Staff in Ireland’s School Completion Programme (SCP) are seeking urgent talks with the Department of Children to resolve outstanding issues on funding, pay and pensions. The SCP’s 248 full-time workers give direct support to over 36,000 young people at risk of poor school attendance and participation.
The union wants improvements in the programme’s budget, which was cut by almost 25% - from €33 million a year to less than €25 million a year - in 2010. Its staff, most of whom are employed by voluntary organisations with local boards of management, also want to be given public service status for pay and conditions, and a long-overdue start to restoration of income lost during the crisis.
Speaking at Fórsa’s Education division conference last week, the union’s Vice President Michael Smyth said SCP staff had been holding the service together despite years of erosion.
“We continue to provide vital services to vulnerable children and communities, but we’re not considered to be public servants. Our budget has not recovered in any way from the massive cuts imposed in 2010. Our members who’ve experienced pay cuts due to reduced funding have even seen a start to post-crisis income restoration.
“But the demands on the service are still there. Young people are still dropping out of school, and our service is continuing to provide a valuable route back into education,” he said.
Fórsa says new measures are required to underpin governance and give national leadership to the service. The union said SCP employees should also be given the same employment status as other public servants.
The union has been seeking a firm statutory basis for the programme with a national management structure and adequate funding for services, pay and access to a pension scheme.