Thursday, 27 May 2021

Questions (7)

Martin Browne


7. Deputy Martin Browne asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth his views on the amount of time that administrators in family resource centres spend making applications for funding. [28597/21]

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Oral answers (6 contributions) (Question to Children)

I want to raise with the Minister how administrators and managers of the family resource centres spend a massive amount of time making applications for funding. I also want to raise the fact that the existing funding streams are too short.

I will start by paying particular tribute to the work that family resource centres have been providing since the outbreak of Covid-19. I was pleased to see some very effective and innovative work undertaken by them in that time. Recently, I met the family resource centre national forum again, and it described at first-hand the surge in demand for these services, and how the centres have responded. I deeply admire their commitment and dedication to their local communities.

Tusla provides core budget funding for 121 family resource centres throughout the country to provide family support and build the capacity of disadvantaged communities. This funding enables communities to develop strategies in response to social problems and to leverage access to other funding opportunities. With the core funding provided by Tusla, family resource centres draw down significant additional funding for their communities from non-Tusla sources.

It is important that family resource centres access a range of funding sources, as much of their diverse work intersects with the remits of bodies such as the Department of Social Protection, the Department of Rural and Community Development, local authorities and the HSE. Some family resource centres have also secured supports from non-governmental bodies and cross-Border funding. I encourage them to seek these supports, where possible.

I accept that the process of securing diversified funding streams can be resource intensive but it is also important to account fully for State funding. I am in favour of any measure that could be put in place to reduce the administration burden on local community and voluntary organisations so they can dedicate their resources to the provision of services.

I have been concerned over the past year by the loss of alternative sources of income, such as room rental and fundraising, experienced by family resource centres. I have asked Tusla to examine its available resources to see whether some additional funding is available to support such groups this year on a once-off basis. The Department has also secured €620,000 funding through the Dormant Accounts Fund to support family resource centres and Tusla will be inviting applications for these additional resources soon.

I appreciate the Minister recently met the family resource centres but so have I, and I have been involved in the resource centre in Cashel since we built it. An amount of time is wasted and taken up by managers and administrators looking for funding. Let it be said that at times it is minuscule funding. The amount of work these managers and administrators put into running the centres is unbelievable. When all of the paperwork goes back to it, the Department does not realise that the funding given to the centres is not anywhere near enough. In reply to a parliamentary question we tabled, the Minister stated family resource centres continue to provide counselling services and they can assist families in accessing mental health supports from other agencies. They cannot do so with the funding they are getting. I appeal to the Minister to tidy this up and provide more mainline funding to resource centres.

The issue of the specific funding stream for counselling services was one we discussed when I met the representative group three weeks ago. We provided €6 million last year and €6 million this year to support these services. I will continue to examine the matter. I am aware of the importance of the low cost early intervention services they provide, particularly because of their locations. They are accessible to people who might be using other services in the family resource centres and who might not have the same degree of access to HSE-run services in HSE buildings. I absolutely accept that, in terms of value for money and the appropriate location, the counselling support services provided by the family resource centres are extremely valuable.

We all agree the family resource centres are a model for providing therapeutic and drop-in services but in some cases the funding is so scarce that these centres find themselves unable to provide assurances to service users that the service they require will continue to be provided. In a recent discussion on mental health with the centres, they spoke of dealing with people who are ready to take the next step but they cannot get assurances on this from the resource centres. This is not only because the funding amount is so small. There is no guarantee when the funding is spent, and it has to spent before the centres look for more, that the next strand of funding will be available to them. This is where all the problems arise for the resource centres. Most family resource centres operate on shoestring budgets. I have sat on the board of management of the resource centre in Cashel and I have listened to the managers come in month after month. The voluntary board of management had to fundraise for people to finish counselling.

I thank the Deputy. The funding that comes from my Department through Tusla is fixed and allocated so family resource centres can rely on it. It is always less than family resource centres want and it is less than the need out there but our set of funding is fixed. It is important to remember that family resource centres respond to the needs in their area, so what the Deputy has identified in Cashel with regard to the needs of the local community may be different from the needs being provided for in Mountview in my area. The specific functions and tasks each family resource centre engages in may be funded from a different area. One focused on childcare will get additional resources from the Department and another that focuses on drug support may seek additional support from the HSE. We provide the core level of support and we can bring in resources from other State agencies for the particular needs of the community.

Question No. 8 replied to with Written Answers.