Friday 27 April 2018

Tusla urged to provide vital funding for vulnerable schoolchildren

Impact's Gina O’Brien said successive cuts to the School Completion Programme (SCP) had brought it to an “almost unsustainable” level.
Impact's Gina O’Brien said successive cuts to the School Completion Programme (SCP) had brought it to an “almost unsustainable” level.
Caroline Crawford

Caroline Crawford

The Chair of Impact’s education division has called on Tusla, the Child and Family Agency to provide vital funding to a programme aimed at keeping vulnerable students in school.

Gina O’Brien said successive cuts to the School Completion Programme (SCP) had brought it to an “almost unsustainable” level. She urged Tusla, which took over responsibility for the scheme from the Department of Education, to make good on its commitment to provide funding.

“Tusla has made a commitment to the scheme but we’ve yet to see a funding allocation. This is a vital service for very vulnerable young people. It keeps them in education, helping them to fulfill their potential, opening up choices to them about their future. That’s the true value of investing in retention programmes.

“SCP workers do all of this with relatively modest resources. But they are now at the very limits of sustaining that work.  We must succeed in achieving a reversal of these cuts,” she said.

Ms O’Brien was addressing delegates at the opening of the union’s second Educational Divisional conference last night.

She also called for talks to begin on pay restoration, insisting the "whole country" needed a pay rise. But she warned that talks due to begin between the Government and the unions would prove “another huge challenge”.

“A successful outcome is not a foregone conclusion. But it is our first step together toward restoration, and that alone is a welcome development,” she added.

Ms O’Brien spoke of the challenges facing members, including Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) who recently voted overwhelmingly in favour of industrial action to address the fragmentation of posts.

She told delegates the landscape of the third level sector is changing but also called for change in the level of engagement.

She said there remained a lack of clarity on the future of the Education and Training Boards (ETBs) and raised concerns about the Higher Education Authority’s plans to reduce the number of locations offering third level teacher training programmes, and achieve long term efficiencies.

She also raised concerns about the practice in place in a number of ITs for filling administration posts and said the union would continue to fight for equal pay and conditions for grant-paid school secretaries, claiming that many receive just about the minimum wage and some with very poor conditions of employment.

“The level of meaningful engagement from management is less than satisfactory. This needs to change,” she said.

The Education division, formed in 2012, represents 10,000 members working in a wide range of non-teaching roles in the education sector.

These include including special needs assistants (SNAs), admin staff, schools secretaries and staff in the National Education Training Boards.

Ms O’Brien said that while the body represents a diverse group of workers, they all had a vital role to play  in the delivery of education services, and a shared vision of how best to do that.

She said the presence of Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan, who will address delegates today, reflected a growing acknowledgement that IMPACT “is an education union, and has become a stronger voice for everyone in the sector”.

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