Minister for Social Protection, Heather Humphreys has instructed departmental officials to speak to the management of St Mary’s special school at Johnstown in a bid to try and resolve the controversial withdrawal of a Community Employment (CE) scheme from the educational facility/

A spokesman for the department confirmed to Meath Live that talks will begin soon.

They said “Officials have been in contact with St Mary’s who are considering a number of alternative arrangements including the engagement of an external supplier to provide the necessary catering, similar to other schools which do not have on-site kitchen facilities.

“Minister Humphreys has asked her Department officials to continue to support St. Mary’s school management to ensure a smooth transition to any new arrangement.”.

At one time, there were five workers on a CE scheme at the school, but there are currently just two, who provide the hot meals and that scheme is due to be finished under instructions from the department.

The spokesman added, “Following the transfer of the related funding, schools could no longer become a CE scheme sponsor and CE participants working on CE schemes have been precluded from working directly or indirectly in the provision of services to schools. The Schools’ boards of management are generally aware of the relevant guidelines and the Department clarifies any queries that arise from time to time.”

“The Department has also been working with the CE sponsor since August 2020 to arrange for a gradual withdrawal of the two CE participants from St Mary’s school and, to ensure that funding continues until their agreed end-dates, October 2021 and April 2022. This phased approach has afforded St Mary’s school management a further opportunity to make the necessary alternative arrangements, in line with other schools.

“Under the School Meals Programme, St. Mary’s Special School receives annual funding of €23,995 for the provision of breakfast and hot dinner for pupils in the school. This funding will remain in place so that pupils can continue to receive breakfast and hot dinners.

“The situation at St Mary’s was brought to the attention of Minister Humphreys attention this week. The Minister is anxious to find a resolution and she has asked her officials to engage with the school.”

Councillor Tommy Reilly has revealed he spoke to the Minister’s office on the matter last week.

‘I spoke to you (Meath Live) last week to say I was disgusted with the decision and that I would take it as far as I can and spoke to the Minister’s office, last Thursday to press home the point that it had to be rescinded and I am delighted to hear that they are starting to see sense.’