I recently attended the annual general meeting of a local community centre. I would like to outline some of the serious situations facing not only this centre but many other community centres and projects in the coming months and, more important, in 2021. This community centre has eight staff members and a co-ordinator and it receives a grant from Pobal of approximately €184,000 in respect of those staff. The funding has not been increased since 2013 and thus it has not kept up with inflation. The current funding provides for a wage of €9.39 per hour. As the Minister of State will be aware, the national minimum wage is €10.10. This means the voluntary management committee and the centre manager have to raise funding to cover the shortfall of 71 cent per hour per member of staff. They do this by running a café, which offers affordable food to the many people who use it not just for a cup of coffee or tea and a breakfast or a lunch but to connect with other people in the community. This is an important facility for people who may have nobody else to speak to on a particular day. The manager has told me that a number of people come into the café every day not just for coffee or food but to connect with people.
The centre has several rooms that are in constant use all day every day. The price and structure is kept deliberately low and affordable for the many community groups that use them because they also do not have sufficient funding. The centre receives funding from Foróige, which provides an amazing space for young people in the community and it has a brilliant crèche which caters for young parents in the Huntstown community. When they desperately need funding for repairs and maintenance, the community always rallies round. They are constantly drafting funding submissions for a couple of thousand euro here and there from Fingal County Council or some other organisation.
The time and energy taken up constantly worrying about how they will pay the wages, keep the café open and pay for essential maintenance and upkeep of what is now an old building can be overwhelming for many community groups. It should not have to be this way. They are providing a service that the State should be providing yet they have to struggle day in, day out. This was the case before Covid. With the onset of Covid, everything changed not only for this community centre but for every other community centre and community project throughout the State. Many of them are in the ownership of a local authority and this means they are somewhat protected. Centres outside of that remit are not protected and they rely very much on the local community and the resources they have.
Many of the rooms in this centre cannot be used because of the need for social distancing. The café is losing business because it cannot use all of its tables and thus the number of people that can use the facility is reduced. Fundraising will be affected because so many people have been badly hit by the pandemic. I have been involved in many community projects in the past number of months and during the lockdown. The amount of funding being raised by communities is astonishing but that well is starting to dry up as people are really struggling.
We know these community centres will either close or continue to struggle. They need the safety net of Government funding to meet the cost of the living wage but at the very least, the minimum wage. I am seeking a commitment from the Minister of State that the stimulus package will make provision for local community centres and projects such that they will not be adversely affected. While some of them will be okay for the remainder of 2019, the fear is that come 2021, the cumulative effect of all of the social distancing measures will have a detrimental effect on them.