In 1995 members of the community, voluntary & statutory sectors recognised the need for a community base which would be accessible to the local community for the purposes of peer support, information, training, childcare and service provision to the disadvantaged sectors of our community. The South Eastern Health Board was supportive of the proposals made to them and a venue was suggested to them as an ideal community base.
The old Christian Brothers house which had served the schools on either side had been vacated and operated as a B & B for a few years, was put on the market for sale. It was purchased with grant aid from the South Eastern Health Board and Clonmel Resource Centre Ltd. The building located close to the town offered a number of first floor offices and ground floor meeting rooms and a room suitable for childcare. With some renovations the doors opened to the community in March 1996 and offered a playschool facility for 10 children referred by health professionals on a sessional basis in the mornings. Offices were occupied by groups and representatives who had been involved in the negotiations and set up of the Centre, for example, Cuan Saor, South Tipperary Lone Parents Initiative, and service providers such as the Public Health Nursing Service, Clonmel Community Network Community Employment Project,” NOW”Solas and ETB, Local Action for Women Project and the Health Board’s Community Development Worker .
All the groups involved had a common interest which was to support and enable marginalised groups and individuals Office rental with shared resources have kept costs to a minimum which allows the providers to be financially viable and provides the Centre with an income to meet its obligations and overheads, Several groups who started their service provision at the Centre grew to the extent that, due to the impact of their service provision on the community, had to move to larger premises, namely Cuan Saor who secured funding for a women’s refuge, the Money Advice and Budgeting Service, Clonmel Community Partnership (now South Tipperary Development Company), South Tipperary County Childcare Committee. Other service providers who have spent a period of time in the Centre are the Child & Family Service (HSE), The Pathways Project (Waterford Youth), ISPCC. Other groups who set up valuable services to the community and chose to be accommodated at the Centre are the Clonmel Community Support Programme Ltd who employ a team of Community Mothers and provide both Mother and Toddler and Mother & Baby groups in various locations in Clonmel; the Autism Support Group, The Alzheimers Society of Ireland and Cluain Support Group The vision from inception was to provide services to the community, to individuals and families and to network and share resources. From a very early stage the resident service providers liaised together in order to provide appropriate interventions for families and individuals experiencing deprivation through marginalisation. Services at the Centre became so varied that there was no stigma attached to visits to the Centre by individuals. Training rooms have provided a neutral venue at low cost for courses. The Primary Health Care Programme for Travellers was delivered from the Centre for a period of four years with initially 16 participants.
The Programme’s initiative resulted in delivery of a Traveller Worker Community Health Care Project based at the Centre with three traveller women from the course, employed by the HSE. From a very early stage Clonmel Community Resource Centre’s main focus became childcare. As a referral only service for children with special needs or very marginalised, management became concerned that a stigma may be created and that diversity was not being recognised. As a result the existing playschool was closed during the summer of 1999 and reopened in September 1999 as a community based pre – school offering sessions both morning and afternoon. In 2001, following a study of needs, the first community based After School service was established for 15 children daily between the ages of 5yrs and 12 years. Its aim was to provide a safe and secure place for children after school where they could meet with other children, relax, play games and complete homework if they wished. Having now established itself in the community the Board recognised the need to undertake a 3 year development plan. This largely re-enforced the Board’s mission statement and set a scope for the future in which it detailed its aims to provide extended childcare facilities which would give families opportunities to access employment and training. In July 2001 the Clonmel Community Resource Centre enjoyed the privilege of hosting a Presidential visit. President Mary McAleese launched the 3 Year Development plan at a Luncheon held in the grounds of the Centre for circa 100 guests from local community, voluntary and statutory organisations and Centre workers. This event set the seed for growth and the foundation of the Centre we see today.
The National Childcare Census which was commissioned by the Department of Justice and carried out by ADM Ltd in 1999. It confirmed a major shortfall in full day childcare and with a growing economy, one of the main reasons why lack of quality, affordable and accessible childcare places prevented people from entering the workforce. The impact was greatest for the more disadvantaged sectors of society who neither could afford childcare at the lower end of salary scales nor afford to enter the education system or retrain to escape the poverty trap. As a direct result of the Childcare Census, Capital Funding was offered by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform under the “Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme”. The Centre’s Board of Management seized this opportunity to fulfil its mission at a local level and drew up plans for a purpose built extension to the Centre to provide a childcare facility catering for children from 3 months to 12 years. It was successful in being awarded a final sum of €1,022,000. The building project commenced and all operations at the Centre continued for the duration of 18months thanks to the co-operation and patience of its user groups. The Board of Management secured a loan to meet the balance of final cost the €1.2 million project that also included the re-slating of the entire old building.
A team of qualified childcare workers was recruited to join the existing team and with the support of the HSE’s Pre – School and Environmental Officers and a dedicated Board and Childcare Committee everything was put in place to offer a quality, affordable and accessible childcare service. In 2007 “Tots 2 Teens” childcare facility opened its doors to the waiting community, initially offering 25 full time and 20 part time places. The access to the Community Subvention Scheme continues to be crucial to a high percentage of our users enabling the most marginalised families in the community to avail of quality childcare at a significantly reduced cost. Over the past 4 years “Tots 2 Teens” has developed, grown and changed to meet demand. With the completion of EOCP funding in 2007 the National focus changed from the parent’s needs to the needs of the Child. A new National Curriculum for pre-school “Aistear” has placed the child as the centre of importance. The childcare staff at Tots 2 Teens has embraced this change as they were already committed to the development of each child as an individual, to the best of her or his ability. Tots 2 Teens provided 40 extra pre-school places to meet demands set by the “ECCE” scheme provided “Free” to the user by the Department of Children & Youth Affairs. “Tots 2 Teens” can now accommodate 87 children daily.
The funding provided by “ECCE” scheme allows Tots 2 Teens to deliver a pre-school programme in a way that prepares children for school, giving them the freedom, support, choices, social interaction, appropriate materials & equipment and acquire the skills to become active learners and confident individuals. As a community based childcare service and with a reputation for excellent facilities “Tots 2 Teens” is under constant demand for childcare places. However, a referral system and an admission policy that recognises significant needs provides a platform for a good relationship with HSE staff such as Public Health Nurses, Social Workers, Speech and Language Therapists and also community organisations such as Cuan Saor Women’s Refuge, South Tipperary Lone Parents and Clonmel Community Parent Support Programme (Community Mothers). The Clonmel Community Resource Centre’s activities, in the main building have been developed to accommodate training and support for its wealth of diverse users. In order to facilitate the community the Centre is open according to demand, 6 days per week from 8:45am to 10pm. This has been facilitated by the Centre’s participation in the Clonmel Community Network FAS Community Employment Project which has provided the Centre with essential support staff such as caretakers, receptionists and childcare staff. In turn each participant receives excellent work experience and training thus increasing their opportunity for future employment with an improved skills and experience base. The benefits of networking between groups directly and positively impact individuals and families when supports and interventions are being put in place. The proximity of these service providers enables effective communication frequently with swift results.
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