THE Cork Life Centre board has withdrawn from talks with the Department of Education following a lack of “progress” over the “red line issue” of staff retention.
In May 2020, Cork Life Centre was informed that it would receive the funding it needs to be sustainable.
However, it has transpired that the funding was not an income stream for the service.
Instead, the Department of Education proposed that they would transfer in surplus staff from other settings.
Cork Life Centre director Don O’Leary said: “There has been no progress. We have had a number of meetings with department officials. There are no offers on the table.
“They have shown no flexibility. You can’t keep talking when there is nothing there.”
Mr O’Leary said the board has withdrawn from talks.
“The board has withdrawn from meetings,” he said.
“They were quite entitled to do so, because they felt they were getting nowhere. Even when we have tried to bend and move, we have been met with nothing.
“The department is talking from two sides of their mouth, because when they talk about staff, they are not talking about our staff. They are talking about other organisations’ staff. We told them a long time ago that this was a red line which we won’t cross.
“We have continued to ask the Department of Education to put in writing what they are offering and what they are not offering. They have consistently not done that.”
Mr O’Leary paid tribute to the staff of Cork Life Centre, who he described as “lifesavers”.
“We have never asked for staff. We have our own staff. I have the most fantastic team. Some of them have been with us for 10 or 12 years, and are poorly paid. They have huge relationships with our students. What I am asking the department to do is to reward teachers and tutors with pay so they can continue to work with kids.
“It would bring security to the people who have been lifesavers. Our staff are fully qualified and willing to commit. What is going to happen here is that we are going to end up in a few years’ time where staff have to safeguard their own livelihoods.
“We have to depend on philanthropy. That will come to an end. I am not sure where we find the money then.
“In the long term, we are in serious problems. We will get through this year, and we might get through next year. My staff and I will fight every inch of the way to keep the centre open.”
Hundreds of people have signed an online petition urging the education minister to fund the centre.
“The support that we are receiving has buoyed us greatly,” said Mr O’Leary.
“It has reinvigorated us for the fight, which we are up for.”