A PLANNING delay at the Ozanam Centre is costing the area jobs and vital services, it’s been claimed.
Four years ago the Ozanam Centre submitted plans to expand its community services to include childcare for children with special needs.
But in that period they’re no closer to getting the go ahead they require in order to provide a much-needed multifunctional service in the area.
The Ozanam centre already provides daycare for children, but St Vincent De Paul President Sam Park explained that the proposed extension would provide an even more unique service by caring for children with special needs and opening the centre to different user groups.
He said: “The Trust would provide some services for children with special needs but this would be for parents to have independence to develop projects for their own kids especially when they come into their teens when the services seem to fall off.
“When we were putting together the business plan we contacted various parents groups who said the facilities were much needed.
“The facilities won’t be just for disabled people. They can suit other users. We’re linking in with the SRC for training and educational purposes. The business plan we’ve put forward aims to expand these outreach projects.”
Mr Park added that another problem with the delay is that funding was much more plentiful four years ago and is now harder to come by.
SDLP Upper Bann MLA Dolores Kelly said: “The Ozanam Centre is a vital part of the Lurgan community, providing childcare services and meeting facilities to a broad cross-section of people.
“There is a real need in the area for special needs childcare and it is unacceptable for planning services to keep the Ozanam Centre’s application to adjust access snarled up in seemingly endless bureaucracy at the expense of both the special needs services but also construction jobs in the area.
“I was promised a response in 2010, but that has long since past and the Centre has met all its responsibilities in a timely manner.
She continued: “I have met with Minister Alex Attwood to ask him to hold his department to account and I am pleased to say that he has asked officials to report to him by the end of this week on the matter so that he can decide how best to investigate the hold-up.
“I will continue to support the work of the Ozanam Centre and hope that Minister Attwood is able to signal the beginning of the end for this planning nightmare.”