Minister warned closing family support service will increase cost elsewhere

Zappone ‘deeply regrets’ funding not available for service she says does valuable work

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone  met Tusla and the service’s representatives and had sought further clarification from Tusla about funding Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone met Tusla and the service’s representatives and had sought further clarification from Tusla about funding Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone has said she “deeply regrets” that €400,000 could not be found to fund a “valuable” intervention service for 50 vulnerable families, which is now expected to close in April.

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett warned it would cost the State more at a later stage if the Child and Family Agency Tusla could not find the money for the Cottage Home Family Support service in Shankill, Co Dublin.

He said the agency provided vital intervention support services for vulnerable families whose children might otherwise be in residential or foster care.

Raising the issue during question time in the Dáil Mr Boyd Barrett told the Minister “I know you know the value of this and in that context I find it shocking” that the funding could not be found.

“The Minister knows the service shouldn’t close and yet the service is going to close almost certainly in April because of €400,000,” he said.

Ms Zappone agreed that “this service provides valuable services to children and families in the south Dublin area”.

The Minister said she had met Tusla and the service’s representatives and had sought further clarification from Tusla about funding.

“Tusla informed me that it does not have any additional funding to support the service which covers the Dublin south, Dublin south east, Wicklow area.”

She said Tusla funds the agency’s residential service and last year provided €1.6 million. Tusla is preparing a “commissioning plan” for services in the area and “there may be a possibility” of funding but it could be too late for the cottage home service “and I deeply regret that”.

‘Absolutely vital’ service

But Mr Boyd Barrett said “I just can’t believe you can’t find €400,000. You can find €400 million plus for builders who frankly rip the country off but we can’t find €400,000 for a service that is absolutely vital.”

He warned that “if this service goes then many of these children will end up in residential care and foster care. And cost the State more.”

He added: “I just don’t believe that you can’t come up with €400,000 for a service that you and Tusla acknowledge works. It’s frankly unacceptable.”

He called for the Minister to seek a supplementary budget for the service, but Ms Zappone said there were a lot of other services also looking for funds which were not there to meet the need.

The Minister pointed out that “if a decision was taken to give them the 400,000 it would have to be taken away from some other services which no doubt are also doing a good job”.

Ms Zappone acknowledged that closing the service could potentially cost more in the future and she said “I will use those arguments when I go back to the next set of budgetary negotiations”.