Government takeover of community development is nearly complete - Sheehan

Green Party Candidate Mags Sheehan

Green Party Candidate Mags Sheehan

A last bastion of community development in rural Ireland is being undermined as we speak. That’s according to Mags Sheehan, Green Party candidate for Mayo.

The Green Party candidate said this week that Family Resource Centres, subsumed under TUSLA in 2014, have now been told that they will only receive a one year service level agreement, ensuring funding for only one year ahead. This is in place of the previous three year funding agreements.??Until now FRC's would submit a three year work-plan which would be uniquely relevant to their geographical area, taking into account the services which are and are not available in the vicinity, and the demographic. The management committee of each centre would use their own local knowledge and experience to highlight the needs of the community.?She went on to say that she believes that this autonomy has now been completely undermined, as more and more of the decision making is happening through a top-down decision-making process.?

Sheehan contended that due to funding cuts, staff of the eight FRC's in Mayo which are located in Ballina, Ballinrobe, Ballyhaunis, Castlebar, Claremorris,?Kilmovee and Westport have had very little, if anything, in the way of pay increases since the recession hit, and have had to spend valuable time fundraising just to maintain their services. Staff recruitment has come to a standstill?and the work of the centres is increasingly carried out by employment scheme workers who may or may not be qualified or suited to the job.?? While demand for services has increased since 2008, FRC's are now expected to take on work which was previously carried out by the HSE or others. They are told to concentrate more on children, even where the more pressing issues are services for example, for elderly people, Travellers or other disadvantaged groups.?

The new system will exacerbate the existing lack of job security in the sector, which has seen at least a third of its jobs lost in recent years. Sheehan said that "I understand that the national forum representing all the centres, their staff and voluntary management are seeking support from their union on the matter and their concerns are not just about their own jobs, but about retaining services and honouring their commitments to the communities who worked to establish the centres in the first place.

"With so many community development projects already being closed around the country, it is vital that the resource centres retain their ethos of bottom-up community-led decision-making," Sheehan? argues, "and in effect the introduction of short term funding agreements makes all of those community services vulnerable to closure."?

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