By Ann Marie Foley - 12 September, 2018
Since the collapse of the Celtic Tiger in 2011, core funding for child welfare and protection has continued to be cut and now charities suffer a shortfall of around 20 per cent.
This is true for Barnardos and other community and voluntary organisations, according to Fergus Finlay, Barnardos, who added: “The myth was developed that we in the sector could do more with less. The vast majority of organisations in the community and voluntary sector, and the people who work in them, have carried disproportionately unfair burdens as a result.”
The CEO of the children’s charity said that it is “fundamentally unfair” that the government has made no effort to recognise the cuts that have been made, and charities have to meet growing demand and fill the gaps the State leaves.
“We hear the phrase ‘too many charities in Ireland’ all the time. We never hear the same people wondering why there is so much need,” said Fergus Finlay.
He made his comments at the launch of what will be his final Annual Report with Barnardos. On 4 October, he will retire from Barnardos after 13 years as CEO. Suzanne Connolly, who has been Director of Children’s Services for 17 years in Barnardos, will take over as CEO.
“If you had told me, the day I started working with Barnardos, that Ireland would one day have thousands of children with no home, I would never have believed it,” said Fergus Finlay. He added that, apart from homelessness, children are also in urgent need of psychological support and speech and language supports. “That’s part of the picture of the 21st century Ireland – a Republic of Opportunity.”
He said that while the figures are frightening, every single statistic “masks” a child.
“Sometimes it’s a child with dead eyes from which all the hope is gone. I’ve met little boys and girls like that – we all have in Barnardos,” stated Fergus Finlay.
He was speaking at the launch of Barnardos Annual Report 2017, which shows that the charity provided practical supports and services to 15,300 children and families in 40 centres across Ireland.
The 2017 figure brings the total number of children and families helped by the charity in the last 10 years to 86,585. Barnardos provided practical and emotional supports to children and parents in its 40 centres, in families’ own homes, through the school environment and within their communities.
Barnardos Director of Children’s Services and incoming CEO, Suzanne Connolly, said: “Childhood is short, yet the experiences we have shape the adults we become and the lives we go on to lead.”
She added that Barnardos works to improve the lives of children, ensure their futures are as bright as possible, support parents and challenge society where it fails children.