Burton needs to tackle MABS crisis in her own back yard

Sinn Féin’s Paul Donnelly has strongly criticised the Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton for failing to tackle the unacceptable waiting time Dublin 15 residents face in accessing the services of the Money Advice and Budgetary Service (MABS).  Mr. Donnelly’s party colleague and finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty accessed this information through a Parliamentary Question to the Minister last week.

Commenting on the delay, Donnelly said “It’s shocking to learn that people from Dublin 15 are waiting on average over 9 weeks to access the services of MABS.  This is one of the highest waiting times across the entire state. I hasten to add it’s happening in Minister Burton’s own constituency of Dublin West so my question to her is what are you going to do about it Minister?”

“When people make up their mind to approach MABS they are more often than not in a desperate place. For most, they’ve gone beyond accessing self-help guidelines on the web or using a phone service. They need to sit down with someone who will thoughtfully and patiently explain the situation to them and help them process their options.

“The waiting times are shocking. It’s hard to imagine what someone, who is in such a desperate state, must feel when they hear that’s how long they’ll be waiting for an appointment.

“It’s absolutely obvious from the extreme waiting times in certain counties that MABS is either not being funded or staffed to the levels needed in certain parts of the state. The programme for government promised to strengthen MABS but clearly this has not materialised. The minister needs to examine this situation immediately and ensure the service is operating efficiently in all parts of the state.”

“I am calling on the Labour Party in particular to step up and defend the people they were elected to represent. There must be a coherent strategy that deals with the problem. Palming it off to the private sector is not working and is costing the taxpayers.”

PARLIAMENTARY QUESTION FROM DEPUTY PEARSE DOHERTY AND RESPONSE FROM MINISTER JOAN BURTON

 
Question No:  416                         Ref No: 8357-14
To the Minister for Social ProtectionTo ask the Minister for Social Protection the current waiting lists for the Money Advice and Budgetary Service by area; if any areas are significantly out of line with the average; if he will explain in each case the reason they are out of line; and if she will make a statement on the matter. – Pearse Doherty.*    For WRITTEN answer on Tuesday, 18th February, 2014.

 

R E P L Y

 

Minister for Social Protection (Joan Burton T.D):

The Money Advice and Budgeting Service ( MABS), under the aegis of the Citizens Information Board, provides a high quality personal service to assist people who are over-indebted and need help and advice in coping with debt problems, in particular those on low incomes and people living on social welfare payments.

Information and immediate support on all aspects of money management and personal debt is available from the MABS Helpline. In many cases the Helpline can provide the help and support people need. However, if a caller needs to avail of the face-to-face service provided by a MABS Money Adviser, they will be directed to a local MABS office.

There is ongoing contact with clients who are awaiting face-to-face appointment, including call-back and helpline support and the use of self-help material. In 2013, MABS also dealt with approx. 4,000 emergency clients who were seen immediately without any waiting period. Altogether, the number of new clients presenting to MABS in 2013 was 20,552.

While statistics for 2014 have not yet been compiled, initial indications are that waiting times for those services with above average waiting times in 2013 are reducing, e.g. Leitrim MABS waiting time is down to 4 weeks at end of January and Roscommon MABS is down to just over 5 weeks. 

CIB continues to work with services to ensure clients are issued with notification of their first appointment immediately following an assessment stage or within five working days.
CIB is also working with those services with above average waiting times to put in place processes and practices to manage and reduce the waiting periods.  This includes in some cases the temporary allocation of additional resource money advice staff to deal with waiting lists.

North Donegal MABS has experienced an increased demand for services and client waiting times at end December 2013 was an average of 26.2 weeks. CIB is working closely with the three Donegal based MABS companies to address client demand in North Donegal with a view to re-balancing of clients attending each of the services, particularly in the light of very low demand in Donegal South and West. 

In addition, staff have been redeployed from outreach services to the main Letterkenny office, the full approved staffing level has been restored following a long term absence and provision for additional capacity has recently been made.  

MABS operate an appointment scheduling system and this means that in some cases clients may have to wait a number of weeks for the next available appointment. While waiting for an appointment, clients can use MABS free self-help materials to take holding action and to begin the process of assessing their situation.  The MABS Helpline can also support clients while they are awaiting their first appointment with a MABS money adviser.

