Wednesday, 6 December 2017
Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Amendment) Bill 2017: First Stage
That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to remove certain functions from the Citizens Information Board; to amend the Comhairle Act 2000; and to provide for related matters.
I introduce the Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Amendment) Bill 2017. The sole purpose of this Bill is to remove the Money Advice and Budgeting Service, MABS, from the remit of the Citizens Information Board, CIB, which is attempting to restructure MABS, which will have a detrimental impact on the service. This restructuring comes without any proper consultation, without the support of the majority of MABS across the State and in direct conflict with the recent recommendations from the former Joint Committee on Social Protection which recommended unanimously halting the restructuring programme. Not only is CIB intent on progressing with its restructuring plans without proper consultation with MABS but it has shown utter contempt for the Oireachtas committee.
This is an issue I have been working on over the last nine months since the restructuring plans first came to my attention. My colleague Deputy Martin Kenny and I invited MABS into Leinster House earlier this year to provide Members with a briefing to outline what was being proposed and to share its concerns about the changes. The issue of the proposed restructuring was then examined by the Joint Committee on Social Protection. The committee worked extensively on the issue over a number of committee meetings which included listening to all stakeholders involved and publishing a comprehensive report on our findings and recommendations. CIB has reluctantly engaged with the committee on two occasions so far, which we had sought in good faith to assist us in our work. Unfortunately, we have now reached the end of the road. Every Member in this House and indeed the general public know the excellent service provided by MABS in our towns and communities across the State. At a time when so many people are in mortgage distress, in danger of losing their homes, left to battle with banks and in debt, the MABS service is needed now more than ever. The regionalisation model put forward by CIB is not welcome by MABS yet its views are going ignored and the restructuring process is unfortunately underway.
For that reason, we are left with no option other than to remove MABS from CIB and to return it to the remit of the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection. We cannot allow this restructuring process to bulldoze ahead without consultation and without the consent of MABS. If we truly respect and acknowledge the unique work carried out by MABS across the State then we need to remove it from CIB. I ask for support for this Bill from across the House.