The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone convened a consultation event on the future direction of the School Completion Programme (SCP) in January.
Michael Smyth, chair of Fórsa’s SCP branch, explained that four School Completion Programme officers attended.
“This was the first piece of consultation on the future direction of the SCP and for that I must give the minister due credit.
“While we know that Tusla, which funds SCP, has drafted a plan for the programme, nobody has seen it. Consequently, there is still a widespread feeling that Tusla really doesn’t have a handle on what we need,” he said.
Michael explained that the union’s SCP branch has lobbied extensively to win political support for the programme. He said it has helped to ensure that public representatives have a much clearer understanding of the programme’s value.
“While we didn’t get to meet the minister as part of that lobbying campaign, her engagement at the consultation event revealed that she has a good understanding of what we do.
“There was a lot of constructive input from a broad range of stakeholders throughout the day, and the minister stated clearly that if she was presented with the right framework for the School Completion Programme, she would run with it and seek funding to support it,” he said.
Michael added that the minister made a visit to the Kilkenny School Completion Programme yesterday (Monday). “I think that’s an encouraging sign that the minister means what she says,” he said.
Fórsa's deputy general secretary Kevin Callinan has been leading negotiations with the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform on behalf of SCP members.
The SCP was devised by the Department of Education and Science in 2002 and moved to the newly formed Department of Children and Youth Affairs in 2011. It was subsumed into Tusla in 2014.
The programme is made up of 124 local projects, which work in 470 primary schools and 224 secondary schools nationwide.
In recent years the funding for SCP has been cut by 25%. Funding for counselling services to the programme was cut last year. The funding was restored toward the end of 2017 following the intervention of Minister Zappone, who was lobbied on the issue by the union’s SCP branch.
The Economic and Social Research Institute published its report into the School Completion Programme in October 2015. The ESRI study highlighted the programme’s ability to access vital information about the family and home life of children in the programme, the opportunities arising from a less formal communication with children and parents, and the immediate support from the SCP.