2014 Executive Directors Report

Once again, I am privileged to present my Annual Report of the Society in respect of the calendar year 2014.

 

Grant Aid

2014 was a record year for the Society.  A total of €1.1 million was issued by way of grants and loans.  The total exceeds the amount approved in any of the previous 87 years of the Society’s existence.

The amount exceeded the 2013 total by €67,000. (6%)

We had expected there would be a slight tapering off of grant aid as the economy turned around.

However, the figure for 2014 bucks that trend.  There is no specific reason for this.  We did have a lot of calls on our service, for instance, for help with third level educational costs, which are increasingly becoming a factor in Irish society.

Mortgage arrears remained significant.  It is not uncommon to see mortgage arrears of €20,000 and more, which must be frightening and daunting for those who are going through this experience.

Those of our members in trouble with their mortgages increasingly came to sustainable arrangements with the banks and a lot of our input would have been in helping with other bills so that our members could concentrate on keeping up with the new mortgage arrangement.

While 2014 was a record for the Society, the early indication in 2015 show a tapering off again, so that maybe 2014 was just an exceptional year.

 The breakdown of grant aid in terms of age, location, gender and reason are outlined separately in this Annual Report.

We continue to liaise with the Employee Assistance Service and in doing so, ensure that the confidential ethos of both the EAS and the Society are honoured.  We are grateful to the Employee Assistance officers, who continually look out for our members and also promote the Society on our behalf at every opportunity.

We also continue to liaise with the Civil Service Credit Union and CANA, (Revenue Commissioners credit union).  There have been significant changes to the criteria for getting a credit union loan in recent times.  For example, if there are mortgage arrears or bank statements indicate potential difficulty in sustaining repayment, loan applications may not be approved.  Increasingly, we are coming into the equation as the next port of call as a result.

The Society values the link it has with the CSCU and CANA.  Over the years, many difficult cases have been resolved through the joint efforts of the Society and the credit unions concerned.

 

Membership

The contributions by members to the Society were down on 2013.  The total membership subscription was €650,610, €29,200 less than in (or 4.3%) 2013. 

We had 147 new members join us in 2014, compared to 152 in the previous year, a drop of just 5.

While it is early days in 2015, the membership figure is holding up quite well with a slight increase for the first quarter compared to the first quarter in 2014.

Our analysis is that retired members are choosing to continue their subscriptions to the Society and that is helping to keep the membership subscription up.  The Society has a slot at the popular pre-retirement courses and we would hope this is helping our cause.

The future of the pre-retirement course is up for review after June and it is hoped that we can retain our slot at whatever new format is arrived at.  

Group Specified Illness Plan

The Society facilitates access to a Group Specified illness Plan operated by Irish Life and has done so for the best part of 15 years.  This has been a very attractive plan whereby members who join it receive a lump sum in the event they are diagnosed with one of 26 specific illnesses.  The cost of the plan was seen as very attractive and the plan in actual fact attracted many new members to the Society in its prime.

However with the aging profile of our membership, Irish Life undertook a review and the options for continuation were not encouraging.  The only options open to us was to double the premium paid by our members or halve the benefit.  They also suggested that a broker act on behalf of the society.

To this end, Lyons Financial Services were appointed and they have examined the alternatives, or lack thereof, in the market.  For now, Irish life is the only option and we have opted to go for the halving of the benefit route.  This will be subject to review in a couple of years’ time and it gives Lyons some time to go back to the market and see if more attractive products can be sourced for our members.

Central Bank

The Central Bank very kindly assigned Mairead Moran, an Executive Officer to the Society in a work sharing capacity for a period of 1 year, due to end in June 2015.

I am delighted to inform you that the Central Bank has agreed to extend Mairead’s secondment for a further year.  She has been a great asset to the Society in her time with us to date and it gives the Society extra stability for the forthcoming year.

Appreciation

I wish to place on record the Society’s appreciation to our former Trustee,

Ms Josephine Feehily and wish her the best in her new role on the Policing Board.

I wish to congratulate Mr Niall Cody to his appointment as Chairman of the Revenue Commissioners and I am delighted to announce that Mr Cody has agreed to take on the role of Trustee, keeping alive the tradition of having the incumbent Revenue Commissioner being a Trustee of the Society.

Ms Niamh O’Donoghue, Secretary General of the Department of Social Protection is our other Trustee and again, on behalf of the Society, I wish to acknowledge our gratitude for her ongoing support of the Society.

I also wish to thank our Committee of Management.  Many of the members have served on the Committee for a long number of years and their time and input is much appreciated.

As ever, I cannot praise enough the input of our Cases Committee, namely

Joan Connolly, Frances McGahon and John Meagher who give so generously of their time, experience and knowledge in dealing with each application received by the Society.

Last, and by no means least, I wish to express my appreciation to my colleagues in Head Office, Mairead Moran, our Executive Officer and Carmel Doyle, our Administrative Assistant for their dedication and professionalism.

 

Declan O’Brien

Executive Director

Public Service Friendly Society