The proposals of the Galway County PeopleTalk Jury were finalised in June. There were four key proposals
- On Public Service Phone Numbers - the key item was a call for recorded messages to tell the callers where they come in the queue. This would reduce the frustration of citizen, especially when they make that first call to a state agency.
- On Data Protection and Citizens' Rights - the key item was that agencies should give citizens a print out of the information they give in an application to facilitate them when when they make parallel applications to other agencies. Often when someone hass to apply for help from the state they are in a stressful situation and have to make separate applications to separate agencies.
- A reversal of centralisation policies. Many public service offices, especially of the Department of Social Protection, have been closed in recent times. On closer enquiry, however, PeopleTalk learned that, while this is the case, they encourage business to be done as much as possible by phone and, where a face to face meeting is needed, officials will vistit people in their homes if they are in remote situations. This meets the underlying concern of this proposal.
The Jury underlined the importance of the Ombudsman's Office and the need for a text to which all can refer in their dealings with public agencies. Such a text already exists - ‘Public Bodies and the Citizen, The Ombudsman’s Guide to Standards of Best Practice for Public Servants’
Finally the Jury spoke of two untapped resources as a means of bringing about change.
- If we are to have the best possible service from state agencies we need to draw on the experience of public servants who work directly with citizens, as happened with this Jury and the Exploratory Encounter Group
- At the same time, a Jury made up of willing citizens randomly selected ensures that the ultimate concern is not with the agencies themselves, and their own dealings with each other, but with the service of the people of this country.
The Calway County Jury wants PeopleTalk to continue promoting the role of Citizen-Juries in Shaping Government.