The threats facing Family Resource Centres (FRCs) in Carlow – and nationwide – are being highlighted by the Family Resource Centre National Forum, the national representative body for FRCs.
In the lead-up to the general election, the Forum has launched a campaign, #SupportingFRCs, calling on candidates to pledge their support for families and FRCs.
There are two FRCs throughout Carlow – in Tullow (Forward Steps) and in Bagenalstown.
According to the Family Resource Centre National Forum (FRCNF), the future of these FRCs is under threat because the Family Resource Centre programme does not have a dedicated government unit administering it.
The FRCNF is also highlighting the threat caused by insufficient core funding for FRCs and the dilution and dismantling of their unique community development model of family support.
Molly Kirwan from Forward Steps said: "In the lead-up to the 2020 general election, FRCs nationwide – through the FRCNF – are calling on candidates to pledge their support for our future.
"By supporting FRCs, candidates are supporting families right across their constituencies.
"We have three main asks for all candidates and political parties. Firstly, we want them to commit to establishing a dedicated Government unit – permanently housed within an appropriate Government department – to administer the Family Resource Centre programme.
"Secondly, we want candidates to commit to preserving the autonomy of FRCs, and the unique model of family supports we offer. FRCs focus on early intervention and prevention, and on supporting families from the ‘cradle to the grave’.
"We offer services and information that extend far beyond the needs of families with young children, working with older members of the community, minority groups, people with disabilities, and a range of diverse service-users.
"Thirdly, we are asking candidates to work to ensure all FRCs receive ring-fenced, multi-annual core funding – a minimum of €160,000 per FRC per year – and have at least three full-time staff-members.
"This would enable us to provide the full range of supports so desperately needed by the communities in which we work."
The FRCNF is distributing materials to all election candidates in Carlow with further details about their work and the #SupportingFRCs campaign.
The Forum is inviting all election candidates to visit their local FRC to publicly sign a campaign pledge, committing to support for families and FRCs, if elected to Dáil Éireann.
"We are hoping for very strong support from Carlow candidates for this campaign," said Molly.
She added: "The period since 2008 has been a difficult one for FRCs, with core funding down by over 20%, resulting in reduced services, salaries, and conditions.
"The communities in which we operate suffered considerable hardship during the recession, and other community supports were sharply reduced or eliminated. While this happened, demographic and social pressures grew.
"All of this means FRCs are now at a critical juncture. Without political commitment and will to copper-fasten our future, families and communities in Carlow – and nationwide – will suffer."
The Family Resource Centre programme has been in operation for over 25 years, and is currently housed within Tusla, the Child and Family Agency.
Further information is available at www.familyresource.ie.