I thank the Chair for facilitating me and I welcome the presence of the Minister of State, Deputy Tim O'Malley, in the House. I have raised this matter with the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Deputy Harney, but I am glad that the Minister of State is here. I hope he will convey to the Minister my deep concern about this matter.
Although I am raising my concerns because I have a particular Tallaght perspective, this issue does not relate to Tallaght only. I am asking the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment to provide urgently needed funding, through FÁS and the social economy scheme, to enable a long-established community training project in Tallaght to continue in operation. Syscom Computer Training Limited is a registered company that was established by the Tallaght ICTU centre for the unemployed, which was founded in 1987 as part of the response by the trade union movement to the unemployment crisis that prevailed at that time. The centre was established alongside the Programme for National Recovery which was agreed by the social partners in the 1980s.
Syscom was established to provide high quality training and development services to unemployed people, to provide educational and training facilities that are of relevance to such people, to support the long-term unemployed in their efforts to return to the workforce and to help individuals to gain new skills and to develop existing skills. Since its establishment in 1991, Syscom has provided 8,000 course places in Tallaght. It has been staffed by part-time community employment and full-time job initiative personnel during that period. Its one full-time staff member, the manager, who has been continuously employed since its inception, also functions as a part-time tutor. I had the pleasure of bringing the manager and some of her colleagues to meet the Taoiseach last year. I impressed on the Taoiseach the importance of this scheme, which I have been happy to support as an elected representative of Tallaght.
The termination of payments expected under the second phase of the community access to IT scheme, which was inaugurated by the former Minister for communications, Senator O'Rourke, removed the possibility of the support for which this project had been already favourably assessed by the Department. The provision for the gradual roll-out of the social economy and its use to replace places hitherto provided under the community employment scheme, as envisaged in the PPF, provided an alternative source of support. Syscom has provided all necessary information and a detailed and updated business plan for FÁS as part of its application for such support. I understand that FÁS has verbally indicated that it has no available resources to cover further projects in Tallaght. I remind the House that Tallaght is the third largest centre of population in Ireland.
The reduction of community employment schemes and numbers being carried out by FÁS, together with the continuing uncertainty among surviving schemes as to their continuation, has led to the postponement or reduction of normal spending by community employment projects on IT training. This will lead to a reduction in the skills of the workforce at a time when skills are urgently needed. Syscom is faced with an immediate crisis, therefore. In the absence of support, it is being forced to close down, in spite of the need for IT training in Tallaght and its long and proven record in delivering a quality service to the community, including recognised qualifications such as the ECDL and NCVA awards.
I wish to make clear to the Minister of State that this is an important issue for Tallaght. It is important that this House demonstrates its strong support for people who need it. As I have outlined, Syscom has provided tremendous service to the community over a long period. Some 8,000 people have benefited and it would be a shame to pick on such people in this time of spending constraints. I appeal to the Minister of State to convey to the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment my serious concerns, as a representative of Tallaght and the Dublin South-West constituency. I hope that I can look forward to progress in this regard. I appreciate the attendance and support of the Minister of State,