11 September 2003 Edition

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Crowe attacks coalition poverty trap


"AN ASSAULT on the weakest and most vulnerable in society'' was how Sinn Féin's Seán Crowe described a Dublin Government decision to cut childcare assistance for people on the Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme (VTOS), just days before the courses were due to start.

Crowe told An Phoblacht that, "there are 5,000 people on these courses, more than 1,000 of which are young parents''. The VTOS courses are run across the 26 Counties and are open to unemployed people over 21. Courses are full time and can run for two years. People taking the course had been able to get a weekly childcare allowance for  63.50.

The one-week's notice given of the withdrawn childcare assistance means that many of the parents with young children on the scheme will not be able to finish their courses.

There are, according to Crowe, "1,388 parents and 1,672 children affected by these cutbacks. Once again we see the most disadvantaged sections of society being stripped of essential services. It is short sighted and defies logic. All it will do is trap young people in a cycle of poverty''.

Crowe has been in contact with parents who may be forced to drop out of VTOS-run back-to-work schemes. Some of the people were, he said, simply "devastated and baffled'' by the decision.

Crowe also said that the decision highlights the "contradiction that exists at the heart of government. On the one hand, they are saying that they are concerned at the numbers from disadvantaged backgrounds taking up higher education places and then, on the other hand, attacking courses which are designed to help people back into education and the workforce.''

Crowe has called on the Dublin Government to reverse this decision saying that, "if the government are really serious about tackling disadvantage they need to completely reverse the direction they are taking''.

An Phoblacht
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