Ladies and Gentlemen, it’s good to be here. Geraldine, thank you for your kind words. I was delighted to receive your invitation to officially open this inaugural PSRA Conference , and it’s great to see that we are joined, not just by all the people in the room, but also by others on live stream.
Today is an important day and I am confident the conference will be a success. Reviewing the agenda, it was good to see the range of relevant topics which are being covered, and also that speakers are both national and from the UK… the international aspect becoming all the more interesting of course, as Brexit approaches. Meanwhile I know the licensees here today are from all over the country, representing all the roles involved in property services… from auctioneers and estate agents to lettings and property management agents.
You have attracted many exhibitors… always a good sign at such a conference. As I came in today, I got the chance to stop at some of the stands and there was a great sense of enthusiasm from people in the sector for this conference…. It’s good to see such collaboration.
As Minister for Justice and Equality, I recognise the work and progress of the PSRA in regulating, driving standards and supporting property service professionals. But I also recognise what such work being done, for the first time, means for those being regulated.
Your sector has seen great change over the last decade. You had to cope with the recession. Then you were called upon to support and embrace the challenges presented by the sector being regulated by the Property Services Regulatory Authority in 2012.
No change is easy but big change is especially tough. And this was big change. It involved the implementation of an effective regulatory system, which would
- oversee the conduct of almost 6,000 licensees,
- set and drive standards,
- manage a complaints system and
- protect consumers through management of a compensation fund.
BUT, in the short time since 2012 and the introduction of regulation, there has been an overwhelmingly positive response from you, the licensees, to it. Your presence here today is a very positive sign of your support for this now regulated sector, and I want to thank you for that.
You will hear later this morning from Dr Roisin Murphy, who will be presenting the results of an invaluable survey of licensees carried out last summer. Over 1200 of you responded to it so I think we can take it as very representative. It examined various aspects of regulation to try to paint a picture of its impact on both you as agents and also on the property services sector overall.
One of the most significant findings is that you considered regulation as a whole to be both necessary and relevant. This is significant for me as Minister in that it gives me confidence that you support it as a concept and that you would welcome any future change which would drive standards in the sector.
And the sector has seen positive practical changes which help you, I believe, since its introduction. To take just one, you no longer, for example, have to engage with multiple agencies to get a licence to operate. Instead, the PSRA processes all the requirements in one single transaction AND does it online. Being able to apply for your licence and make your contribution to the compensation fund, all online, as you have been able to do now since 2016 must be helpful to you.
I know that already, the online system allows you to track your application and receive notifications relating to licensing, and I am aware that the PSRA’s Strategic Plan provides for a full suite of online licensee related products to be delivered. I understand in fact that from the end of this month, licensees can apply to ‘add additional licence categories’ and ‘Change of Employer’ forms all online, and I am delighted to hear that the completion of this suite of online licensing products places the PSRA as one of the first Justice agencies to become fully digital under the Governments Digital First ICT strategy. This is a great achievement.
Of course, the PSRA’s work is not confined to licensing and regulation. The Authority also has a significant role in supporting the development of the sector and the individuals and businesses working within it.
In the last 18 months, the mandatory Continuous Professional Development programme has been rolled out to further improve standards and instil a culture of lifelong learning in your profession. I know these programmes are delivered nationwide by the Institute of Professional Auctioneers and Valuers and the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland and I am delighted to acknowledge the energy and commitment of both Pat Davitt and Aine Myler, both of whom are here today, in driving this programme.
Of course, a sector which is offering its workforce CPD needs a workforce to offer it to, and as the availability of housing increases, one of the challenges facing YOUR sector right now is the recruitment of qualified personnel.
The apprenticeship route as a valuable way into many sectors is getting renewed attention at the moment and it’s good to see that the PSRA is playing a key role in the development of the “National Auctioneering and Property Services Apprenticeship” programme lead by the City of Dublin Education and Training Board. This programme is now approved by Quality and Qualification Ireland, and Dan Bradley who is here today was one of the main drivers in establishing and getting this programme off the ground. His tireless efforts were rewarded with the commencement of programmes last September, in both Ballsbridge College Dublin, and the College of Commerce Cork. This is a very welcome innovation and is a recognition of the increasing need for qualified personnel. I understand there are plans in train to extend the apprenticeship programme both in terms of the number participating and in the number of locations where it can be offered and I believe this should be greatly welcomed by the sector as a programme which provides an effective alternative pathway for those interested in pursuing a career as a licensed Property Service Provider has to be a good thing.
Regulation of any sort, tends of course, to focus on the interests of the consumer or the public, and quite deservedly so. Indeed further regulations, proposing minimum standards in areas such as ethical conduct, confidentiality, conflicts of interest and general obligations are currently being drafted. And they will no doubt be a welcome enhancement of the Authority’s existing legislation.
BUT, while of course there is a need to care for, and protect your clients, there is also a need to care for, and protect yourself, and your business. And in reviewing today’s speakers and topics, I noted with interest the emphasis on “protecting your business”. I have no doubt but that this segment will provide valuable guidance to you all on the use of technology, anti-fraud measures and mediation techniques, and I take it as a welcome signal, as I’m sure you do, that the conference is aimed at making sure everyone in the sector can take something from today, to apply to their day to day business.
Before I conclude, I want to express my sincere appreciation to the members of the Authority. We are fortunate to have such committed individuals who devote their time to the improvement of the sector. I pay particular thanks to the outgoing members of the Authority, Deirdre Fox, Pat Davitt, Josephine Henry, Martin Hanratty and Regina Terry. And I also want to thank Maeve Hogan and the staff of the PSRA for their ongoing efforts to ensure that their organisation is ever improving, professional and quality-driven. Their work in organising this conference is testament to their commitment.
And finally in opening this inaugural PSRA conference here today, I acknowledge the Authority’s progress and commitment and I compliment all involved in this work. I recognise the individuals and organisations here today who have contributed not only to this event, but to the sector as a whole. As the property sector continues to grow and prosper, and as we continue to execute a vision for uniformity, transparency and high ethical standards, your hard work and dedication is vital to ensuring a bright and sustainable future for the sector.