By Aoibhinn Twomey
DRUG rehabilitation centre and a vital meals on wheels service that caters for 800 people a week are just two of the Northside services that are in danger of closing if cuts to Community Employment (CE) schemes are introduced.
Uncertainty now surrounds the future of at least 20 CE schemes in Dublin following the announcement of cuts to grants for training and materials needed by participants.
The proposed 66 per cent cut means the funding of a training and materials grant for each CE participant has been slashed from €1,500 to €500.
Dr Tom O’Brien, manager of Sankalpa drug rehabilitation service in Finglas, is just one of those who would be dramatically affected by the cuts.
Sankalpa is categorised as a ‘special CE scheme’, which means that the role of the 18 participants is not to work but to engage in drug rehabilitation so that they can get their feet back on the ground.
“The social welfare budget has been slashed and it seems that certain sectors such as the CE schemes will be targeted as part of the cuts,” he told Northside People.
“We are already dealing with a cut from the HSE of five per cent each year and now it seems the €30,000 grant we get from FAS will be cut to €10,000.
“It simply won’t be sustainable for us to be able to continue to provide this vital service with such limited resources.”
The meals on wheels service in Finglas, which was established almost 20 years ago, is also in danger of closing according to its founder, Bernie Donnelly.
“If implemented, the cut will mean that two thirds of our funding will be gone,” she explained.
“It won’t be possible for us to continue the service which now caters for 800 people per week.”
The service is heavily reliant on the work of 27 CE workers, a further four who are employed full-time and two CE supervisors.
A devastated Ms Donnelly explained how the loss of jobs and the loss of the service would have a serious knock-on effect in regards to hospital overcrowding.
“The provision and the availability of our meals on wheels forms an essential part of the discharge plan for elderly patients who may be in hospital or in nursing homes recovering from surgery,” she stated.
“If there’s no service to provide them with food when they return home then the hospital will have no other choice but to keep them in hospital until they are fully mobile and able to fend for themselves.
“That in turn will mean fewer hospital beds for those who really need them.”
In correspondence seen by Northside People and sent to Dr Tom O’Brien, Minister Burton confirmed that a review of CE schemes would be carried out and that financial assistance would be provided in the event that some CE schemes are in difficulty as a result of the cuts.
“Community Employment schemes provide a very important and valued contribution to social employment, training and progression for unemployed people,” Minister Burton wrote.
“As part of the entry of FAS into my Department on January 1 2012, I have directed that a review of CE schemes will commence immediately.
“No Community Employment scheme will close pending the outcome of this review.
“The purpose of the review will be to establish the ongoing viability of each scheme in the context of the overall CE program and recognising in particular the community and social value of each CE scheme.
“In the event [that] a reduction in the training and material grant announced in the budget creates financial difficulties for schemes that would otherwise be viable, my department will be in a position to fund such schemes from within the overall department budget.”
Northside People (December 2011)