On Tuesday 19th April, SIPTU held the first of three public engagements with Community Sector Workers across Belfast to advise of their campaign to protect the Community Sector. In recent weeks they have learned of the reduction of funding to vital Community Sector Organisations, and even the removal of funding from wonderful organisations such as Art Ability based in West Belfast interface Agnes Street.
Art Abilty is a cross community group catering for both children and adults, the majority of whom have special needs. While the funding has been removed the dedicated workers have remained at their posts determined to ensure that the most vulnerable in our society are not allowed to suffer at the hands of an-uncaring bureaucratic decision. It is difficult to accept that the powers that be, apparently believe that these people do not need this service.
SIPTU have written to the Minister to seek an urgent meeting to have this decision reversed with immediate effect, however if the Minister’s office fails to engage in a positive and constructive manner, SIPTU have stated they will lead a delegation of the workers, the service users and their families to present the Minister with the wonderful banner the children have made to illustrate the impact of the cuts on their lives. SIPTU Lead Organiser Martin O’Rourke stated at the meeting; “I hope this will not be necessary and we look forward to a positive and constructive engagement with the Minister.”
All Belfast MLAs and candidates from West Belfast were invited to attend the meeting and Fra McCann of Sinn Fein attended to engage with the Community Sector and the services users to sign the pledge and support the community sector if re-elected as MLAs. There are a further two meetings scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday night where other MLAs have advised they will also attend.
Pat McCauley who is a SIPTU Community Activist commenting on the meeting stated,
“We took this opportunity to engage with community workers in West Belfast following similar successful engagements with Community Sector Workers right across the local economy to learn about at first hand, the shocking impact on service users of the cuts imposed, which make neither economic nor social sense. We are placing the powers that be on notice that they may have seen the Community and Voluntary sector as the point of least resistance for cuts in the past which have wiped out around 3,000 jobs and vital services, but they need to be mindful of the fight back. There are around 27,000 Community Sector Workers and 100,000 volunteers who with the support of the Community and the Trade Union SIPTU, will be ensuring the voices of the most vulnerable will be heard at the decision making table.”