Marriage counselling centre loses funding because it will not help gay couples
Counselling staff distance themselves from directors’ decision, saying they have never discriminated
It is understood that the CMCC constitution prevents it from offering its services to same sex couples as is required by Tusla following the passing of the marriage equality referendum in 2015.
Staff at a Cork marriage counselling centre have moved to distance themselves from the directors’ decision not to provide counselling to same sex couples, after it emerged that the decision has led to Tusla withdrawing funding from the centre.
Counselling staff at the Cork Marriage Counselling Centre (CMCC), which is operated by the Catholic Diocese of Cork and Ross, said they would “like to totally disassociate themselves from the alleged policy of Cork and Ross Social Services in relation to seeing same sex couples at the centre”.
According to a statement issued by counselling staff, the decision by Cork and Ross Social Services (CRSS) not to sign an agreement with Tusla requiring it comply with equality legislation was made by CRSS directors without consultation with CMCC counselling staff.
“We have always worked with LGBTQ+ couples or individuals who presented to the centre. We have never discriminated against anyone arriving at the centre on the grounds of gender, civil or family status, age, race, religion, disability, sexual orientation or membership of the Traveller Community.”
Counselling staff said that they are “at a loss to understand” how CRSS could not sign up to the Tusla service level agreement when another Catholic marriage advisory agency, Accord, the Catholic Marriage Care Service, could do so.
It is understood that CMCC was in receipt of between €250,000 and €300,000 per annum but that has now been terminated as a result of CRSS’s decision and counselling staff said they fully understood Tusla’s decision to stop the funding.
“We totally accept that Tusla must withhold funding because of the refusal of CRSS to sign the service agreement,” said staff, who re-iterated that it had always been the policy of the centre to welcome anyone, regardless of means or status.
According to a report in the Irish Examiner, talks between Tusla, the Child and Family Agency and CRSS concluded with the counselling centre informing Tusla it cannot comply with its equality requirements because of its constitution.
It is understood that the CMCC constitution prevents it from offering its services to same sex couples as is required by Tusla following the passing of the marriage equality referendum in 2015 which recognised same sex marriages in law.
Contacted by The Irish Times, Tusla said it would not be commenting on the case but it did issue a general statement about its service level agreements with counselling service providers and how it was important that such services were accessible to everyone when publicly funded.
“This is why Tusla advocated for the inclusion of this requirement in 2018 service level agreements to ensure that service providers who receive public money to deliver services abide by Ireland’s equality legislation,” said Tusla in its statement.
“Following consultations, Tusla’s service level agreement for 2018 was sent to all relevant service providers,” said Tusla, adding that the service level agreement clearly stipulated that services must be accessible to all if a service provider is to qualify for funding from Tusla.
Service providers must “ensure that the services are accessible to people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, recognising the diversity of needs off people including specific needs, from urban, regional and remote areas,” it said.
Service providers must also “not discriminate on the grounds of gender, civil or family status, age, race, religion, disability, sexual orientation or membership of the Traveller Community,” said Tusla in its statement about the nature of its funding agreements with service providers.
Tusla inserted this requirement into its 2018 agreements with a view to ensuring all service providers who receive public money deliver services that are in compliance with equality legislation. Attempts to contact a spokesperson for CRSS were unsuccessful.