The Money Advice and Budgeting Service is made up of a network of 53 companies which includes 51 local companies and 2 national companies, MABS ndl and National Traveller MABS.  In addition, the MABS National Telephone Helpline is available from 9am to 8pm Monday to Friday and the MABS website can be accessed 24 hours a day at www.mabs.ie.  In 2014 funding of some €18.6 million has been provided to MABS.

The Citizens Information Board (CIB), which has responsibility for MABS, compiles information on the waiting times in each MABS office on a quarterly basis and posts it to the www.mabs.ie website.  The most recent statistics available, compiled to end of December 2013, record that the average waiting time from first point of contact to first appointment with a money adviser is some 4.5 weeks. This is a national average and can are vary greatly between offices.  Details are provided by county / office area in the table below.

Sixty percent of MABS services (31 out of 51) have waiting times of 4 weeks or less and three quarters of services (39 out of 51) have waiting times of 6 weeks or less. 12 MABS services have longer waiting times.  

I am satisfied that the ongoing monitoring of MABS services and the deployment of available resources to meet demand will continue to contribute to the reduction of waiting times across the MABS network of offices.

MABS Client Waiting Times & Numbers at 31 December 2013

Company Contact Phone Waiting  time Average Number awaiting first appointment
Weeks
Arklow & District 0761 07 2390
2.4
6
Athlone 0761 07 2400
1.6
5
Ballymun 0761 07 2150
4.2
17
Blanchardstown 0761 07 2330
9.4
68
Bray 0761 07 2250
1.0
2
Carlow 0761 07 2070
0.6
1
Cavan 0761 07 2410
3.4
9
Charleville 0761 07 2420
8.8
22
Clare 0761 07 2430 Ennis
0761 07 2790 Shannon
2.2
9
Clondalkin 0761 07 2270
3.8
13
Cork City 0761 07 2090
6.4
63
Cork North 0761 07 2440
4.0
7
Cork West 0761 07 2450 Dunmanway
1.6
3
Donegal North 0761 07 2460
0761 07 2470 Inishowen
26.2
121
Donegal South 0761 07 2480
4.0
2
Donegal West 0761 07 2650
1.6
2
Drogheda 0761 07 2490
9.0
92
Dublin 10 + 20 0761 07 2110 Cherry Orchard
0761 07 2800 Ballyfermot
2.6
11
Dublin 12 Area 0761 07 2500
5.4
10
Dublin North City 0761 07 2510
7.8
12
Dublin North East 0761 07 2290
4.0
2
Dublin South East 0761 07 2520
2.8
13
Dun Laoghaire 0761 07 2530
5.2
9
Dundalk 0761 07 2540
1.0
-
Dundrum/Rathfarnham 0761 07 2310
3.4
5
Fingal 0761 07 2550
8.2
27
Finglas Cabra 0761 07 2170
1.0
3
Galway North 0761 07 2560
3.8
11
Galway South 0761 07 2570
0761 07 2580 Loughrea
6.0
41
Kerry 0761 07 2190
4.6
20
Kildare 0761 07 2590 Kilcock
0761 07 2600 Newbridge
4.0
25
Kilkenny 0761 07 2610
1.8
4
Laois 0761 07 2620
1.6
1
Leitrim 0761 07 2630
6.8
13
Liffey South West 0761 07 2350
3.2
8
Limerick 0761 07 2210
8.2
48
Longford 0761 07 2640
2.2
6
Mayo North 0761 07 2660
6.0
10
Mayo South 0761 07 2670
14.4
47
Meath 0761 07 2680
10.2
43
Monaghan 0761 07 2690
3.0
5
Mullingar 0761 07 2700
1.8
2
Offaly 0761 07 2710
6.0
19
Roscommon 0761 07 2720
7.8
8
Sligo 0761 07 2730
4.2
7
Tallaght 0761 07 2370
3.8
25
Tipperary North 0761 07 2740 Thurles
0761 07 2760 Nenagh
2.6
6
Tipperary South 0761 07 2130
0761 07 2750 Clonmel
2.0
10
Waterford 0761 07 2050 Waterford
0.8
1
Waterford West 0761 07 2770 Waterford West
0.4
-
Wexford 0761 07 2780 Wexford
1.2
4

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