Derry Parents Advice Centre to close its doors

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Derry’s Parents Advice Centre is to close with the loss of seven jobs.

The centre, which is located at Patrick Street in the city, is set to shut at the end of next month as part of a restructuring programme.

Seven full-time posts will be lost along with 20 volunteer positions after the Board of Trustees of the organisation agreed to the measure.

The closure of the office is part of a cost-cutting exercise by the organisation but Chief Executive Pip Jaff told the ‘Journal’ that it will lead to an expansion of services in Derry and the Western Health Trust area. It’s been revealed that the Derry office costs £160,000 a year to run whereas an outreach service covering Enniskillen, Omagh and Derry would cost only £15,000.

“The increased outreach appointment service in the Western Trust will be launched in September. The Parents Helpline service will not change. We anticipate receiving similar (if not more) volumes of calls from people living in all areas as we will have a much enhanced telephone system - ensuring parents calls are dealt with as quickly as possible.”

Ms Jaffa said there are several advantages to the move to shut the Derry office, stating that the service to local parents will be improved.

“The main advantages of the change are the welcome addition of three outreach sites that will replace the current Derry branch office premises - thus enabling direct services to be delivered on a more local basis across a wider area.”

However, she added: “Regrettably this restructuring to provide more locally accessible appointments for parents does mean that redundancies are unavoidable and volunteers will no longer be required at this location. Redeployment opportunities were given to staff and additional posts are being recruited.”

She added that Parents Advice Centres (PAC) have exciting plans for the development and expansion of a Parents Helpline and Outreach in 2011 with the support of the Health and Social Care Board. PAC has successfully been offering parents across Northern Ireland a range of parenting support services since 1979 including a Freephone Helpline and Appointment service and a range of parenting courses. The Helpline supports thousands of parents and families each year.

Ms Jaffa said: “Parents Helpline implemented its Outreach Service in Antim, Coleraine, Lurgan, Magherafelt, Moy and Newry over two years ago. This service has proven to be popular and reaches parents locally. After much consideration PAC therefore has taken the decision to extend how it currently operates its Helpline Outreach and Appointment service within the Western Trust area.

“Helpline hours and availability are going to remain the same operating 9am-8pm Monday to Thursday and 9am-5pm on a Friday. Each of the 10 outreach sites will offer appointments. After a period of research the sites that have been chosen in the Western Trust area are Derry, Enniskillen and Omagh. The establishment of these sites in September 2011 will ensure that PAC is accessible to even more parents and has a wider geographical spread across all of Northern Ireland. It is hoped that further sites will be developed in the future as demand grows.”

Parents can contact the Parents Advice Centre helpline about any family issue on freephone 0808 8010 722 and all appointment services are free and confidential.