ONE of Britain’s longest-serving Irish charities is facing homelessness after being hit by a raft of funding cuts.
Coventry Irish Society could begin 2014 by being forced from its home if it fails to plug a £30,000 hole in its finances caused by two funding cuts over the summer.
The atmosphere within the charity is “depressing” as it tries to scrape money together in the form of small donations from local people, welfare manager Simon McCarthy told The Irish Post.
“This is also a very anxious time for our service users,” he added.
The charity, which celebrated its 20th anniversary this year, first lost a substantial £29,000 grant from the local council in June, forcing it to let go of a front-line health worker.
It then had its funding from the Irish Government’s Emigrant Support Programme reduced by £2,000, despite Mr McCarthy saying the charity is working with “very vulnerable” people.
And with it set to lose a further £60,000 of Irish Government funding for its work with survivors of institutional abuse on December 31, the charity faces extreme challenges in the road ahead.
The organisation “would be able to manage” if it can maintain its current funding level, albeit with staff taking on extra workload, Mr McCarthy believes.
But if the money for its survivors work is withdrawn, he predicts significant consequences for its services, which include benefits advice, health work and a befriending project.
“We would have to consider moving and not having an office, just using a place where we can go for free, which would definitely have an impact on the service,” Mr McCarthy said.
Explaining that the withdrawal of that funding would force the charity to make its three part-time welfare workers redundant and force one of its five full-time workers into a part-time role, he added: “It would also mean huge workload on those left behind and that would impact the people they are trying to help.”
The charity has also been left frustrated by the failure of the new Statutory Fund to confirm whether or not it will fund the charity’s survivors outreach project when Government funding expires at the end of the year.
“There is no hurry with them turning around and saying they need to support us,” Mr McCarthy explained.
“It is like they are leaving us to not know.” He added that he finds it “paradoxical” how the urgency that follows the publication of something like the report into the Magdalene Laundries has failed to translate into immediate action.
And if the full cut does go ahead, it is likely to have a significant impact on survivors in the Midlands.
“A lot of survivors would need help and they may be very reluctant to approach another service because they have been with us for 12 years,” Mr McCarthy said.
Meanwhile, the charity’s five-person team is trying to plug the £12,000 budget deficit left by the Coventry City Council cuts.
The council explained that, like many local authorities in Britain, it has had to cut back on local services because of central Government cuts.
“As a sign of the austere times, and owing to council resources being overall significantly reduced, the new funding pot will be very much smaller than is currently available,” it added in a letter.
But the Irish charity has struggled to get more than small donations from local people, such as the £200 donated by leaders of the Michael Collins Society.
Among other things, it is planning to meet with local Irish businesses in an attempt to win over a wealthy patron for its work with vulnerable Irish people.
It is also considering opening a small shop selling food and Christmas cards. But Mr McCarthy admits that a sustainable solution is more likely to come from grants, local authorities or organisations, several of which the charity is currently pursuing.
As far as the charity is concerned, its current predicament could not have come at a worse time, with front-line workers being needed more than ever to help vulnerable people negotiate radical changes in the Government’s welfare system.
They expect that things are only going to become more difficult if they are forced to operate from a series of temporary locations. “The bottom line is that they would have to follow where we go and that would be a big disruption to some people,” he added.