13 jobs at risk at marriage counselling centre amid same-sex services dispute

Staff at the Cork Marriage Counselling Centre are at risk of redundancy after the Cork and Ross Social Services (CRSS) said it could not sign a service-level agreement with Tusla, in part because it may be “inconsistent with the ethos of the Diocese of Cork & Ross”.

On Saturday the Irish Examiner revealed CRSS, of which the Marriage Counselling Centre is a service, had not signed the agreement with Tusla. It is understood this is because the agreement now specified offering services to same-sex couples.

Yesterday CRSS said it had informed its staff that, “following Tusla’s decision to cease funding for the centre and, as the annual funding from Tusla represents over 50% of the overall running cost of Cork Marriage Counselling Centre, the 13 employees of the [centre] are at risk of redundancy.”

As for being unable to sign the Tusla service-level agreement, it said: “The constitution of CRSS CLG sets out the objectives of the company which must be in accordance with the policies of the Diocese of Cork and Ross.”

It said legal advice was that the provision means CRSS CLG is precluded from subscribing to the agreement with Tusla and that, if it were ignored, the directors of the company would risk being found personally liable for the consequences of so doing.

“Additionally, the terms of the licence for the use of its premises state that the ethos and activity undertaken by CMCC cannot be inconsistent with the ethos of the Diocese of Cork & Ross.”

It also said full compliance with Tusla’s governance requirements, including GDPR, “would place a significant burden on a small entity such as CRSS CLG”, which it said relies heavily on the goodwill of volunteers.

A 30-day consultation period will now begin, during which time alternatives to the proposal will be considered.

The board of CRSS CLG said that it “deeply regrets this situation and will work to support all impacted employees”.

However, it also took issue with elements of a statement from its counselling staff over the weekend, stressing it “has never directed its employees to operate any kind of a ‘filter’ to decide who would or who would not be seen. It said nobody at its walk-in centre in Cork’s Paul St ever sought personal information from clients.

“During the course of its discussions with Tusla, CRSS CLG informed Tusla that it must be presumed that anyone who walks in to look for help needs help and that it would go to the heart of what the organisation is about to welcome any such caller and put her/him at ease.”

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