The Sligo Champion - - NEWS - BY CIARA GALVIN

A spokesper­son for a deaf and hard of hear­ing or­gan­i­sa­tion has in­di­cated that its Sligo ser­vice may be re­lo­cated.

Af­ter weeks of un­cer­tainty and talk of the cur­rent ser­vices of Chime, for­merly known as DeafHear, be­ing re­lo­cated to Letterkenny, Bren­dan Lennon, head of ad­vo­cacy at the or­gan­i­sa­tion has said: “It’s fair to say we still have to have one lo­ca­tion in CHO 1.”

CHO 1 is the for­mal name for the Sligo/ Done­gal area of the or­gan­i­sa­tion which cur­rently has two lo­ca­tions where ser­vices are avail­able.

Chime (DeafHear) in Sligo pro­vides spe­cial­ist sup­ports and ser­vices to deaf and hard of hear­ing peo­ple and their fam­i­lies.

Speak­ing to The Sligo Cham­pion, Mr Lennon said the or­gan­i­sa­tion is still try­ing to li­aise with the HSE, which pro­vides €227,882 of fund­ing for the Sligo/ Done­gal area.

In a re­sponse to queries from Cllr Tom McSharry in re­la­tion to the un­cer­tainty, CEO of the or­gan­i­sa­tion Mark Byrne said the cur­rent cost to fund the area stands at €350,000.

He out­lined that the or­gan­i­sa­tion was not in a po­si­tion to con­tinue to fund the short­fall of €122,118, and added that they must ‘op­er­ate the ser­vice within bud­get’.

Cllr MacSharry told The Sligo Cham­pion that there is ‘ huge con­cern’ over whether the Sligo ser­vice will be retained.

Last month Cllr McSharry called on the CEO to give an ‘ab­so­lute guar­an­tee’ that the Sligo ser­vice would not be moved. Though there has been spec­u­la­tion that there are plans to move the Sligo ser­vice to Letterkenny, staff at the Sligo base in Abbeyville have not been made aware of any such plans.

In cor­re­spon­dence to Cllr McSharry, the CEO stated that the or­gan­i­sa­tion was very com­mit­ted to their clients in Sligo and “pro­pose to con­tinue to pro­vide a high level of ser­vice from our of­fice in Letterkenny”.

Mr Lennon said the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s pro­posal to the HSE was for it to con­tinue fund­ing one lo­ca­tion to op­er­ate Mon­day to Fri­day.

He added that the cur­rent un­cer­tainty was ‘very un­fair on staff ’ and said he was not aware of any de­tails of cor­re­spon­dence with staff.

Ex­plain­ing the is­sues with fund­ing and the need for a more stream­lined ser­vice within the CHO 1 area,

Mr Lennon out­lined that the core grants from the HSE were re­duced in pre­vi­ous years but the or­gan­i­sa­tion did not re­duce ser­vices up un­til now.

“We have no op­tion but to re­duce,” stated Lennon.

Asked if the ser­vice would be detri­men­tally im­pacted if moved to Letterkenny, the head of ad­vo­cacy said he would ar­gue that it would be ‘an en­hance­ment’ of ser­vices.

“If the Sligo ser­vice is moved to Letterkenny it will still be of­fer­ing ser­vices in Sligo two days per week but staff will be based out of Letterkenny.

There is no ques­tion of any­one (ser­vice users) trav­el­ling to Letterkenny.”

In re­sponse to this, Cllr McSharry said he will be seek­ing to get this in writ­ing.

“It’s very easy to pick up the phone and say it’ ll all be ok, but that’s what was said be­fore about can­cer ser­vices,” said Cllr McSharry.

Cur­rently the Sligo ser­vice op­er­ates three days per week, on 1.6 staff un­til a staff mem­ber re­turns from ma­ter­nity leave.

Asked if there was a pos­si­bil­ity of bridg­ing the short­fall in fund­ing, Mr Lennon said there was ‘zero chance or scope for in­creas­ing the HSE grant’.

He went on to ex­plain that un­der the cur­rent ar­range­ment, Chime is fully funded by the HSE but Chime is not al­lowed to ‘plug ser­vices with fundrais­ing’.

“We’d re­ally wel­come clear, co­he­sive guid­ance on how to bring things to a close,” con­cluded Lennon.

Coun­cil­lor Tom MacSharry with ser­vice users. Pic: Carl Bren­nan.

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