PARENTS protesting over the proposed change of use of CoAction’s Child and Family Centre in Bantry say they have ‘taken heart’ by the public’s show of support.
A large crowd of between 400 and 500 people took to the town’s streets on Saturday afternoon to protest CoAction’s plan to reconfigure the purpose-built centre at Slip Road and use it as a residential centre.
Locals and members of the business community who helped to raise €1.3m for the purpose-built facility say they want it – and the specialised equipment and services it provides – retained.
The Child and Family Centre is currently equipped to meet the needs of 180 children – ranging in ages from birth to 18 – but CoAction is proposing to relocate the children’s service and reconfigure it into an adult training centre, which is located across the road at Slip.
CoAction chief Gobnait Ní Chrualaoí said the reason for the reconfiguration is that four people, currently residing at Bayview House in Seskin, need alternative accommodation because the building does not meet Hiqa standards.
Deputy Michael Collins (Ind) said CoAction needs to listen to the impassioned defence of the Child and Family Centre made by the children’s minister Anne Rabbitte.
The minister has spoken out against the proposal and called on the HSE to intervene and find suitable, alternative accommodation.
Ms Ní Chrualaoí said CoAction was unable to source other suitable accommodation in the vicinity but the minister suggested that two other properties owned by CoAction in Castletownbere should be considered.
In response, Ms Ní Chrualaoí pointed out that the houses in Castletownbere are closed due to staff shortages.
The CoAction Parents Alliance has been critical of the ‘complete lack of engagement’ with them on the plan.
‘The board of CoAction and I,’ Ms Ní Chrualaoí told The Southern Star, ‘need to meet with the HSE to discuss the current situation before issuing an updated statement.’
She said that the children’s service would be ‘the same service’ if relocated to the adult training centre.
One of the founding members of CoAction, Peggy Lynch (91), addressed the crowd on Saturday.
Tearfully, she said she was heartbroken that young parents and families had to protest to protect their services just a few weeks before Christmas.
FF Deputy Christopher O’Sullivan said he has spoken with Minister Anne Rabbitte and she has agreed to try and facilitate a meeting.