FAMILIES whose intellectually disabled relatives are working in a factory run by the Brothers of Charity on the Ballysimon Road will fight its closure “to the very last”.
That is according to Neilus Hayes, chairman of the charity’s family fundraising group which raised €40,000 for the Brothers of Charity in Limerick last year.
Mr Hayes, Patrickswell, also has a son working at Clonmore Industrial Services, a company set up by the Brothers of Charity in 1985 to provide sheltered employment for service users.
Almost 30 adults, most of them middle-aged, work at the factory, which produces metal fixtures for export.
The Brothers of Charity announced in recent days its plan to close Clonmore, on a phased basis, on October 31.
But opposition to the proposal is so strong, Mr Hayes said, that families are prepared to challenge the decision legally and a meeting to co-ordinate this opposition is being planned for next week.
“The people that are there are in their mid-40s and if you take them out of that environment and try to put them into another environment, no matter what kind of psychologist you have, you are not going to change them. Some of them are there for 30 years.”
Many of the service users, who only learned of the plan in recent days, were “devastated” at the plan to close Clonmore.
“We are going to fight this closure to the very last even if it means taking out a court injunction. They feel that strongly about it.”
Parents were informed of the decision by director of services Norma Bagge at a meeting at Clonmore this Monday evening.
In a statement to the Limerick Leader, the charity stressed that it was not a cost-cutting measure but motivated by the desire to provide a more broad range of supports to service users - outside of work.
“Having reviewed their current involvement, the Brothers of Charity Services Limerick consider it more appropriate to concentrate their efforts on supporting the people attending the Clonmore premises to reach their full potential in a variety of ways, including a work-related element,” a spokesperson said.
“The provision of health and social care supports means that we provide supports to people with intellectual disability to live as independent a life as possible and to support these individuals to reach their full potential in all aspects of their lives.
“We also have a responsibility to the people who currently attend Clonmore Industrial Services to provide a personalised service that is much broader than work.
“The decision to close Clonmore is not a cost-saving saving decision. The budget allocated...to Clonmore, which includes a staffing budget, will transfer to their new service that will be set up to support this group of people. This new service will be full-time, will be community-based and set up to meet the needs of individuals as identified in their person-centred plan.”
Mr Hayes, however, said families had received only scant information on what the new services might be and, as well as the upheaval caused by the closure of Clonmore, service users were concerned the plan might be to disperse them to what he termed “satellite centres” operated by the Brothers of Charity around Limerick.
Mr Hayes said those who attended Monday’s meeting were also unhappy with how it had been run.
“There is a board of directors for Clonmore, separate to Brothers of Charity, and what we are all wondering is whether this proposal was unanimously passed at that board meeting or whether there was minutes taken at the board meeting but we weren’t given that information,” he said.
Mr Hayes also said that it wasn’t strictly true that Clonmore was entirely focused on work.
“It is only in production for three days of the week and the other two days, they are being taught social skills such as how to cook and how to look after their hygiene and so on.”
He also took issue with management’s assertion that the closure had the agreement of the HSE.
“The HSE have no problem whatsoever with it staying open at the moment. I know that because I rang them myself. It is not costing the HSE a penny,” Mr Hayes said.
The HSE was this Wednesday asked to clarify its view on the proposed closure but had not responded at the time of going to press.