This is the second phase (2009-2012) of the Border People (www.borderpeople.info) information website, being developed in a continuing partnership with the North/South Ministerial Council Joint Secretariat. This project is led by the Centre for Cross Border Studies’ IT manager, Joe Shiels, and information officer, Annmarie O’Kane.
The website provides citizens information for people crossing the border to live, work, study or retire. It provides information on cross-border taxation, social security, job seeking, qualifications, health, education, housing, banking and telecommunications. In 2011 the website received a monthly average of 6,880 unique visitors, 7,531 visits and 15,836 page views.
During 2011 two Border People User Group meetings were organised in Monaghan and Letterkenny in collaboration with the IBEC-CBI Joint Business Council under the title ‘Developing your Cross-Border Business.’ At a seminar in Dublin in November 2010, the international lawyer and expert on EU mobility issues (and the Irish representative on the European Network on Free Movement within the EU), John Handoll, said:
In my practice and research into free movement issues, the Border People website has become an essential tool. More importantly, its clear and user-friendly design allows citizens on both sides of the border to access up-to-date information on key topics. It has evolved over time in response to citizens’ needs and has become a first port of call for those seeking to understand their rights.
Phase Two has allowed for a much more systematic dissemination and marketing of information and public feedback on cross-border mobility issues, assisted by an active and enlarged User Group drawn from a range of citizens advice, employment advice, local authority, business and community organisations. Performance is being reviewed against agreed targets for information content, along with regular statistical website reports to evaluate demand and usage. A regular survey tests whether the interests of users are being matched and how well the various website features are working. 92% of users in a 2010 survey said that they ‘agreed’ or ‘strongly agreed’ with the statement that Border People is ‘an important and valuable resource’ for people living and working in the Irish border region.
Phase Three of Border People was submitted as part of the INICCO Phase 2 INTERREG funding application in May 2012 for the period 2013-2015. It will include a programme of training and capacity building to prepare the existing citizens advice bodies, Citizens Advice NI and the Citizens Information Board (RoI), to integrate the Border People service into their mainstream provision after 2015; and research into patterns and issues of mobility across the Irish border.
The Steering Group for this project is drawn from the North South Ministerial Council Joint Secretariat, the Centre for Cross Border Studies, the Department of Finance and Personnel (NI), the Department of Social and Family Affairs (RoI), Citizens Advice Northern Ireland, Citizens Information Board (RoI), and the Eures Cross-border Partnership. User group meetings on specific topics of concern to cross-border workers and other interested people are organised every six months at a location in the border region.