Martin attacks Government record on Capuchin Centre

FF leader says numbers seeking help are rising and key staff have not been appointed

Archive Dec 2016: About 3,000 people, including elderly people and children, queue for Christmas food parcels at the Capuchin Centre in Dublin

 

The Government has been criticised over its contribution to the work of the Capuchin Centre in Dublin, which provides 300 breakfasts and 700 dinners to people living in poverty every day.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said the State contributed just €450,000 to the centre, which had raised €3.5 million through public contributions.

Mr Martin told the Dáil that Br Kevin’s centre was an iconic illustration of the generosity of people and the wider community. “To witness volunteers from all strata of society is heartening; what is not so heartening is the lack of a proper and meaningful response from the Government,” he added.

He said the figures for children attending for meals at the centre between January and September this year were worse than the figures for all of last year.

This year, 4,500 people attended the medical clinic, with prescription charges paid for by the centre. Every week, said Mr Martin, 1,900 food parcels were given out and 250 baby parcels were provided as part of a new service.

Some 3,000 people were expected to seek food there during Christmas week, he added.

Mr Martin said there was a need to appoint a social worker and child welfare officer at the centre. “In terms of child protection issues, the workers at the centre are very worried about the vulnerability of children who attend,” he added.

He said prescription charges should be waived for medical services provided there.

Child poverty

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he did not know why a social worker or child welfare officer had not been appointed to the centre and he would follow the matter up. He said it was important to say the Government took issues like child poverty and housing very seriously.

He said child poverty was declining, while the prescription charge would be reduced for everybody under 70, including children, in a few weeks.

Mr Martin said a child welfare officer had not been appointed despite visits to the centre by a number of Ministers. He said organisations such as the Peter McVerry Trust, Simon Community, St Vincent de Paul, Focus Ireland and the Penny Dinners all said the homelessness situation was getting worse.

Mr Varadkar said the Government’s housing plan would take time. He said the backdrop was a six or seven-year period after the economic crisis in which the private sector was not in a position to build homes because the banks and the construction industry had collapsed.

Fianna Fáil, said Mr Varadkar, had a significant hand in causing that crisis.