Reprieve but Community Transport funding is cut

A BITTERSWEET victory has been won by Fermanagh Community Transport (FCT).

As reported in the Herald recently, the service which helps the elderly, disabled and people on low incomes get to hospital appointments and various group activities was under the threat of closure as fears grew they wouldn’t receive funding for the financial year.

However, last week, there was good news for FCT as the Department for Infrastructure was given the green light by its Permanent Secretary – Julie Harrison – to receive funding for the financial year.


But there was a bitter pill in the post with news that from August 1 to March 31, funding would be cut by five per cent.

FCT manager, Jason Donaghy, said: “While this could be seen as a ‘win’, it doesn’t feel like it as it still represents a backward step. They talk about essential services but last Christmas onwards has really proven that the need and demand for our service is greater.

“The frustration on our part is that we’re still on a yearly cycle. The last thing we want is to be back here again next year with a danger of the service we provide being closed down.

“We need to be moving to three to five-year funding with funding that is also linked to real need.

“Since 2016, our funding has been cut by 35 per cent. So add that five per cent, and taking inflation into account, it’s just putting more and more pressure on us.

“We’re not able to deliver all the trips for the people that we’d like to. We haven’t been able to actively advertise our services at all.

“I think that this battle we have got through, for now, means that we will have to manage within our means for the remainder of the (financial) year.


“There needs to be work with the Department to say that the notion that community discretion is – particularly in somewhere like Fermanagh – is not ethically, morally and logically tenable moving into the future.”

Donaghy insists that in order to provide security for both FCT service users and staff, a longer-term approach to funding must be taken.

He added: “We need to take a three to five-year look at things in terms to invest in new vehicles, pay our drivers, maintain our current vehicles and to give people certainty and continuity of service.

“This whole experience has been awful with the worry, the fear and the stress it has caused the people that we serve.

“It could have been worse – but it shouldn’t have been. This should have been one of those services that were off the table because for our folks, there is no alternative.

“If you’re serious about equality as government departments, you have to understand that what equality means in Belfast or Lisburn is the same as what it means in rural Fermanagh.”

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The Fermanagh Herald is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
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