Thursday, 22 March 2012
Training “Frozen” for Markiewicz Centre Community Employment
An outstanding community employment scheme which has trained and assisted over 250 participants into employment over the last 10 years now faces an uncertain future with training for participants frozen due to budget cutbacks.The Markiewicz centre in Decies Road Ballyfermot currently provides FETAC level 5 and 6 training in Childcare to 29 course participants and has an unrivalled reputation for excellence both in the local community, and within the childcare sector .
“Training has been brought to a standstill because of the cut to the materials and training grant” said centre manager Theresa McGouran. “We have people who had expected to complete FETAC level 6 before they finished their course, but this is now not possible”
Gemma Baird is one of the participants who has been affected by the cutback. She leaves the course this month and is disappointed not to be able to fully complete her FETAC qualification. “I couldn’t believe that they would stop the funding in this way.”
This situation is particularly galling for Theresa as the Centre had the foresight to start running FETAC level 6 training in 2009, a full 3 years before it became the new standard in best practice childcare.
There is a huge irony too in a Community Employment Scheme with a 100% progression rate suffering cutbacks like these in light of the new focus on the importance of so called “labour market activation measures”. While taking pride in their record of job placement, Theresa is keen to stress the importance of the personal development of course participants. “An emphasis on self-development is a crucial part of the work we do here. Getting a job is important but there’s much much more to the work we do here”
This point is echoed by the participants themselves who talk passionately about the changes in their outlook and confidence as a result of taking up a placement on the CE scheme.
Michelle Carrig described how she originally left school at 15 and spent 11 years at home before taking up this course. She declared “My whole life has changed as a result of the opportunities I have had here”. Michelle is currently completing a FETAC course in Caring for Carers which is likely to offer her good prospects for employment as a fully trained Carer.
These are opportunities that may not be available to lone parents in the future according to Theresa McGouran. “The new rules re single payments for lone parents and the disabled are going to be a big barrier to future participation from these groups. When you think of the costs of childcare lone parents are going to be effectively barred from taking up a course like ours. There are going to be no opportunities for them.”
The Markievicz Centre has come a long way from its humble origins as a neighbourhood watch group in 1990. Local community activist developed this into a tenants association, and from there into a local community association.
Today the Markievicz Centre is well established as the heart of the local community providing a wide range of education, advice and support services to local people alongside a community crèche. While Theresa is very worried about the future, describing the current situation as “just living from day to day wondering if we’re going to be cut further” it is clear that the staff and participants will do all in their power to ensure the future of the Markiewizc Centre.
“There’s power in numbers so it’s up to all of us in working in Community Employment to raise our voices and work together to fight for our future” declared Theresa.”If people understand the full value of the work we do, and the difference it makes to communities, then the government might just listen.”