July 19, 2019
News Opinion

TRISH FINEGAN: ‘Increase in funding for Family Resource Centres does not go far enough’

THE €1.8 million funding recently announced by Minister John Paul Phelan was welcome news – but unfortunately it doesn’t go far enough.

On the face of it, a 5% increase in funding for Family Resources Centres (FRC’s) is good news, but it’s important to put it in context.

There are 109 Family Resource Centres nationally that predate 2018. Under the measures announced by Minister Phelan, each of the 109 FRC’s will get an extra €5,300 on top of the funding they receive this year. 

In 2018, 11 more FRC’s were created with a budget of €160,000 each, almost €50,000 more than some existing FRC’s. Where is the fairness in that?

While the Minister’s recent announcement is welcome, the 109 FRC’s, of which there are four in Kilkenny, should have their budget increased to €160,000 in parity with the newly created ones. 

Family Resources Centres are located in some of the most disadvantaged communities in the country.  They do exceptional work with families and individuals in their areas and, in some cases, well beyond their area. 

When the financial crash came funding for all community development projects was dramatically cut.  During the recession years 2009 to 2016 overall government spending fell by 7.1%, but funding for disadvantaged and marginalised communities fell on average by 50%.  Funds allocated to Family Resources Centres were reduced by as much as 20%. Meanwhile their workload has increased substantially with no additional staff. 

Now under Tusla, the child and family agency, the FRC’s remit has extended to include Meitheal – a Tusla led national practice model for all agencies working with children, young people and their families. 

Meitheal is an interagency model allowing wrap around supports for the child/young person and family to be put in place under a one plan one child system. It is proving to be invaluable in early intervention with children and leads to additional, intensive support work with families after the completion of a Meitheal.

The expansion in the workload for core staff has not come with an increase in family support workers or budget.  There is a lot of talk about pay parity and pay restoration for those that took a cut during the recession, but it is high time that the government supported Family Resource Centres across the country in their very valuable work with families and communities that need them. 

Restoration of core funding to 2008 levels would be welcome, but I would like to see the government fund all FRC’s equally and allocate €160,000 to every centre, not just the 11 newly created ones.  

As regards the announcement that the extra €1.8 million will also fund one extra family support worker in each of the 17 Tusla geographical areas, in reality, this means just one additional post for the Kilkenny, Carlow, South Tipperary area in which there are nine Family Resource Centres, four in Kilkenny alone. 

So although Minister Phelan’s announcement appears to be good news, in effect all it is does is marginally reduce the financial shortfall for those FRC’s operating in deficit, for this year alone. 

If the government was serious about improving the lives of the most disadvantaged in our society they would fund all Family Resource Centre’s equally to the tune of €160,000 annually so that the really important work that these centres provide for the communities they are based in can not only continue, but grow.

*Trish Finegan is an Independent local election candidate for the Callan-Thomastown electoral area

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