As a direct failure of the Department of Education to honour its commitment to pay rent due to An Droichead in Belfast, 14 workers now face a bleak 2012, with serious consequences for the provision of childcare facilities for local children and parents from the South and East Belfast area. The lackadaisical approach of the Department also puts into question the preschool needs of the adjacent school.
An Droichead was founded in 1992 and provides local playgroup, preschool and after schools service for the local area. It has received numerous professional awards over the years for its innovative approach and added services to the local area. It has provided hundreds of thousands of pounds in investment to the local school which operates on its land, but now faces pressure to moveas the Department of Education has refused to allow payment on the leases.
The organisation is owed the rent for the School for the previous 3 years, and have made on-going efforts to have the Departmentengage with them to resolve the matter. The non payment of the rent due has resulted in the organisation being forced to consider placing its employees on protective notice, and these jobs are now at a real risk of being lost. This organisation also funds a bus service for the school , however it expects to be forced to cease this service before the end of March, due to the non payment of the rent.
Sean Hayes, a Spokesperson for the organisation stated ”we have attempted to resolve this issue by dialogue and agreement, but regrettably it would appear that the people we are engaging with are not prepared to protect the interests of the children in their care. While the jobs are obviously a concern what is of greater concern are the interests of local children’s educational needs which the Department is putting in serious jeopardy. Our plans for the future include the provision of 50 jobs in the social economy, however this plan cannot go ahead unless we receive the long overdue payments.”
Niall McNally from SIPTU added “we are not prepared to allow the loss of 14 jobs and vital services to the Community. We are calling upon the Sinn Fein Minister for Education, John O’Dowd to ensure this matter is resolved and these vital services are protected. We have been in contact with and are seeking an urgent meeting with the Department and will be insisting this issue be resolved to the satisfaction of the group and concerned parents. We are not aware of any logical reason as to why this rent has not been paid, and it is not acceptable that vital services are now under threat.”