The Director of the Cork Life Centre has called for the centre to receive proper recognition from the Department of Education following a funding issue which highlighted a “lack of recognition for alternative education”.
The Cork Life Centre, located on Winter's Hill, offers young people who have fallen through the cracks of mainstream education an alternative setting in which to learn.
Back in late July when the Department of Education announced a €375 million support package to facilitate the safe reopening of schools, the Cork Life Centre applied to avail of this funding but was refused.
“We rang the Department of Education asking how we could apply and they said they would have to check.
“Later in the afternoon I got a call back – they told us ‘sorry, ye don’t qualify, ye’re not a school’.
“They informed us to contact another section of the department.
“Up until today we had not received a response to that,” Director of the centre Don O’Leary explained.
“I was very annoyed.
“For me it was a children’s rights issue – why are our children different to children that are accessing their education through mainstream schools?
“They need to be protected and kept safe like all other children,” Mr O’Leary continued.
The centre today received word from the Social Inclusion Unit of the Department of Education to say that the centre would receive some funding.
Mr O’Leary said that while he is “deeply grateful” for this, there is still a lack of recognition for alternative education.
“It’s an ongoing issue here – the non-recognition of the centre.
“We have fought for years and years for proper funding to be put into the centre. It isn’t.
“In the last number of years, we have gotten about €77,000 a year to run the centre from the Department of Education.
“That equates to one and a half full time positions a year.”
“I would love to have more staff that are full time because we depend on volunteers.
“We will always have volunteers but it would be so much easier for us coming back each year knowing that I have a compliment of 12 staff coming back into the centre.
“That they’re back year on year and there’s continuity there,” he continued.
Mr O’Leary said that volunteers at the Cork Life Centre have been working hard over the last couple of months to ensure the safe return of students to the centre on Monday.