By Martina Stafford
A week before the Before 5 Family Centre on the Northside of Cork City was due to return after the summer break, staff and parents were informed by board members of the Centre’s immediate closure via a text message! What incredible disrespect to be shown to those who provide and depend on such crucial resources.
The Centre has been providing essential services to the community for five decades. The 14 staff whose jobs have been terminated are all women, some of whom have worked there for decades.
A campaign was quickly organised, and on the morning of the second protest planned to take place at the gates of the Before 5 Family Centre on the Northside of Cork City it was announced that the Centre would re-open. However, the new providers are only guaranteeing the return of the preschool and creche.
While this is welcome news, we still don’t know what will happen to those depending on the other essential services, nor to the workers providing these services. Community action must continue to demand that all of the jobs and services are maintained.
Community spirit, fighting spirit
The services offered at the Centre include a preschool, a creche, a homework club, play therapy and adult yoga and art classes. Children with additional needs are facilitated at the Centre, while play therapy is affordably accessed for those who qualify for it. The wider issue of course is that affordable, not-for-profit services that are for the needs of communities and funded by the state will always be under threat in a system that prioritises profit and greed above everything else.
Lilian Hanover, who has worked at Before 5 for the past 28 years said, “this is a community centre and it belongs to the community, and we are going to fight to the bitter end, we are not going to let this close, we cannot let this close.”
This is the fighting spirit that all communities need to display to force the government to guarantee childcare and preschool facilities with no entry fees and decent pay and conditions for workers. Decisions made about these services should be in the hands of service users, workers and the communities themselves.