Clare victim to ‘historic injustice’ from taxpayer funded service

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Clare is one of the worse funded counties when it comes to a service funded by the taxpayer, a recent report has highlighted.

State debt advice service Clare MABS is funded entirely by the taxpayer through the Citizens Information Board. Last October it merged with other companies in Limerick, Tipperary and Waterford to form North Munster Money Advice and Budgeting Services. Ex chairman of the county’s service, Denis Carty has warned “the provision of this service is not equal, fair or consistent.’’

Despite having the second largest catchment area, Clare was ranked forty fourth out of fifty one original MABS companies for staffing levels in 2013, three years later despite having a much smaller popular Leitrim had the same amount of staff with five employees.

Carty compiled a series of findings in a report titled, ‘The Resourcing of MABS in Clare: A Raw Deal or A Fair Deal’. He has submitted the details obtained to the incoming Chairperson of North Munster MABS but has yet to receive a reply.

Of particular frustration to Denis has been the “consistent historic pattern of underfunding” between Clare and Waterford. Although Waterford has 2,416 less people and half the geographical area, the spend per capita there is €6.97 whereas it is €2.32 in Clare. Since 2001, €10,154,283 has been allocated to Waterford with €4,593,953 given to Clare, a gap of almost of over €5.5m.

He stated, “The funding gap has been evident since 2001. This widened radically since the Citizens Information Board took over responsibility for funding MABS services in 2009. Ironically, their strategy statement has spoken of the need to promote equality of access regardless of location. At the same time, Clare has a larger population, geographic area, mortgage arrears problem and lower disposable incomes”.

In February, the Citizens Information Board (CIB) admitted “it is the case that MABS in North Munster when operating as six separate companies competed with each company for resources and funding. The structural change that occurred last October is going to change this ethos.”

On why a better deal is deserved for Co Clare, Denis pointed to a CIB report from 2017 which stated 31% more work was done by MABS staff in the county. He added that 60% of the county’s residents living in rural areas, Clare has the second largest MABS catchment area but the lowest disposable income in Munster.

Despite his disappointments, Denis maintained minor the “shocking funding anomalies between different counties” could be fixed. “For less than half the price of a coffee, per person in Clare, this historic injustice could be ended, and three extra staff be provided. There is several hundred thousand euro of unused funds on the books of MABS companies nationally whilst at the end of 2017, Clare MABS had over €120,701 cash at the bank and in hand. These monies could give citizens in Clare a fairer deal, not a special deal which would produce better outcomes for all those vulnerable people who depend on this vital service.’’

Newmarket-on-Fergus native, Páraic McMahon is a freelance journalist and broadcaster currently working for numerous national and local publications including The Clare Echo, The Irish Examiner, The Irish Independent, The Irish Times, RTÉ, TheJournal.ie, The42.ie. A graduate of Mary Immaculate College, Páraic was previously employed by The Clare Herald and Clare FM. If you have a story, tip or some feedback for him then send an email to - paraic@clareecho.ie

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