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Debt

Debt advice service threatened with funding cuts in agreement dispute

Companies funded through the Citizen’s Information Board have been given two months to sign service legal agreements to ensure funding.

DEBT ADVICE SERVICE MABS may be faced with reducing its services as some of the 50 companies working under the service could face funding cuts as early as June, TheJournal.ie has learned.

It is understood that the Citizens Information Board, which funds MABS, has threatened a number of the service’s non-profit companies with a suspension of their funding if they do not sign ‘service level agreements’, which basically define a service.

A dispute about the content of the agreements escalated recently with the board giving the companies a deadline of two months’ time to sign them.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, UNITE official Dermot Mahon said that the union was “aghast and annoyed” and that “it’s an appalling way to do business”.

“It is the union’s view, that in terms of the threat to our members – the staff – given the role that the service is playing and with people relying on the advice, to consider doing anything to hinder that in any way is just inappropriate,” he said.

The Citizens Information Board is responsible for delivering certain elements of government business, such as information provision, advice and advocacy relating to social services and entitlements. It was allocated some €47.4 million from the Exchequer this year, of which some €19 million has been assigned to MABS and €14.6 million has been assigned to the Citizens Information Services.

The Department of Social Protection said it is “essential” that the significant amount of public monies is “carefully monitored and properly accounted for”.

In a statement to TheJournal.ie, the department advised that there are annual contracts between the board and 96 separate companies, including the 53 MABS firms.

“These contracts are agreed by the governing board of the Citizens Information Board and cover standard items such as service delivery, governance, financial controls, HR practices, reporting, evaluation, monitoring etc.,” continued the statement. “This enables the board to ensure that excellent service and best value is achieved across the wide range of services it provides.”

-Additional reporting by Sinéad O’Carroll

Read: AIB, EBS and Haven variable rate mortgages to increase from June

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