizens Information Board, which, the Minister informs me, is independent or is it the Department of Social Protection, which the Citizens Information Board has informed the information centre is not providing the funding? I want to get to the bottom of it. How is the funding decided? Who carries out the assessment to determine that the information centre is required and should be funded?

I understand that is up to the Citizens Information Board, CIB. I want to know how, in a two-month period, it came to that assessment and decided that it was not going to reopen. Hopefully, the Minister of State is going to tell me that the money is there and that it will reopen.


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