An enraged councillor Tommy Reilly has hit out at the decision of the Department Of Social Protection to withdraw Community Enterprise (CE) scheme workers from St Mary’s Special Needs school in Johnstown.
The decision means that sixty pupils who regularly availed of hot meals, breakfast and lunch, will no longer be able to do so, as two of the places that are no longer being filled were normally taken up by a cook and a chef.
Fianna Fáil’s Reilly is furious about the situation and although he is not optimistic of being successful is determined to push the matter as far as he can.
He told Meath Live, ‘ It’s a deplorable decision, absolutely deplorable, I feel for the staff and pupils up there as they are been hard done by here.
‘From my initial enquiries it appears that the scheme is aimed at those seeking a return to work and that groups who avail of it can only do so a certain number of times or for a certain period of time and the school may have used it as much as they can.
‘I know they have appealed this on two separate occasions and been turned down both times but just because something is written down on a piece of paper doesn’t mean it is right and should be rigidly applied every single time.
‘I don’t know how much further I can take this but I can assure the school, the children and the parents I will take this as far as I can.
‘On occasion I have met parents up there and availed of the facility that provides food and I couldn’t praise it highly enough.
‘If this is a cost cutting measure it should be reviewed as I am sure there are other areas where money could be saved without impacting on the children.’
In a letter to the parents of children, who come from all across the county to attend the school principal, Maria Corredor, says, ‘It is with great regret we have to inform you the CE scheme is not providing us with any more staff, and we will not be able to offer our children hot meals from September 2021.’
Speaking to Meath live, Ms Corredor, welcomed Reilly’s support and revealed that the school even put a different proposal to the authorities which was also rebuffed.
She said, ‘It is great to have the backing of a local politician like councillor Reilly, we need all the help we can get to fight this.
‘We have spoken to the school meals section and suggested they increase the allowance they give us by an extra €1 a day and then we would be able to fund the cost of a cook and chef ourselves but that was turned down.
‘Look this scheme has been running successfully for sixteen years and all of a sudden it is stopped, it just seems as if nobody has considered the human cost of it.
‘We have eighty sic children here from all over the county and sixty of those avail of a breakfast, usually either toast or porridge and then a cooked dinner.
‘Remember that a lot of these kids can be on a bus for three hours a day so ensuring they have proper meals should actually be a priority really.
‘The children who attend the school should not be forgotten in all of this.’