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Access to public services

NALA believes that everyone should have fair and equal access to all public services which should be delivered in a literacy friendly way. A literacy friendly service means taking account of the literacy and numeracy needs of your customers and removing any literacy-related barriers that could make it difficult for people to access the service, or participate in the activities that you provide.

What it achieves

In everyday terms, a literacy friendly service enables the public with literacy, numeracy and digital literacy needs to:

  • access and participate in its services,
  • communicate effectively with it, in different ways,
  • apply for positions for which they have an aptitude and relevant experience,
  • be included in consultations,
  • be treated fairly in light of their general performance and interaction with others,
  • understand and apply internal policies and procedures, and
  • receive effective training to help them carry out their jobs to the best of their ability.

Need for a Plain Language Bill

All government departments should deliver a literacy-friendly service that takes account of and supports adults with unmet literacy, numeracy and digital literacy needs to access their services. This means that all public service communication should be in plain language / Gaeilge Shoiléir.

In 2019 the Fine Gael TD Noel Rock introduced a Plain Language Bill in the Dáil and Labour Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin also introduced a Plain Language Bill in the Seanad. The National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA) worked with both public representatives to develop the Plain Language Bill to ensure that all information for the public from Government and State bodies is written and presented in plain language.

In June 2020 the Programme for Government committed that “All public service communication should be in plain language”. NALA is calling for the Government to put the Plain language Act on the legislative agenda for 2021.

 

Michael Power (55), a former literacy student from Tipperary, said the proposed Plain Language Bill is a “brilliant opportunity” and that he hopes it goes further and “changes people’s lives”.

What happens next?

The power to make new laws is the sole responsibility of the Houses of the Oireachtas. Dáil Éireann has the primary role in relation to legislation as it is directly elected by the people. All proposed new laws are introduced into the Oireachtas as Bills. When the Government wants to propose a law, the Cabinet approves the Bill and the relevant Minister brings it before the Oireachtas. Opposition parties or Members can also bring forward their own Bills, usually during Private Members’ time. If the Bill gets passed by the Oireachtas, it becomes an Act, which means that it becomes law.

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