Fianna Fáil spokesperson on Education Charlie McConalogue has welcomed the announcement of a budget for the Minor Works Grant for next year but has raised concerns that no provision has been made for the Summer Works Scheme. Both programmes were taken off a permanent footing in 2012 in a round of budget cutbacks, and are now at the discretion of the Minister.
Deputy McConalogue commented, “While I welcome the restoration of the Minor Works Grant for 2015, the fact that there has been no reference to the Summer Works Scheme is a big disappointment for schools. The Government decided to abolish both these schemes in 2012 starving schools of funding for maintenance and improvement works. Over the past two years, schools across the country have run up huge debts after they were forced to fork out for essential upgrade works, furniture and IT equipment following the scrapping of the Minor Works Grant. Many of them are still struggling to pay the bills with parents having to pick up the tab through voluntary contributions and fundraising efforts.
“The importance of the Minor Works Grant cannot be underestimated; however the Minister has refused to restore it on a permanent basis, and appears to only grant it as an afterthought. Fianna Fáil is the only party that fully recognises the value of the scheme and has guaranteed its future in its Budget Proposals.
“We appear to be back at square one with the Summer Works Scheme. It was given a temporary reprieve for the last two years, but has not been included in the Budget for 2015. Many schools depend on this grant to carry out essential building and repair works. This is not a sustainable situation. Minister Jan O’Sullivan needs to realise how stretched schools and parents are and ensure that the funding is there to take the pressure off them.
“The Government has managed to find money in the Exchequer to grant a rebate on water charges, but is happy to allow our schools fall into disrepair. Minister O’Sullivan must make Education a priority for this Government and I am urging her to find the means to re-instate the Summer Works Scheme on a permanent basis”.