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Cuts to Traveller services

Cuts in social services were an important focus of the Dail in January 2011.  Roisin Shortall (Lab, Dublin NW) asked about what she called the damaging impact of the cuts to Traveller education services (Dail Eireann, Debates, 27th January 2011, 863-4).  The Minister for Education & Skills, the Tanaiste Mary Couglan told her that Travellers would now receive educational supports on the same basis as other students.  Resource teachers for Travellers would be withdrawn in September 2011 but alleviation  measures would be provided for schools with high concentrations of Travellers and schools would soon be advised accordingly.  Visiting teachers for Travellers would be discontinued from 31st August, affecting 41 posts and costing €2.8m annually and both would contribute to savings of €24m in the next school year.  She added that the national recovery plan for 2011-2014 would lead to significant challenges to prioritize resources to enhance educational outcomes for all, including Travellers.  The Tanaiste told Fergus O’Dowd (FG, Louth) that Traveller participation rates in primary and post-primary were now very close to 100%, with 8,301 primary enrollments and 3,014 at post-primary (Dail Eirann, Debates, 20th January 2011, 303).  She added that the Traveller Education Strategy (2006) stated that future provision should focus on individual educational need rather than Traveller identity.  Later, she told that Dail that the National Education Welfare Board would be requested to refocus and adapt its support services, including the School Completion Programme and the Home School Liaison Service, to provide comprehensive supports for Travellers (Dail Eireann, Debates, 25th January 2011, 483).

Separately, the Minister of State at the Department of Education and Skills, Sean Haughey, announced that the Rural Coordination Service for 331 rural schools in the Delivering Equality of opportunity in Schools (DEIS) programme would be discontinued on 31st August (Dail Eireann, Debates, 25th January 2011, 484).

These were some of a series of cuts identified in the course of the final session.  The Taoiseach Brian Cowen told Richard Bruton (FG, Dublin NC) that there had been savings of €356,000 from the closure of the Active Citizenship Office and the Ireland Newfoundland Partnership.  Closing the National Forum on Europe saved €360,000, while shutting down the National Economic and Social Forum (with the National Centre for Partnership and Performance) led to a reduction of €1.727m on the 2009 allocations (Dail Eireann, Debates, 25th January 2011, 455).  A table was presented by the Minister for Finance of the savings achieved by cuts so far (Dail Eireann, Debates, 20th January 2011, 311-317).  The principal 2010 savings in social policy and affecting the voluntary and community sector were as follows:

  • Abolition of National Crime Council, €394,000
  • Abolition of National Consultative Committee on Racism & Interculturalism, €628,000
  • Abolition of Education Disadvantage Committee, €100,000
  • Abolition of Adult Learning Council, €50,000
  • Abolition of Centre of Early Childhood Development and Education, €830,000
  • Abolition of National Council on Ageing and Older People, €400,000
  • Subsuming of Women’s Health Council, €126,000
  • Abolition of Combat Poverty Agency, €2.4m

The Minister for Social Protection, Eamon O Cuiv told the Dail that his department would in March 2011 terminate the lease still being paid for the facilities of the Combat Poverty Agency (Dail Eireann, Debates, 20th January 2011, 358).  This would lead to savings of €228,000 in rent and car parking and €50,000 in ancillary services.

The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, John Gormley, reported on the savings achieved by the closure of the Affordable Homes Partnership and the Centre for Housing Research and the winding up of the National Building Agency (Dail Eireann, Debates, 20th January 2011, 363-4).  Their amalgamation into the Housing and Sustainable Communities Agency had resulted in a reduction in grants from €3.37m in 2009 to €2.13m in 2010 and €1.8m in 2011, with a reduction in staff across three agencies and when the redeployment was completed there should be annual savings of €2.2m.  He added that the government had approved in June 2010 the merger of the two Limerick regeneration agencies and changes in structures were taking place while primary legislation was prepared.  Freed-up resources would be re-assigned within these structures.

As for Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs, the minister, Pat Carey told Richard Bruton (FG, Dublin NC) that, dealing with the recommendations of the special group on public service numbers (the McCarthy report), the Dormant Accounts Board would be dissolved, the future of the Western Development Commission remained under consideration and ‘options in relation to the future functions of the Family Support Agency were also under review (Dail Eireann, Debates, 20th January 2011, 375).