THE director of Cork Life Centre, Don O’Leary, will appear before members of the education committee in Leinster House today to appeal for formal recognition of the work of the centre as an alternative provider.
Mr O’Leary is hoping to secure sustainable funding for the educational service which caters for children between the ages of 12-18 years.
He will also issue an appeal to the members of the Oireachtas committee to bring Education Minister Norma Foley before them in the new year to answer why the Cork Life Centre is not being recognised and adequately funded.
Two students, Rhys Wootten and Caoimhe Cotter, will also speak to the committee about the difference Cork Life Centre has made to their lives.
Mr O’Leary is hoping their pleas will be heard.
“For me, it is a children’s right issue. Kids who are out of formal education for whatever reason have to be respected,” he said.
“The funding we get from the department is very small. I get €77,000 for 55 kids. If they go to a mainstream secondary school it costs €9,000 per child. I am looking for parity of esteem for young people who need an alternative to mainstream education,” said the director.
Mr O’Leary added that if the centre manages to achieve sustainable funding, it will provide his staff and students with greater security moving forward.
“I want to see the centre achieve sustainable funding. This would allow me to have a consistency of a nucleus of staff that can take things forward.
“We need consistency for our staff and students. A lot of our students would have low self-esteem and difficulties with the education system. They need continuity.”
The Cork Life Centre currently has 55 students enrolled.
Mr O’Leary, however, revealed that demand is outstripping the numbers of places on offer.
“The demand for our service is greater than we can provide and state agencies all over Cork refer students to us consistently.
“This year I had to refuse 155 children because I didn’t have sufficient places. My intake for next September is already full. That is heartbreaking,” he added.
Fianna Fáil TD Padraig O’Sullivan is calling for additional funding for the centre. “I will continue to liaise with the Minister and the relevant officials with a view to securing much-needed funding for the centre.
“I am hopeful that Minister Foley will visit the Cork Life Centre to see first-hand the wonderful work they do.”