Over the past number of months, there has been increasing disquiet in the farming community over problems contacting the Department of Agriculture.
The issue was raised at a recent Farmers Charter meeting, where the ongoing problems farmers are encountering making telephone contact with the Department, in order to resolve problems or deal with outstanding queries, was heard.
IFA Deputy President Tim O’Leary said farmers are very frustrated with the inadequate telephone service from the Department of Agriculture and it was outlined at the meeting that this will be fully reviewed and overhauled for 2016.
He said it is essential that farmers have full telephone access to the Department of Agriculture at all times so ongoing issues can be quickly resolved and bottlenecks avoided.
He said it is essential that farmers have full telephone access to the Department at all times, so ongoing issues can be quickly resolved and bottlenecks avoided.
The Macra na Feirme President Sean Finan also recently highlighted the annoyance of farmers over their difficulty in communicating with the Department of Agriculture to establish the status of applications.
Finan said if farmers knew the status of applications and the lines of communication with the Department of Agriculture were open, then this would ease the frustration experienced.
‘There are problems’
At the recent ICSA Annual Conference, the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney admitted that there have been problems around the communications of farmers’ payment status.
“Farmers have been picking up the phone looking for the status of your basic payment or other scheme and you probably didn’t get the answer you were looking for.”
He admitted the Department’s new system for dealing with queries hasn’t worked. “…where we separate the experts from the people on the phone, but then the people on the phone didn’t have the expertise to give you the answers you needed.
“I’m sorry about that. I’ll make sure we learn lessons about it and fix it,” he said.
Under the Farmers Charter the Department of Agriculture has committed to the following:
Contact by Telephone
- It aims to answer your calls within 20 seconds.
- The Department official will give their full name, Section name (and contact details as appropriate)
- It will try to answer farmers questions straight away. If it cannot do so, it will take your details and tell you when you can expect to hear from the Department again.
- It says messages left on voicemail facilities will be dealt with promptly and it will aim to have calls returned within one working day.
Contact by letter or email
- Correspondence will be responded to within a maximum of 20 working days.
- Where this is not possible an interim response will be issued to you within 10 working days with the contact details of the person dealing with your correspondence and the date when you can expect a full response.
- The name of the staff member signing the letter will be printed on all correspondence.