A LARGE number of community groups met in Cloghan tonight to express anger at what is being seen essentially as a cut to their funding.
Minister Joan Burton has told companies operating under the Community Service Programme that they must increase the minimum wage from January 1 – but they won’t get any extra funding to help.
Pat the Cope Gallagher accused the the Social Protection Minister of threatening the future of companies.
After attending a meeting in Cloghan this evening where practically all groups in the County were represented at a hastily convened meeting to discuss the implications of the shortfall, Pat the Cope commented: “The increase in the national minimum wage is a welcome development however the Minister has been extremely short-sighted in refusing to allocate additional funding to the Community Services Programme to ensure that those companies will be able to pay the increased wage bill.
“These companies are extremely important to local communities’ right across Donegal, and they operate on a not-for-profit ethos. The fact of the matter is that if they are not given extra funding they will have to source the money from elsewhere, and that will ultimately lead to service cuts.
“I heard first hand this evening of the frightening implications if the Minister does not rescind the decision. It’s imperative that the Government through Pobal provide an increase in the Full Time Equivalent grant to meet the increase of 50 cents per hour Minimum Wage. The cost to the exchequer is c. €250.000 in respect of Donegal and €2.4 ml nationally. This is a small price to pay for the services that the various groups provide
“In many parts of the country CSP companies are the lifeblood of the local area. They provide much needed employment and carry out essential community services. These services are now being jeopardised by the Minister’s refusal to approve additional funding for the CSP scheme to cover the higher staff costs as a result of increasing the national minimum wage. The Department claims that wage costs are supplemented by the service providers, but the majority of people involved with this programme are well aware that this is not the case.
“These companies are now facing a choice of either reducing services or letting some of their staff go. This will come as a major blow to communities which are already regarded as disadvantaged. This is a grave error on the part of the Minister and will only result in the downgrading of services in these areas.
“I have discussed the issues with our Leader Micheal Martin TD and Eamonn O Cuiv TD both of whom agree with my suggestion that we will rescind this decision in Government and in fact expand the schemes.
“I am calling on Minister Burton to urgently rethink this decision. CSP schemes have breathed life back into many rural communities by creating jobs and improving services. They should not be penalised by the Minister’s failure to ensure that she increased funding for these programmes in line with the minimum national wage and I am urging her to reconsider her position.”