Citizens Information Board
The Citizens Information Board was formerly known as Comhairle. The Board’s functions are to support the provision of or to directly provide independent information, advice and advocacy service
- to ensure that individuals have access to accurate, comprehensive and clear information relating to social services that are relevant to their sector.
- to assist and support persons, in particular those with disabilities, in identifying their needs and assessing their entitlements to social services.
- to promote greater accessibility, coordination and public awareness of social services and of information, advice, and advocacy services.
- to support, promote and develop provision of information on the effectiveness of current social policy and services.
The Board may promote and support voluntary bodies, providing social services, where it considers appropriate. This may include financial training, development and provision of integration and information to such body.
The Board advises the Minister on the development of certain aspects of social services. It may at the Minister’s request design schemes relating to social services to address needs identified by the Minister, where the Board considers it appropriate to do so. It is obliged to prepare strategic plans.
A strategic plan is to be prepared every third year for submission and approval by the Minister. It is to set out the key objectives, outputs and strategies including the use of resources.
The Board consists of 20 members appointed by the Board and nominated as below: One person is Chairman; one is an officer of the Minister. Five members are persons with disabilities nominated by the Minister for Justice, three members of the Board. One is elected by the staff. The Board’s functions are laid down in the legislation in a form common with numerous other such Boards.
The Board may employ staff. It took over the staff of the former National Social Services Board and the National Rehabilitation Board.
The Citizen’s Information Act 2007 changed the Board to the Citizen’s Information Board. Services were expanded to include the provision or arranging the provision of Personal Advocacy Services to qualifying persons. In so doing, the Board is to take account of its resources and whether persons can obtain advocacy services otherwise than under the Act.
Personal Advocacy Services
The Personal Advocacy Services are given designated staff of the Board, and they hold office as a personal advocate for such period as the Chief Executive of the Board designate. A personal advocate is to have qualifications, experience and expertise relevant to personal advocacy as the Board considers.
In considering the order of priority for allocation of qualifying advocacy services of different qualifying persons, the Board is to have regard to
- the needs of the qualifying persons to have personal advocates.
- the degree of risk or harm to the health, welfare and safety of the qualifying person if they are not provided with the services,
- benefits likely to accrue
- availability of persons to provide advocacy services and
- such other matters as may be appropriate.
The Board may appoint a Director of Personal Advocacy Services who manages and controls the service. A qualifying person for Personal Advocacy Services is a person over 18 who in the opinion of the Director is unable to obtain or has difficulty in obtaining a particular social service or services without the assistance of the personal advocate where there are reasonable grounds in believing in relation to the person a risk of harm to his health, welfare and safety may arise if he is not provided with the social service or services he is seeking to obtain.
Alternatively, a qualifying person may be under 18 years of age, in which case, his parent or guardian may be qualifying person or and in the opinion of the Director there are reasonable grounds for believing in relation to a person that a risk or harm to his health, welfare or safety may arise, if he or she is not provided with the social service or services he is seeking to obtain. A person may remain a qualifying person, despite the fact that he is receiving social services.
A person may apply for the assistance of a personal advocate to the Director. If the decision is refused, reasons shall be given. The Director may change his decision in light of total circumstances.
The appeals procedure under the social welfare legislation applies to a decision of a Director as above. The Appeals Officer may revise the decision.
Role of Personal Advocate
A personal advocate assigned to a qualifying person
- shall if appropriate assist them in an application for an assessment under the Disability Act.
- shall assist and support in representing and applying for social services.
He may pursue any right of review, appeal or reference. For the purpose of promoting the best interest of his health, welfare or well-being, he may provide support and training to the person or a member of his family or both.
A personal advocate may for the purpose of undertaking his functions enter any place where day care, residential care or training is provided to make appropriate enquiries. He may obtain information from statutory or voluntary bodies relating to the person, attend and represent him at any meeting, consultation or discussion at which his interest is being discussed. He may identify persons such as family members etc. who may assist him.
A statutory body or voluntary body providing services shall cooperate with the personal advocate. It is an offence to obstruct or hinder a personal advocate in the performance of his functions. This is subject to the provisions of the Data Protection Act.
The Board maintains citizens information.ie. This was formerly oasis. i.e. (Online Access to State Information and Services)
Citizen’s information.ie maintains a range of citizen’s information. It concentrates in particular on social services such as health, housing, social welfare. It also provides information on employment, education and training. It provides general information on consumer matters, the environment, travel and recreation and basic civil rights.
It maintains documents in a number of different languages. A lot of the basic information is available in English and Irish. A more limited range of information is available in French, Romanian and Polish.
The Board runs a number of specialist website for persons facing particular difficulties including losingyourjob.ie, keepingyourhome.ie and selfemployedsupports.ie.
Citizens Information Centres
The Board supports a voluntary network of Citizens Information Centres and Citizens Information Phone Service. The website provides details on Citizens Information Centres throughout the country, including contact details. The information services are provided at various locations through the states acts in conjunction with existing voluntary bodies.
There are Citizens Information Centres in most Counties and most large towns in most Counties’. There are 106 Citizens Information Centres 54 full-time and 52 part-time. There are 162 outreach centres.
Community Law Centres
There have been a number of independent and community-based Law Centres which have developed over the last 30 to 40 years. They typically deal with social issues for marginal and disadvantaged persons in a community-based service.
The purpose is to make law accessible by providing information on legal rights and entitlement and on how the legal systems work. There may be discussions and local forums, local campaigns, publicities etc.
Community Law Centres’ advocate policy and law reforms. They engage in community legal education to help persons understand law and the legal system. Community Laws Centres have taken strategic litigation and test cases using legal representation to achieve benefits for the community beyond the immediate client. The general purpose is to break down the social, cultural and psychological barriers that inhibit persons availing of legal services and accessing justice.
There are two independent community-based Laws Centres, the Northside Community Law & Mediation Centre and the Ballymun Community Law Centre. They assist in the areas of advice, advocacy, housing, consumer debt, social welfare, employment and equality. They run legal education programs in certain areas.