Since 2005 Wallaroo has been working with children in the Direct Provision Centres for Asylum Seekers providing preschool, afterschool and summer camps. Both of the centres are in the environs of Cork City. This is a collaborative project with the HSE Southern Region, which mostly provides the funding. Some other funding is raised through a Charity Shop Twice is Nice which is also run by Wallaroo Playschool for this purpose.
It is well documented that children and families in direct provision centres are vulnerable and at risk because of isolation, depression and other factors related to their personal histories and circumstances.
Offering opportunities for children to play together in supervised situations allows for children to build bridges with one another across religious and cultural differences. Offering opportunities for families to mix together in social and cultural events breaks down barriers with adults and allows for opportunities to support one another.
Direct Provision Centres have families living there while they are waiting for the Asylum process to be completed. At the end of it some people will be refused and will leave the country and others will be given leave to remain in Ireland and will move out into the community. While in Direct Provision children can attend school and access Free Preschool. Wallaroo Playschool has permission from the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) of the Department of Justice, which is responsible for the welfare of Asylum Seekers, to provide these services within these 2 centres which they fund.
In both centres Wallaroo has been given playrooms by the managers or owners in which to provide our services. These rooms meet the standards required under Childcare Regulations and the service and rooms are inspected annually by Tusla.
In Kinsale Rd and Ashbourne House Accommodation Centres there are approximately 100-120 children between both centres. The age range is from newborn to 18 years. The numbers fluctuate as people move on and new people arrive although it can be relatively stable within a given year. In each room we normally take in a maximum of 15 children at any one time. We also work with parents and babies within small groups.
Services provided in Kinsale Rd Accommodation Centre, Kinsale Rd Cork
Preschool for children aged 18 months to 3 years – numbers currently attending are 8 children. This service is open 5 days a week Monday to Friday from 9.30-12.30. Children under 2 would only attend for an hour and a half and for 3 days a week.
Afterschool for children aged 4-12- numbers attending are 17 altogether.
Parent and Baby Group 30 minutes x 2 days a week. Parents join in for sing songs, language development or discussions with childcare experts.
Summer camp for July and August. We continue our services into the summer following a similar pattern as above with more limited days for the younger children. Eg 3 days per week. During this time we go out on trips some of the days to cinema with older children or to fota wildlife park or to the swimming pool. On some of these trips we invite parents along and we call them family days. There may be one or two of these over the summer months.
Services provided in Ashbourne House Glounthaune Co Cork
Preschool for children aged 18 months to 3 years- numbers currently 6. This service is open 3 days a week Tue Wed and Thurs for 10am until 1 pm. Under 2’s attend for 1.5 hours per day.
Afterschool for children
aged 8-12 years on Tuesday 3-5.30. Numbers currently attending maximum 13;
Age 4-6 years Wednesday 2.15-4.45. Numbers currently attending are 5.
Age 6-8 years Thursday 3-5.30. Numbers currently attending are 8.
Summer camp for July and August. We continue the summer service as above except each of the 4 age group gets a 2.5 hour slot just one day a week on Tuesday and Wednesday. On Thursday we have Family Day on site or out on a trip. This might consist of children and parents on site doing arts and crafts with our staff in the garden of the centre or it might be a trip to the swimming pool for the whole family. Wallaroo pays for the swimming pool and hires the bus to take them out. Parents are responsible for their own children and there are no unaccompanied children allowed.
In both centres we need to insure the activities, the staff, the equipment we own and the visitors to our room. The rest of the buildings are covered by the owners and managers of the centres.
Other activities carried out by Wallaroo Playschool Child and Family Project.
Money has been provided by St Stephens Green Trust Fund to enable children living in Direct Provision to participate in activities outside of school and in the community such as scouts or soccer. Wallaroo Playschool holds that money and parents apply to us to have the fees paid for such courses or activities. We pay the organisation directly. Really we are just holding that money and distributing it for appropriate activities as required. We do not organise for transport or facilitate the integration in any other way.
From time to time our Funders the HSE has given Wallaroo Playschool money to support the mental health of parents residing in the Direct Provision Centres where we work with their children. Following consultation with the parents they have in the past requested relaxation activities such as swimming or bowling to support their mental health. Wallaroo would organise those activities for example hire the bus and hire the pool and life guards and facilitate the parents to attend these activities. Sometimes some of them have brought their very young babies and just watched the activities.