Accessible information a public good – Diminishing of Citizens Information Service must be stopped
Following the broadcasting of a Liveline programme today (Thursday, 1st September), during which the consolidation of the Citizens Information Service was discussed, Leader of the Labour Party and TD for Dublin Bay South Ivana Bacik has renewed her calls for a halt to the further diminishing of the service.
Deputy Bacik said,
“I am concerned and disappointed at the ongoing news about closures and consolidation of the Citizens Information Service in Ireland. News of the closure of the in-person service in Malahide follows other closures, such as the closure some months ago of the Rathmines Citizens Information Centre in Rathmines in my own constituency of Dublin Bay South.
“In Rathmines, the building in which the Centre is housed had been for sale for some time. However, many of us hoped that this would not mean the complete removal of the service from the community. I held a public meeting on this issue in Rathmines last June, and alongside local residents and Labour Cllr. Mary Freehill, I have been campaigning for a reversal of this closure for some months. I call on other affected communities to follow suit.
“We are concerned that these closures are part of a broader plan to consolidate physical services, and to shift much of the service online. While the online Citizens Information Service is a helpful resource for many people, the closure of in-person services has a detrimental effect on many people, including who are unable to use a computer or the internet. Groups disproportionately impacted upon include some older people, people with certain disabilities, those with literacy challenges, and those without IT skills. We already saw these negative effects borne out during the temporary closure of in-person services due to Covid-19. The permanent closure of other sites represents a sad trend for all affected communities; they are worse off without this vital resource.
“It is vital that all people have access to impartial and free advice, advocacy and information on social services. This entitlement must be extended to all, regardless of ability to access the internet or travel into the City Centre. It is recognised that a shift to online services is inevitable; for many people, such a shift is very welcome. However, the transition must not leave anyone behind. The recent closure of post offices around the country, the threatened removal of community banking services, and the closure of Citizens Information Services, is of immense concern to a great many people.
“Today’s programme marked a positive step towards a national conversation on the importance of public service. I commend all those who contributed and, in particular, those volunteers who have joined me in our Dublin Bay South campaign. I urge the Minister for Social Protection and the Citizens Information Board to reflect on the closure of face-to-face services, and to engage with those who are now losing out. Impartial information about social services is a public good, and it should be accessible to all.”