Fianna Fáil TD for Sligo-Leitrim Eamon Scanlon says he’s extremely concerned about Government proposals to change the governance structure of the Money Advice and Budgeting Service and Citizens Information Service.

He’s calling on the Social Protection Minister to postpone the planned restructure, which would see local offices coming under a regional governance structure, rather than the current local company model.

Speaking in the Dáil this week Deputy Scanlon explained, “Both MABS and CIS provide essential advice and support in communities right across the country.  In this region we have offices in Donegal town, Sligo and Ballinamore, all of which are deeply embedded in the local community.

“These offices provide a personal service, whereby people can come in and talk to another person about their concerns and get advice.  In an era where the majority of services are online or automated, this personal touch makes them almost invaluable and that provide a vital lifeline for many who find themselves unemployed, in mortgage arrears or overwhelmed by debt.

“I am deeply concerned about the implications of these proposed changes, particularly about the lack of dialogue and clarity surrounding the restructuring process.  This situation is all too familiar and reminds me of when community welfare officers were removed from the local area.  This has led to some people having to make 50 mile round trip journey to meet with their community welfare officer, which is extremely costly and not sustainable.

“Dismantling the county-by-county governance system and moving these services into eight regions is a retrograde step.  The North West has already seen a series of services moved into large urban centres, which is eroding rural communities.  The proposed model to regionalise services is not an appropriate one.  There is nothing fundamentally wrong with the current structure, although improvements can always be achieved through open and honest dialogue.

“The restructuring process will change the service from a bottom-up service to a top-down one.  It will lose the local nature of the service and the experience of the local boards.  The most urgent need in services is staffing, not governance.

“I’m calling on Minister Varadkar to abandon these proposals.  These vital services must be retained in the community.  They must not become victims of regionalisation and an additional cost to the taxpayer”.