Thursday, 8 December 2005
Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform
Probation and Welfare Service
Question 203: To ask the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will report on the circumstances leading up to the sudden closure of a project (details supplied) in Dublin 11 on 2 December 2005; the reason this project will not provide day-care services under the Children Act 2001 as planned; the organisation which will provide those services; the reason staff were not given notice; the terms of the severance package available to them; the reason this facility and the experienced staff are not being retained within the justice system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38588/05]
The project was a community-based, day assessment service which offered an assessment service to young people from Finglas, Ballymun and surrounding areas. The Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, through the probation and welfare service, commenced funding the project on 1 January 2004, at an annual cost of €400,000. Prior to that date, funding had been provided by the Department of Education and Science from the children at risk fund.
The Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform agreed to commence funding the project on condition, inter alia, that: the project should be a pilot for day centres, provided for under the Children Act 2001; referrals to the project should be from the courts; and the project should work to its full capacity of five young people in attendance at any given time. It was anticipated that the project would become a pilot day centre as provided for under the Children Act 2001. However, in order to meet the day centre requirement of the Children Act a number of changes were required to the existing services being provided by the project. Unfortunately, I am informed that the project was unable to meet those requirements. I am further informed that since January 2004, the project has only dealt with six referrals of young people who were before the courts.
I am advised that, at a meeting held on 2 December 2005 the board of management concluded that the project was no longer viable and that the company should cease trading on 8 December 2005. I am further advised the board decided that staff should be paid until the end of December in lieu of notice. As the project is registered as a private limited company, the severance package and any staff issues arising are a matter entirely for the board of management. In that regard, I understand that negotiations with the relevant parties are due to commence very shortly.
I have instructed the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform urgently to pursue with the management of the probation and welfare service what alternative programmes can be put in place for the provision of services to children in the Finglas, Ballymun and surrounding areas who are under the supervision of the probation and welfare service.