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Anger as funding won’t be provided to reopen Citizens Information Office in Wicklow town

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Deputy Jennifer Whitmore.

Deputy Jennifer Whitmore.

Deputy Jennifer Whitmore.

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THE Citizens Information Board (CIB) won’t be providing funding to reopen the Citizens Information Office in Wicklow town.

The board of South Leinster Citizens Information Service (SLCIS) were informed on Friday of last week that the funding would not be made available to allow the badly needed service to reopen.

Deputy John Brady said he has been attempting to get an undertaking from Social Protection Minister Heather Humphreys, who has responsibility for the CIB, to directly intervene to ensure that the funding was forthcoming to ensure the closed Citizen Information Office could reopen.

“The decision to sit back and refuse funding for this critically important service is an absolute disgrace,” said Deputy Brady.

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“The Citizens Information Service in Wicklow town provided vital assistance to many of the most marginalised and vulnerable members of our community. In an average year the CIS in Wicklow town would deal with over 4,500 appeals for help. It provided a free, non-judgemental, and confidential service, providing advice and advocacy on a wide range of issues including social welfare, employment rights, housing, health, and immigration.

“Previously the Minister stated that discussions were taking place between her Department and CIB to complete the new premises development for Wicklow town for CIS. The Minister also stated that they are hoping to source funding from within the current 2022 budget for CIB.

“The CIB had previously approved funding for appointment of a project manager. It had also instructed Wicklow Town CIS to submit planning permission to secure the new premises, which it did. Consequently, the CIS submitted funding applications in relation to these developments in April, and June 2021, and again in October. Only to be informed at a subsequent meeting with the CIB, that funding will not be granted for the new premises.

“So, the news on Friday that no funding would be forthcoming is a real slap in the face for the CIS.”

Deputy Brady has again written to CIB and the Minister outlining the importance of the service.

“I believe at this stage only direct government intervention will help save this service,” added Deputy Brady.

“I’m calling on the three Wicklow Government TDs to take some interest in the wellbeing of the people in Wicklow town and surrounding areas that depend on the service provided by CIS. Two of the three government TDs sit at the cabinet table with Minister Humphreys, they need to take immediate action to have this disgraceful decision reversed to ensure the service can reopen.”

Deputy Jennifer Whitmore has described as “unacceptable” the fact that funding won’t be provided to reopen the office, having previously raised this issue in the Dáil.

She said: “The recent closure of the Citizens Information Centre in Wicklow town was a huge blow for people living in the area. Unfortunately, a decision has been made by the CIB that funding will not be provided to refurbish a new premise within Wicklow town. Instead, they have decided to keep it closed and have people in Wicklow rely on the Arklow and Bray offices.

“In my opinion this is an unacceptable move as demand for Citizens Information Service is increasing in light of rising cost of energy, inflation and Ukrainian refugees moving to Wicklow. Now, more than ever, is the time to expand, not close down services. Furthermore, there needs to be a recognition that many people don’t have access to transport and while there is a phone service provided, oftentimes requests like this are better conducted face-to-face.

“I believe this is a retrograde move by the Citizens Information Board and would urge them to reconsider this decision on behalf of people in Wicklow who have come to rely on the impartial and confidential advice of the service.”

Andrew Lawless worked as a volunteer in the Wicklow Citizens Information Office since 2014 and knows how vital the service is for so many people.

“We want to be able to get information out to people and not everyone has access to the internet. It was a very successful service in Wicklow town and you could see the service grow year on year as more people became familiar with the office. You really need face-to-face time with people to make sure they fully understand you and the information you are providing, especially if there are language or hearing difficulties.”


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