Deputy Connolly said that it has come to her attention that the Board of Directors for Time4Us has written to all parents informing them that the service will be closing on March 31st, 2018. This is a service that has been in existence for over 10 years having been established in 2007. During that period of time the centre has been used to facilitate parental access to children in circumstances where a father or mother would not otherwise have contact with their child or children.
The significance of this is that the centre provides a safe place for access. Currently Deputy Connolly understands that approximately 40 families avail of the facility and if the closure goes ahead at the end of March it will mean that children will have no place safe to meet their parent.
In this regard, the parents have been advised to look at alternative arrangements but there are simply no other facilities of this nature in Galway, which is the very reason Time4Us was set up in the first place. Unfortunately in that ten year period it continued to function as a charity with the consequence that notwithstanding the best efforts of board members, the required skill and expertise is not available on the board. Deputy Connolly said that she fully accepts the significant challenges posed by governance issues, but this is not an acceptable reason to close an essential service. Rather, she said, that what should happen is for the service to be mainstreamed under the relevant Department whether that is Justice or Health or Children and Youth Affairs.
The service itself has been run on a shoestring budget with a small number of staff, all of whom will lose their jobs should the service close, but still allowing 40 families to access this essential service. Moreover, as the building is owned by the Health Executive/Túsla and will remain open for other services it makes absolutely no sense to close the Time4Us service which operates from there.
Deputy Connolly said she will be raising this matter with Túsla and the Health Executive and the various Ministers with a view to having the service streamlined; she will also be writing to the Board of Directors of Time4Us.