Tuesday 19 March 2019

Sean Sherlock raises threat of Cork mail centre closure

Oireachtas Report

Tim Ryan, Oireachtas Correspondent

A threat of closure to the An Post Mail Centre in Cork, with the potential loss of 200 jobs, was raised in the Dail by Labour Deputy Seán Sherlock.

"I am asking the Minister if he can confirm that is the case. It would have a devastating effect on postal services in the southern region," he said.

"Does An Post intend to close the Cork Mail Centre, with the loss of 200 jobs? We need confirmation on that."

Deputy Sherlock said he also wanted to raise the issue of the promise that was made in respect of a new post office that was supposed to be tendered for in Kilworth which has not come on stream yet.  

Sinn Féin Deputy Pat Buckley said it was very worrying that there is a possibility that over 200 people will lose their jobs before Christmas. 

"The issue of new equipment was raised, but that will probably never happen now," he said. 

"There will be no investment in Athlone and Portlaoise, never mind the Cork mail centres. I did not want to bring it up here today because I respect people's privacy, but when the news breaks one has to be fair. This is a very worrying thing, especially in the run up to Christmas. Cork is such a big rural area, and if it is let it down in this manner it will be absolutely devastating."

In response, the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and the Environment, Richard Bruton said An Post is a commercial State body, and it has been under very severe financial pressure in recent years. 

"It has had to take steps, including increasing the prices of stamps, among other things, to ensure that it can continue to deliver a service," he said.

"It has negotiated a settlement with the postmasters whereby some post offices will voluntarily close. It has also developed a protocol under which it has given assurances that there will be a maximum distance that people will have to travel. It is ensuring that pledge is honoured in the context of any closures that occur. It also seeks to ensure that where other commercial outlets wish to continue to provide the service there will be an opportunity to do so."

Allocation of Home Help supports has dried up in County Cork Since last July the provision of Home Care packages and the allocation of additional Home Help supports for families throughout the country, especially in County Cork, have completely dried up, Fianna Fáil Deputy Michael Moynihan told the Dáil.

He said it was now impossible to assist constituents who come to clinics for help to keep their loved ones at home and provide every support they can for families. 

"Families look at ways by which they can work around their work schedules and other family commitments to try to ensure they will have supports in place," he said. 

"Nurses and other health professionals recognise the chronic need for additional support, but it is not available. What we are being told by the HSE is that no additional Home Help hours are available. In some cases, the numbers of hours have even been reduced."

Given the number in chronic need of help, Deputy Moynihan said he would dearly love to see the 550 Home Care packages recently announced by the minister for Health allocated.

"In some cases an elderly husband or wife is caring for his or her partner or loved one and he or she is looking for extra support," he said. 

"The situation is simply not acceptable. I put it to the Minister of State that we will come back here in the first or second week of January to see whether any of the extra home care packages has been allocated. I believe they will not have been. We must be serious about this issue because there is a chronic need for help across services."

Speaking during the same debate, Fianna Fáil Deputy Aindrias Moynihan said day centres are of great benefit to carers and the people for whom they care and they should be available in every community.

"There are a number of day centres in the areas surrounding Macroom but there is gap in this regard in the town, one which I have highlighted to the authorities a number of times," he said. 

"For example, on the hospital grounds there is a vacant HSE building that would make an ideal day care centre."

He said that when a person leaves a job or moves to part-time employment to care for a family member that person is eligible for carer's benefit. 

However, it can take up to 18 weeks to have the benefit approved and it is a benefit based on one's stamps. 

"It is not means-tested," he said. 

"It should be very straightforward and approved to support carers in supporting their families at home."