The future of the seven family resource centres in Mayo are under threat due to recommendations made in the An Bord Snip Nua report.
The report recommends closing the Family Support Agency in an effort to save the Exchequer €30 million, €18 million of which is spent directly on the Family Resource Centre programme. This money funds the work of 107 centres, including the seven in Mayo which received almost 1,000 visits in 2008 from community and voluntary groups. The seven Mayo centres are located in Ballina, Ballinrobe, Ballyhaunis, Castlebar, Claremorris, Kilmovee, and Westport and provide a range of services targeting those who are poverty stricken and socially marginalised.
If the recommendations are implemented the centres could be closed as early as autumn at a time when they are needed more than ever, according to the Family Resource Centre National Forum. According to the forum closing or cutting back the centres would have “a crippling effect on local economies and communities”. Packie Kelly, chairperson of the FRCNF, said: “Family resource centres operate in disadvantaged communities. They provide education and training; childcare facilities, counselling services, parenting support, and a range of initiatives to address issues such as addiction, isolation, and discrimination.
“The harsh reality of the economic downturn is that social problems are on the increase in Ireland: unemployment is rising and — as a result — the pressures on families are increasing. Now more than ever, the supports provided by family resource centres are needed. Rather than closing or reducing the Family Resource Centre programme, it will need to be supported, developed, and possibly even expanded over the coming years.”
The specific remit of the centres is to combat poverty and social marginalisation, with a specific emphasis on community activities that focus on supporting families and tackling child poverty.
Almost 250 adults availed of education and training courses in Mayo FRCs last year, thereby increasing their chances of returning to employment or gaining higher-skilled work. Furthermore, FRCs provide affordable childcare services on an ongoing basis – including pre-school and after-school care — which means parents can join the workforce or engage in training courses with a view to upskilling themselves.
The seven FRCs in Mayo employ almost 20 staff members, and almost 70 people are also involved on a voluntary basis in the management of the centres and every single Family Resource Centre is managed by a team of local volunteers.
Representatives of the seven Family Resource Centres in Mayo are currently meeting local Oireachtas members to highlight the importance of maintaining the Family Resource Centre Programme.
“We expect to receive widespread support for the Mayo centres — not only from the many thousands of users of our services in Mayo — but also from local politicians who are only too well aware of the positive impact of the Family Resource Centres on the economy and communities of this county,” concluded Mr Kelly.