NEW Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan has rescued the Fr McGrath Centre, the city’s family resource and community centre. The Kilkenny Cabinet member reversed the decision of the last Government to abolish the Centre’s €140,000 annual grant. The Minister’s decision means that 14 jobs will be saved and that services provided by a team of 48 part-time and full-time staff and some 300 volunteers to thousands of young people and families will continue.
Minister Hogan visited the Centre on Friday and revealed that the funding would now be secure and provided through the VEC. “The work being carried out by the Fr McGrath Centre should be supported in every way,” he told a crowd of 100 people who attended a lunch in the venue.
“It is a perfect example of volunteerism at its best in the interests of vulnerable people. The Centre provides a service to people which enables them to be assets to the State rather than dependents on it”.
Minister Hogan also congratulated the 14 Transition Year students from the nearby Loreto secondary school on their role in helping the Fr McGrath Centre by taking part in the Social Innovation Programme.
“These students are now in the finals of the Social Innovation National Competition because of their success in highlighting the need for children’s services”, he said.
The Fr McGrath Centre is a community developed and managed multifaceted family resource and community centre. It has been operating from two premises in the Butts community in Kilkenny city for the past 15 years.
The Minister who was very vocal in his support of the highly regarded family centre in the Butts community in Kilkenny prior to his election calling the Family Centre a ‘striking model of community volunteerism at its best and that this type of community partnerships with government needed more investment not less.’
The Minister told the delighted volunteers of which there are more than 300 each year supporting the centres activities, and the very relieved staff whose jobs are now safe, that the need for these kind of community partnerships and responses to social need in Ireland where never more important considering the great challenges Ireland now faces in the post Celtic Tiger era.
“As Minister for Environment I am determined that the people of Ireland will get a more efficient and responsive service from local government as I believe that local council reforms we are planning will deliver a better and more cost effective service to all Irish families.’
Chairman of the voluntary Board running the Family Centre, Pat Brennan, welcomed the Ministers announcement and said it was with great relief that the centre received this news as the loss of this grant raised a major question mark on the future viability of the centre and all the projects that operate from it.
“It is the right of every child in our Republic to be equal to every other child especially in the area of educational opportunity. Unfortunately, this is not always the case in our society and the announcement by the Minister today will allow the more than 200 volunteers working with our children each week to give them this right can now continue,” Mr Brennan said
Minister Hogan singled out the young students present from the Loreto Convent Social Innovators project for their role in raising awareness of the importance of these children’s education support services as part of their social innovators programme during the election campaign.
Minister Hogan met with the students and Sr. Mary Bourke when they visited the Dail earlier in the year as part of their campaign to save these local children’s services.
He also congratulated them on their project getting through to the Nation Social Innovators final later this month and told them that would be delighted to host a visit of their project to Dail Eireann in his new role as Minister with responsibility for community affairs.
The students, who also volunteer as tutors for children in the Centre’s catch up programmes, met every party candidate prior to the election to appeal for their support for the Centres programmes and collected over 3,000 signatures of support from Kilkenny people.
They will travel to Dublin on May 11 to hear the results of their entry in the final of the Social Innovator Programme. There entry is based on the public campaign they ran during the general election.