Holding on to vital community services despite savage cutbacks is the aim of frontline staff and volunteers

Eamonn Lacey

Eamonn Lacey

Maintaining the crucial link between the elderly, people living alone, the marginalised and vulnerable in society with the most essential of services and social contact on a daily basis is a role that takes on an even deeper importance the more this economic storm takes a grip.

The impact of the Tipperary Community Services and the role it plays is hugely significant in the town and the dependence on the range of basic services it provides is increasing all of the time.

The ever mounting level of dependence that is evident on their doorstep is driving on staff and the dedicated core of people who give their time on a voluntary basis to ensuring the services are maintained.

The survival of Tipperary Community Services is paramount as they go about their business despite the wave of government cutbacks that threaten their existence.

This year the CE schemes that are an integral part of providing the services are under severe pressure given the cutbacks to funding for materials which forces those responsible for the services to try and generate additional income.

“The bottom line for us is that we have to keep the services going for the elderly and the people who live alone. We have to stay in business Our contact with them when the meals are delivered and their laundry collected and delivered is in some case the only social contact they will have for the day,” said Teresa Hinchey, Supervisor at Tipperary Community Services.

The pressure to bring in more money has resulted in the establishment of a new IT training room and the centre is now an accredited ECDL training centre which can accommodate up to sixteen people at any given time.The new centre was provided after funds were made available by the South Tipperary Development Company

“We hope this addition to our services will enable us to bring in revenue that is badly needed to keep the most important services going that support the elderly and the isolated in the community,” said Teresa.

She expects the ECDL programme to be up an running in the coming months when people in the town and the surrounding area realise that the service is now available at the centre.

Additional income is all the more crucial as another major concern for the Community Services is the need to replace the roof and the t hirty four windows in the preserved building.The Community Services started to use the former schoolhouse in 1973.

This work will involve an expenditure of approximately E200,000 and Teresa, and volunteers like Tom Fitzgerald and Des Marnane and their colleagues are pursuing avenues to gather funding for that job from various government agencies.

“We have been speaking to the various bodies for the last twelve months now and we will continue to pursue that but we will be expected to meet some of the costs of this project ourselves,” said Tom Fitzgerald,Treasurer of the Community Services.

Des Marnane,Chairman of the Community Services Centre said it was the down to the people working to provide the services to ensure that the people who were relying on those services were protected.

“I would hope that the frontline services will continue and that hopefully will not change.We have to protect the people who are re ce iving the meals on wheels and the laundry,” he said.

Des Marnane said that the meals and wheels services was provided by volunteers up to 2008 on a three day a week basis and now all the meals were cooked in the community centre and delivered by people working on CE schemes and provided on a five day week.

“Once we changed over to the new system, and we did it because of the changing times as it became harder to have the number of volunteers required , now the meals are cooked by workers on the CE scheme and the meals are provided five days a week.We cannot go back to the old system so we have to ensure that the centre survives,” he said.

Community Services stalwart Tom Fitzgerald said that the centre had faced many challenges before and would always be faced with obstacles that needed to be overcome.

“Its just another challenge, we have to ensure revenue is raised so that we can keep the vital services going for the people who really need them,” he said.

The centre is a hi ve of activity every day with so many organisations in the town using the centre as their base. Rooms are rented out to raise income for the centre .

The building is home to Tipperary Mid West Radio, to a very busy Citizens Information Office which has three rooms on the go all day during the week and the St. Vincent de Paul Society uses the centre as its headquarters.

Up to thirty local organisations work from the centre to conduct their business.The centre is also recognised as an important training centre with Safe Pass courses,road signage courses, security courses first aid and FAS training programmes held at the centre.The VEC also use the centre for training purposes.

The restaurant in the building is open to the elderly and the disadvantaged and is a popular meeting place for the elderly particularly after mass every day.

“The elderly like meeting here every day. They are very comfortable and are very welcome. It’s an outlet for them and those that cannot come into us we have contact with them through the meals on wheels” said Teresa.

““Looking after the elderly, not only providing services for them, but making sure they are happy, that they meet people and that they are safe , that is at the very heart of our daily work,” said the centre supervisor.

Teresa said that the centre provided the elderly that were able to come into them a friendly meeting place while the elderly who were unable to come to the centre were catered for through the meals and wheels and the laundry service.

“When we go to deliver a meal to their homes and a person is not there we inform the HSE and the checks take place. It is a another safety valve to make sure that the elderly are looked after and that if something is up tit can be spotted because of the routine of a daily contact which ensures that if there is a problem that it can be identified very quickly.,” said Teresa.

The centre has provided up to 60 alarm pendants for the elderly in the last twelve months which is another crucial service provided .

“These monitoring units are vital particularly for elderly people who live alone and it gives them instant access to services they might require when in difficulty.

Teresa said that everybody involved in the centre were determined to keep it going. She believed the ECDL services would be crucial to developing more streams of revenue.

“It will make more use of our computer room which we used so that the elderly could be introduced to the internet, keep in touch with family abroad through skype, pay for a book and pay for a holiday and other skills but All of that will continue but the ECDL will be able to bring us into an area where we can use the new IT facilities to financially support the centre” she said..