Seanad debates

Thursday, 21 March 2024

Nithe i dtosach suíonna - Commencement Matters

Disability Services

9:30 am

Photo of Micheál CarrigyMicheál Carrigy (Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

I thank the Chair. I also welcome the Minister of State.

This matter relates to the current funding situation at St. Christopher's Services, which is a special school in Longford that was built by the people of Longford and has been funded by them for more than 40 years. The school is close to the hearts of all of us in Longford. However, there is currently a significant deficit of €250,000 per month. This will decrease to €140,000 per month when the 8% increase for section 39 organisations that was agreed prior to Christmas comes into play.

St. Christopher's Services is a section 39 organisation. A number of years ago, a significant number of staff left the school to work in the HSE as a result of the wage differences that existed. In recent months, to my understanding, there have been a number of issues around delays in pay. Staff have contacted my office about the matter. Issues around pension contributions not being forwarded to various companies and so forth came to the fore in recent weeks. I met with management and spoke to some people on the board of directors, etc., to discuss the issue. This organisation is at crisis point. When the wage increase comes into place, there will be a deficit of €140,000 per month. That amounts to almost €1.7 million by the end of the year.

In 2022, Government TDs in our county made promises of additional funding to cover wage increases. The board of directors made a decision to increase the wages of staff in light of the high numbers that were leaving the organisation. It did so on the basis that it was told that funding would be made available to cover the increase. That promise was made by a local TD in Longford. It is now early 2024. In recent months, staff have not been paid on time. In recent weeks, we have discovered that there is a significant financial shortage. The HSE had to come on board and front-load money from the end of the year to allow the school to get over this hump. The reality is that this will continue unless there is a change in the funding model for St. Christopher's Services, as a section 39 organisation, or unless it is taken over by the HSE.

This was caused by false truths told to staff and the board that money was in place. We now find out that it is not in place. I do not think that is acceptable. St. Christopher's Services has been close to the heart of every person in Longford for almost the past 50 years. It fundraised in every single corner of our community. That has stopped because of numerous issues such as that to which I refer. I am seeking the facts in respect of this matter. Staff are entitled to the facts. They were not told the facts; they had to find out for themselves that these issues had arisen. They were not told in advance. I am a public representative. As someone who represents the people of Longford, I need to know what the facts are because those involved are not being told the facts by another public representative in the county. They are being told lies. They were informed that money was put in place and that is not the case.


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