Community Link
Produced by LCDI
January/February 1999. back
The Demise of ACE
With their peculiar sense of timing the TEA announced during the Christmas period that the axe was finally falling on the ACE programme. The programme has been systematically sliced away in recent years, it currently employs around 2,000 people compared to 10,000 in its hey day.

The demise of the ACE programme leaves a large gap in service provision to the vulnerable and disadvantaged. ACE workers in the Roe Valley have staffed playgroups, After school clubs, pensioners luncheon clubs, community care visitation, advice centres, environmental projects, meals on wheels, community transport, resource centres and community magazines!

The TEA says that the new programmes, New Deal and 'Worktrain' will replace ACE and that the services outlined above are safe. This is simply not true. In the first instance the new programmes involve a placement of only 6 months, barely enough time to train someone! However, even if the 6 month schemes were workable, the TEA have insured that they cannot deliver the services mentioned because they are dismantling the only infrastructure that can deliver, by terminating the contracts of the total ACE management workforce.

It is all very well to say that New Deal workers will take over the ACE services, but if there is no one there to manage them then the services are finished. The TEA has stated that they hoped that around half the ACE core staff would transfer to New Deal or Worktrain. This is impossible and the TEA know it, for example in Limavady there are eight core staff, we will be lucky if one of these workers finds employment managing the new programmes, we are more likely to be on the programme!

So what of the services to the vulnerable and disadvantaged. Unfortunately in most cases they will disappear. LCDI will be able to maintain a skeleton service for the elderly using volunteers, this will mean prioritising and inevitably people will lose. There will be a mad scramble in the borough to find alternative funding for the projects, here too people must inevitably lose out. Fortunately LCDI have many non-ACE funded posts and we will definitely stay afloat.

This is a sad end for the ACE schemes, which was the most successful of the TEA'S programmes. We consistently got 40% + of the long-term unemployed back into employment, and at the same time provide a range of innovative and much needed services throughout this borough. We paid people a wage, which was ultimately spent in the local community; the ACE programme was cost-effective. We gave many women their first work experience and gave others a chance to return after rearing a family, many are still in permanent employment.

We gave dignity to the long-term unemployed all of whom were glad to rejoin the 9-5 rat race. Through our structured training programme we gave thousands of people the experience and qualifications to enable them to enter further education or full-time employment. ACE schemes helped engender community spirit and in many cases was the catalyst for major community-based initiatives. In many of the areas most affected by the troubles it was ACE schemes who helped 'keep a lid' on things.

There are a few people who agree with the decision to axe the programme, most agree that the future of the programme should lie in the hands of the New Assembly and not the TEA.


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