Wednesday, 22 June 2005
Community Support Services.
I welcome the Minister of State. My matter concerns the need for the Minister for Community, Gaeltacht and Rural Affairs to implement the findings of a review report on the Carmichael Centre, North Brunswick Street, Dublin 7, and in particular to ensure that interim funding is provided to avoid a financial crisis at the centre in autumn 2005.
The Carmichael centre for voluntary groups does fantastic work throughout the city. Some 43 organisations, generally small to medium organisations that would not have had a roof over their heads otherwise, are facilitated in the building. It works with another 350 groups to whom it provides services. That is particularly desirable as there is a network of organisations that lack such a facility. It is an essential service that is being provided.
From the very beginning there has been a crisis of funding and the centre has never had a steady stream of funding on which it could rely on a multi-annual basis. After a few years of hand-to-mouth existence the situation came to a head. After a number of meetings it was agreed that a review would take place and this was agreed with Minister of State at the Department of Community, Gaeltacht and Rural Affairs, Deputy Noel Ahern, in June 2004. The review was commissioned by the Health Service Executive northern area on behalf of the Department of Health and Children. It was done with the agreement of the Carmichael centre for voluntary groups.
The review report has been released and it is very positive. It states that the Carmichael centre for voluntary groups provides value for money for organisations in the community and voluntary sector in the State, that the services of the Carmichael centre for voluntary groups are vital for the survival of member groups, with serious cost implications, respondents to the survey see the centre as a vital support to their continued needs and 80% of those using the training services are totally or reasonably satisfied, the development support service the centre offers to external groups is highly appreciated, the Carmichael centre for voluntary groups is an essential and necessary service in the support and development of organisations involved in community and voluntary activity in Ireland, the board operates good practice with regard to its corporate governance, the centre has high human resource management standards, the centre has extremely advanced information management systems, the centre is commended for developing its policy documents and for good practice in this regard, and the centre needs a total of €320,000 per annum from the State to be financially viable.
The issue of obtaining that funding is the crux of the matter. The centre was assured that once the review was complete, the money and the structures would be put in place. There has been no interim funding since February of this year and a crisis is now looming which will become pressing in September. There was a commitment from the Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children, Deputy Tim O'Malley, regarding the review that "in the interim the northern area health board will continue to fund the operation of the Carmichael centre".
The Carmichael centre has been informed that there is no further money for the centre in the existing budget. Will we be engaged in more crisis management over the summer where people will find their jobs insecure? Will there be another financial crisis and another round of contacting and lobbying politicians or can we get a response on the funding? The core funding is needed. The decision was taken that it would be provided once the review was conducted and found to be positive. The review was extremely positive but there is no adequate interim funding at present and there is no commitment to core funding. I hope the Minister of State can resolve this crisis.
Brian Lenihan Jnr (Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Minister of State, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Minister of State, Department of Health and Children; Dublin West, Fianna Fail)
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I am speaking on this Adjournment debate on behalf of my colleague, the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Harney. I thank Deputy Costello for raising this matter and giving me the opportunity to outline the position of the Department.
The Carmichael centre for voluntary groups is a centre for small national voluntary organisations working in the areas of health, education, the arts, the environment and social care. Over recent years the operation of the centre has been funded by the Department of Health and Children, the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs and the Department of the Taoiseach through the allocation of once-off funding.
In 2004, following a request from the Carmichael centre for ongoing revenue funding, a consultant was engaged by the former Eastern Regional Health Authority to conduct a review of the operation of the centre. The consultant's report was received in the Department of Health and Children and the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs in May 2005.
A detailed examination of the recommendations in the consultant's report, including the issue of core funding of the centre, is ongoing in the Department of Health and Children, the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs and the Health Service Executive. However, as an interim measure, the Health Service Executive is providing further once-off funding of €200,000 in 2005 to the Carmichael centre to enable both Departments and the Health Service Executive to complete their examination of the recommendations in the consultant's report.