400 people turn out to support the retention of community programmes with Wexford Local Development
A crowd of over 400 people turned out to support Wexford Local Development in the Talbot Hotel on Friday last as the Government’s plans to reform local government threaten community services. These plans could result in the loss of 80 Wexford jobs and with them over twenty years of experience and expertise in delivering community and development work in the County.
33,263 PEOPLE SUPPORTED OVER THE PAST THREE YEARS
Against this backdrop Wexford Local Development last Friday showcased the extent of the work it has been involved in in the County over the past three years, work which has supported a total of 33,263 Co. Wexford people. WLD is unique in Wexford in being a community-based partnership organisation which runs initiatives ranging from community and rural development, to employment and enterprise supports, training and education as well as specialist supports for groups including people involved in substance misuse and the Travelling community and essential community services such as the Warm Project and the Rural Transport Programme.
‘All of these programmes are very closely linked and depend on each other to give individuals, communities and enterprises the most seamless and effective service possible’ explains Clare Ryan, Programmes Manager ‘If you pull our main source of funding, quite simply the whole infrastructure will fall and the other programmes and services we provide to individuals and communities in Co. Wexford will not survive. Communities and individuals particularly those who never benefitted from the boom will feel its loss heavily’.
INVESTMENT IN PEOPLE AND IN COMMUNITIES
Exhibitors and speakers at the Showcase included a wide and diverse range of groups, businesses and services all of which have been supported by Wexford Local Development. Alan Ryan, Project Manager of Hook Tourism Group spoke of his group’s close ties with WLD: ‘The local development model used by WLD has ensured that groups like ours have benefited from a whole range of supports and programmes offered by WLD. Without these supports the project would not have developed to the extent that it has. The people working in WLD have been extremely supportive and informative and are passionate about what they do. They really want to help make a difference’.
From a community perspective Paul O’Keeffe of Tagoat Youth Group added ‘what we value most about our relationship with WLD is that personal contact, the voice at the end of the phone, the sense that we are in this together growing, developing together. WLD have been very much a partner in the development of our farm,that listens to what we have to say and treats us as equals’. He emphasised that ‘the most valuable resource that WLD has is the people that they have working in there, their approach to community development is the only way to maintain the support of the many community groups that they are working with’.
Stephen Doyle a member of Wexford Youth Action Group comments ‘Wexford Local Development have inspired me to become an active citizen, a concept I never even knew existed before. They have introduced me to so many people and opportunities. It would be a great pity if they were not able to continue their good work’.
CUTS TO FUNDING AND POTENTIAL PRIVATISATION OF COMMUNITY SERVICES
The Government recently announced that the Local Authority will be the applicant for the next Leader programme and also signalled the prospect of significant cuts in funding to the programme and the proposed commercial tendering of the local and community development programme from January next year. ‘These are very serious developments which could open the door to the privatisation of essential community services and supports’ warns CEO, Brian Kehoe. ‘Minister Phil Hogan is on record as saying that private companies will be eligible to tender which means that it is quite possible that one of the County’s largest social inclusion programmes could in the future be delivered by private companies possibly even from outside the State.’
RISING TO THE CHALLENGES
Despite these challenges, Wexford Local Development is determined to meet these new challenges head on and continue to play a pivotal role in local and community development in the County. ‘WLD is very resilient and has adapted to many changes and cuts in funding over the last number of years, continuing to deliver successfully in communities throughout Co. Wexford’ explains Pat Rath, Chairperson of the Board of WLD. ‘Notwithstanding the challenges which lie ahead we are confident that our expertise, experience and flexibility will secure our future and ensure that we can continue the work that we have been involved in’.