Reduced opening hours at Longford Citizens Information

Connie Gerety

Reporter:

Connie Gerety

Dorota Pietrzak, Yakub Safiak information officer CIC, Connie Geraty Manager CIC, Bernadeta Osuch. Pic.Joe McDonagh.
Co. Longford Citizens Information Service wishes to give notice of its intention to curtail opening hours commencing Monday 29th April 2013. The new opening hours to the public will be from 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and will continue to be open right through lunch.

Co. Longford Citizens Information Service wishes to give notice of its intention to curtail opening hours commencing Monday 29th April 2013. The new opening hours to the public will be from 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and will continue to be open right through lunch.

Phones will however, remain open until 5:00 p.m. and thereafter clients will have the option of calling the National Call Centre which is open until 8:00 p.m. Monday – Friday

The decision to curtail hours was made in response to the significant loss to the service over the past 12 months of seven fully qualified and trained information providers. These people were engaged by the service on Community Employment Schemes or as Volunteers, had received accredited training in information, advice and advocacy and for the most, progressed into employment.

In one sense this is very positive especially as it is in keeping with the objective of Community Employment which is accredited training leading to progression into employment. However it does mean that the Citizens Information Service is susceptible to losing competent trained people at any time throughout their engagement with the service thereby leaving a void which does not accommodate sustaining a quality standard of service that we can stand over.

“This position is unprecedented” commented Ms. Connie Gerety, CIS Manager, “as generally we can, to some degree, plan to have new recruits either in the process of training or just newly qualified to ensure that there is consistency of service. Planning is essential as we have only one full time Information Provider since 2002 with an additional half time staff since 2007 and queries have grown from 6,000 to 18,000 per year over that period and does not include hundreds of live advocacy cases; thereby reflecting Longford as one of the busiest services in the country. This too is why the service weighs so heavily on Community Employment and Volunteers and the expectation from them in terms of quality is no less.

Information queries have become much more complex in nature and there is a significant demand for assistance and advocacy in terms of appeals, hearings, negotiations etc. which can be very time consuming; however it stands to reason that clients require a high standard of service regardless of who is providing it.“

A further inconvenience to the service was when the Citizens Information Board increased the training qualification for staff from 1 to 2 years with full accreditation and by default changed the commencement date from October to April. This gap of 6 months combined with the loss of trained staff unfortunately has left us in this dilemma and therefore with reluctance, we are curtailing our opening hours to the public.

We regret any inconvenience caused by this decision and look forward to being in a position to reverse same at some time in the future.

Contact Co. Longford CIS 076107 5890 or National Call Centre 076107 4000