Dáil debates

Wednesday, 1 June 2005

Adjournment Debate.

Family Support Services.

8:00 pm

Photo of Joe CostelloJoe Costello (Dublin Central, Labour)
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This matter relates to the Hill Street family resource centre and the threat to its existence. Today, five staff in the centre were put on protective notice. There is a need for a commitment of €250,000 annually to keep the centre running.

The centre provides services to 125 families with children aged up to five years of age in the north-east inner city. A public meeting is planned for 9 June as a last ditch attempt to garner public support for action to preserve the centre. Time is running out because the funding has run out.

The centre was established on the basis of what was called the integrated services process. The idea was that a resource in an area, particularly a disadvantaged area, would be taken up by multi-agency groups and used for the benefit of the local people. In this case, it was largely the local authority, the health board, which is now the Health Service Executive, and the Department of Education and Science. The Garda and the probation and welfare service were also involved. It provided a marvellous resource for young children and their parents in terms of support and intervention services and information. It was exactly what was needed in the area.

The funding was provided on an ad hoc basis from the beginning. The problem arose when RAPID was initiated in 2001. It promised a great deal but it also meant the existing sources of funding were eroded. Nothing transpired from the promises from RAPID in 2002 and 2003. A crisis was reached in 2004. There is no mainstream source of funding and no means of sustaining existing services.

Urgent action and commitment are required from the Government. This is a physical resource that includes buildings, a playground and other facilities that have been taken on by the community and the multi-agency services. The HSE is now prepared to be the lead agency if the funding is forthcoming. However, without a commitment to long-term funding it is certain that this centre will close. It would be a terrible shame if a necessary facility such as this should cease to exist. The families will be disadvantaged by it, not to mention the staff who will lose their jobs. This centre represents the type of integrated initiative that has major benefits for a disadvantaged area.

I urge the Minister to offer us succour by stating that he is prepared to provide long-term funding, that the funding will be mainstreamed and that the crisis threatening the closure of the Hill Street family resource centre will be averted.

Photo of John BrowneJohn Browne (Minister of State, Department of Agriculture and Food; Wexford, Fianna Fail)
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Hill Street family resource centre, based in inner-city Dublin, has been in receipt of funding since 2000 under the family and community services resource centre, FRC, programme, which is administered by the Family Support Agency. All FRCs are funded on the basis of three-year renewable contracts, subject to satisfactory progress being made. Under its current contract, Hill Street FRC received funding of €81,372 in 2003, €93,900 in 2004 and current year funding will amount to €93,000. Funding is also provided to the FRC from other sources.

The centre's current contract with the Family Support Agency expires at the end of 2005 and will then be subject to renewal in accordance with the normal terms and conditions of the programme. FRC performance over the contractual period is monitored on an ongoing basis. Where difficulties arise, the agency's policy is to work with all concerned to try to resolve them. Withdrawal of funding is rare and would only occur if all other efforts at resolution of the difficulty have been exhausted.

The agency is aware that the centre is experiencing some difficulties. Management of the centre has requested that the Family Support Agency become the lead agency for this project. The agency funds 77 centres in the family and community services resource centre programme and expects this number to increase to 100 by the end of 2006. It would not be in a position to become a lead agency for any family resource centre.

Staff from the agency met the management committee of Hill Street FRC on 20 May last to discuss the difficulties the centre is having. Tosach, the regional support agency which provides day-to-day advice to the management under the FRC programme, also attended the meeting. Following the meeting Tosach prepared an action plan to address the issues discussed and has recently submitted this to the Family Support Agency where it is being examined. Once this examination is complete, the Family Support Agency will engage in further discussions with Hill Street family resource centre, in conjunction with Tosach, with a view to finding a satisfactory solution.