Family aid agency faces the axe after funding cut

A support service which works with 150 families across west Belfast has vowed to fight funding cuts which will see it close in October.

Integrated Services for Children and Young People (ISCYP) has been operating four bases in the Falls, Andersonstown, Shankill and Upper Springfield Roads for the last three years.

More than 620 families have passed through the system, which has also provided youth development services for 3,439 youths and well-being programmes for another 656 people over the last three years.

However, a letter from the Department of Education on May 25 spelled out its intention to stop funding the programme.

It is a blow to communities which have come to rely on the service.

Niall Enright (35), an ISCYP manager, estimates that the project has around 150 families across west Belfast currently on its books.

Among them are Sharon McCullough (39) and Seana McParland (37), mothers from Clonard in west Belfast who attend ISCYP’s base on the Upper Springfield Road weekly.

Seana referred Sharon to the service a year ago.

Sharon said: “My eldest daughter has bipolar. She self-harmed and tried to commit suicide quite a number of times, so my whole mind was constantly filled with her. I just did not have quality time with my other kids.

“My youngest is eight now, and when we come to Integrated Services it’s all about fun and she gets quality time that she deserves.”

Jane Sellar, a family support worker with ISCYP, has been notified that her post will come to an end on October 1.

She described her role as daily support. “You have got a few women who cannot read and write, so you are going down to their home every day to read their mail — put reminders in their phone if the child has got this or that appointment,” she said.

But Seana and Sharon claimed many families in the area are reluctant or unwilling to engage with social services.

The Department of Education — which administers funding to ISCYP — confirmed that Education Minister John O’Dowd “met with representatives of the ISCYP project on July 5, when they were advised that the Department of Education will not be providing any further funding for the project post-September 2012”.

A spokesman for the department said £500,000 per year will be made available to an educational project for three years commencing next month.

But Mr Enright said he has no idea why funding — which has become increasingly hard to secure — has been withdrawn by the department.

Case Study

Seana McParland (37), from Clonard in west Belfast, started using Integrated Services for Children and Young People (ISCYP) when her son Turlough (10) came to the end of his time with Sure Start at the age of four. With the help of Jane Sellar, a family support worker with ISCYP, she got letters from experts who have contact with her son. He was diagnosed with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) in 2010. Last week Turlough was ‘statemented’ — formal recognition of his condition which Seana believes will secure his future education. She says ISCYP programmes are her son’s only social outlet.