The Family Support Agency, under my Department, operates the Family Resource Centre Programme. The aim of the Family Resource Centre Programme is to combat disadvantage and improve the functioning of the family unit. The programme funds 107 family resource centres throughout the country. It emphasises involving local communities in tackling the problems they face, and creating successful partnerships between voluntary and statutory agencies at community level.
A number of Community Savings Schemes operate within the family resource centre structure. These schemes are managed by local voluntary committees, and are staffed by volunteers. At present there are over 1,500 people availing of 6 savings schemes located within centres based in Kilkenny, Wexford and Limerick.
Community Savings Schemes operate on a not-for-profit basis and do not offer credit to clients. They promote the practice of saving as a low-cost and low-risk alternative to accessing credit. The Schemes offer an opportunity for families to prepare themselves in advance for the costs associated with expensive family events such as Christmas, back to school, Holy Communions, etc. They represent a welcome alternative to moneylenders and other expensive credit options.
The schemes encourage families to be pro-active in their approach to budgeting for foreseen and unexpected events. To advance the practice of saving, rather than borrowing, a special emphasis is placed on promoting the involvement of children and young people.