‘Plain English’ training sought for Social Protection staff

Sinn Féin TD says tender issued by department, worth up to €100,000, is ‘bizarre’

The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection is open to spending some €100,000 hiring consultants to provide training for staff on how to write in ‘plain English’.

The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection is open to spending some €100,000 hiring consultants to provide training for staff on how to write in ‘plain English’.

 

The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection is open to spending some €100,000 hiring consultants to provide training for staff on how to write in ‘plain English’.

The department recently tendered for a private contractor to edit letters, reports, statements, web pages and customer forms to make them easier to read and understand, as well as to provide training on how to write in plain English to its staff.

The service will be required on an ad hoc basis over a number of projects, and the contract will be for one year, with the option to be extended.

The contract specifications outline the contractor will be required to train department staff in both editing and writing in plain English. The tender advertisement estimated the contract will be worth around €100,000, excluding Vat.

A spokeswoman for the department said a large number of social protection benefits and employment services fell into the department’s remit, meaning they had a “huge amount” of interaction with public customers compared to other departments.

Forms

She said it was “absolutely important” that people filling in information on forms understood exactly what details the department required.

Jobseekers benefit, child benefit, carers allowance, PRSI and state pensions all fall under the department’s scope. Correspondence and forms had to be as “user friendly” as possible, and as such needed to be in plain English, the spokeswoman said.

John Brady, Sinn Féin TD and spokesman for social protection, said the decision to spend around €100,000 on training for department staff to write in plain English was “bizarre and beyond comprehension.”

Mr Brady said at times he found the language used by the department “difficult to decipher”, but was critical that hiring private contractors was seen as the solution to the problem.

“A little common sense goes a long way, and that should be utilised, as opposed to the wilful waste of taxpayers money,” he said.