ONE of Cork’s leading judges has written to the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, urging her to grant funding in order to save a vital service for separated families in Cork.
In a letter seen by the Evening Echo, Judge Con O’Leary has urged Minister Katherine Zappone to grant funding to the Togher Family Centre so it can continue offering supervised access services for separated families.
As previously reported by the Evening Echo, the centre will not be able to host supervised Christmas visits this year as it has made the difficult decision to stop running its child contact services for families referred through the courts, from December 22, due to funding difficulties.
“It is my view that the service provided by the contact centre is invaluable to the children who find themselves the subject of parental disputes where the parents have limited means,” Judge O’Leary told the Minister.
“I frequently make orders for access by children to parents where the relationship between parents has broken down.
“Many of these people have very limited means. I can attest to the effectiveness and professionalism of the staff,” he added.
Grove Cottage currently provides supervised access visits for separated families, with the majority of families referred to the centre through the court.
Parents pay €30 an hour to access the service, Judge O’Leary wrote.
“€30 per hour is not sufficient to meet the cost of the administrative and professional staff of the service.
“You will know that knowledge of and access to biological parents is of extreme importance to us.
“The Child and Family Agency is under severe pressure to control costs and needs to prioritise its core functions,” Judge O’Leary wrote.
“But I cannot emphasise sufficiently the positive anticipatory value of the services provided by Togher Family Centre and urge you in the strongest possible terms to seek to direct the Centre towards such sources or methods of funding whether by the Agency, other family support services or schemes, or central government or local authority support for less-privileged areas.”