Seanad debates

Wednesday, 23 June 2004

6:00 pm

Mary Henry (Independent)
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I welcome the Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children, Deputy Tim O'Malley. As long as I have been in the House, Governments of all hues have urged the voluntary sector to work with them in addressing various problems in society. The Carmichael Centre is Ireland's first, largest and busiest centre for voluntary groups and it is entitled to Government support.

It has many members including An Óige, ASPIRE, CanTeen Ireland, CareLocal, Caring and Sharing Association, Centre for Independent Living, Children in Hospital Ireland, Children's Leukaemia Research Project, Coeliac Society of Ireland, Cuidiú — Irish Childbirth Trust, Disability Legal Resource, Drama League of Ireland, Dublin Community Games, Dublin Healthy Cities Project, Dublin Lesbian Line, Endometriosis Association of Ireland, Gamblers Anonymous, Gay Switchboard Dublin, Gingerbread, HADD Family Support Group, Health Action Overseas, Heart Children, Huntington's Disease Association of Ireland, Irish Association for the Study of Delinquency Limited, Irish Chronic Pain Association, Irish Fair Trade Network, Irish Lupus Support Group, Irish Motor Neurone Disease Association, Irish Multiple Births Association, Irish Society for Colitis and Crohn's Disease, Irish Stammering Association, Irish Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Association, Irish Sudden Infant Death Association, Men Overcoming Violence, Miscarriage Association of Ireland, Neurofibromatosis Association of Ireland, Neurological Alliance of Ireland, Parentline, Parkinson's Association of Ireland, Post Polio Support Group, Royal Life Saving Society, Sláinte Pobal Limited, Smashing Times Theatre Company, Voluntary Services Overseas, and Volunteering Ireland. That is a wide ranging group and other groups are also involved. The facility has been available since 1988 and it has been involved in nationwide management training programmes for these community and voluntary groups. It also supports those organisations in areas like legal responsibility, governance, recruitment and employment, fund-raising, policy development and accountability and compliance, general clerical and administrative service, expert representation on policy regulation and legislation, payroll and accounting services and information technology support and consultancy. It charges member organisations for those facilities so it is doing the best it can to raise funds. It has also received money from various philanthropic funds and is involved in various fund-raising activities also.

However, it is absolutely essential the centre receives some core funding from the Government. It was hopeful that €150,000 was coming from the Department of Health and Children, but that has not materialised at present even though the charities regulation Bill is imminent. The Government will have charities with absolutely no back-up trying to keep going if the Carmichael Centre closes down and I implore the Minister of State to ask the Department for some money so these services can continue.

I listened to the 4 o'clock news on the radio and it was followed by an advertisement for Parentline. Parentline is one of the most important ways in which parents in extreme distress about their children can get help and advice. Who in the Department of Social and Family Affairs or the Department of Health and Children will take that over if such organisations close down? The Minister of State knows how concerned we are with violence in society and here we have an organisation set up by men, Men Overcoming Violence, which is trying to work in this area. That these organisations will be without the help given by the Carmichael Centre seems one of the most short-sighted ways of saving money I have seen for a long time. I hope the Minister of State can reassure me and those who work in Carmichael House that the redundancy notices can be taken back so that the excellent services provided there can continue.

Tim O'Malley (Minister of State, Department of Health and Children; Limerick East, Progressive Democrats)
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I am pleased to have the opportunity to clarify the provision of funding for the Carmichael Centre, North Brunswick Street, Dublin and I thank Senator Henry for tabling this motion.

The provision of health-related services for people with disabilities, physical, sensory or intellectual, and for those with autism is a matter for the Eastern Regional Health Authority and the health boards in the first instance. Since 1997 my Department has allocated significant levels of funding across the disability sector which have resulted in substantial advances in the quality and quantity of the health-related services being provided to people with disabilities.

The Carmichael Centre is Ireland's largest centre for voluntary organisations, providing accommodation for 43 small voluntary organisations working in the area of health, social services, community and art. It provides a large range of services, enabling voluntary organisations to achieve their objectives in a cost efficient manner. My Department allocated €250,000 in 2002 for refurbishments carried out to the Carmichael Centre. This grant was made in recognition of the fact that Carmichael Centre includes a number of organisations active in the health field among its clients. My colleague, the Minister for Community Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs also has a role in supporting this organisation.

My Department will consult with the Eastern Regional Health Authority and the health boards regarding the Centre's revenue funding requirement, having regard to the availability of the additional resources required. It will be necessary also to consult further with other relevant Departments, given the wide mix of interests catered for by the Carmichael Centre. My Department has been in contact recently with the management of the centre to confirm that the organisation's funding problems are being given sympathetic consideration. In particular I emphasise that the health funding to the various health organisations using the Carmichael building is unaffected by this issue. The Minister of State at the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, in consultation with my Department and the Eastern Regional Health Authority, will shortly invite representatives of the Carmichael Centre to discussions on the matter. In the meantime, my Department has asked the Eastern Regional Health Authority to make available a once-off grant of €150,000, to alleviate the immediate problems identified by the organisations.

Mary Henry (Independent)
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I thank the Minister of State and I will get after the Eastern Regional Health Authority now.