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 Header Item Topical Issue Debate
 Header Item Family Resource Centres

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 787 No. 5

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Topical Issue Debate

Family Resource Centres

Deputy James Bannon: Information on James Bannon Zoom on James Bannon I thank the Ceann Comhairle for fitting this important matter into the schedule in what are the very last moments before the Christmas recess. I am pleased to have the opportunity to highlight the need for the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs to clarify the position on the future of the family resource centre, FRC, programme, in particular, the impact of the imminent changes in respect of the policy context in which the family resource centres will exist. I refer to Lus na Gréine Family Resource Centre at Granard, County Longford, Bridgeways Family Resource Centre, Ballymahon and Cara Phort Family Resource Centre, Ballynacargy, County Westmeath and Monsignor McCarthy Family Resource Centre, Athlone, County Westmeath.

Following the move of the FRC programme from the Family Support Agency into the new child and family support agency with, I believe, a commencement date of 1 January 2013, Lus na Gréine and all the other family resource centres are extremely anxious for assurance that their work in Longford-Westmeath and elsewhere throughout Ireland will continue and not be compromised under the new agency.

Lus na Gréine, in common with the other FRCs, is experiencing increasing demand for its services while budgets are being reduced year after year, and it did not start with this Government. The reality of a new agency to support children and families is that it can provide an exciting opportunity to enhance care and services, but this cannot be done without necessary funding. While Lus na Gréine in Granard is delighted to have recently received a lottery grant funding of €2,000 from the Department of Children and Youth Affairs to develop a young women's group for which I thank the Minister personally here this evening, this is once-off funding and not a long-term solution to the financial need. It is essential that the forthcoming Bill on the child and family support agency recognises the work being carried out by the FRCs and the challenges facing them in the current economic climate. Now more than ever, their help is needed in the communities they serve.

I am fully aware and grateful for the wonderful work carried out in Longford-Westmeath. I draw the Minister's attention to the following points on which Lus na Gréine and the others are seeking assurances. They seek full support for the continuation of the work of the FRCs in Longford-Westmeath. They also seek assurance that the family resource centre national forum has representation at board level within the new agency in line with the past involvement with the Family Support Agency. This has engendered a beneficial working relationship between the State agency and the voluntary sector service provider. It is essential that the ethos and culture of the FRC programme be maintained. The FRC has heretofore focused on delivering family supports in local communities through a community development approach.

I seek the Minister's support for a ring-fencing of the budget for the FRC programme. As I have already stated, the cutbacks imposed year after year have placed massive pressures on the FRCs and it is only through a ring-fenced budget that the integrity of the family support will not be diminished. Lus na Gréine in Longford-Westmeath and the other centres across the country stand ready to start the new year under a new agency, which, hopefully, will see them go from strength to strength.

There are 106 family resource centres in Ireland dating from the 1970s. They became a formal programme in the 1990s. I need not tell the Minister about the wonderful work they have done in rural communities such as Longford-Westmeath.

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