Minister Halligan T.D presents Focus Ireland PETE education awards in Waterford

The Minister of State for Training, Skills and Innovation, John Halligan T.D., presented awards today to students of the Focus Ireland education services in Waterford.

The education service is called PETE, which stands for Preparation for Education, Training and Employment, and the students taking part have been either homeless or at risk. The Focus Ireland PETE service is based at Bath Street in Waterford and the charity also runs the service in Limerick and Dublin. A total of 35 people received awards at the ceremony at the Edmund Rice Centre, Mount Sion as they had completed a number of accredited courses at QQI Level 3 including Computer Literacy, Cookery Skills and Creative Arts.

A number of students were presented awards for successfully completing a range of non-accredited courses. These courses are specially designed to encourage people who have been marginalised to re-engage with education and training and are often the first step to people moving on to further study, training and employment.

Speaking at the event Minister Halligan said: “I am honoured to attend this event. Focus Ireland provides PETE which is an invaluable service for those who are currently homeless or who have been at risk or marginalised in some way. I am sure it is very hard for anyone who is homeless or living in insecure accommodation to think about the future as they can be under such pressure in the here and now. This is why I have nothing but admiration for the people here today- and all the great staff and volunteer tutors who helped them- as they tool a brave step to add to their own education and development.”

Focus Ireland education services are designed for people from 17 years of age upwards who are currently homeless or at risk. The PETE service aims to support people taking part to achieve their desired level of qualification so that they can progress on a pathyway to further education and employment. Focus Ireland Waterford Project Worker Laura Cushen explained: “People who are homeless or have experienced homelessness have often faced difficulties in life. These difficulties may include having negative experiences of early learning or being early school leavers . The PETE service helps individual participants to address barriers to accessing education, training and employment.”

She added: “If they have been homeless as a child, their education may have been severely disrupted. It can be very difficult for parents to keep children in school if they are homeless and/or constantly moving from one area to the next.”

“Our non-accredited courses are designed to help encourage people back into an education setting by building their confidence and self-esteem. The service also provides special one-on-one support in the areas of literacy, career guidance and job preparation. We work with each individual participant to plot their progress as they aim to achieve their self-defined goals.”

Focus Ireland said its education services courses are designed to build skills that aid employability. Clients are either at risk of becoming homeless or are currently experiencing homelessness, and living in emergency accommodation.

Focus Ireland Waterford Manager David Niblock said: “Where a person already has gaps in education, training and/or life skills it is even more vital that they have access to the right training at the right time to prevent their current state of homelessness becoming a long-term problem.”

The charity said that 2016 was the busiest year for the Waterford PETE service since it opened in 2011. Focus Ireland now provides nearly 200 homes for families, couples and individuals in the Waterford area, and has worked in the city and county since 2000.

Focus Ireland said that it is great to see the very real difference its Waterford education service is making in the lives of participants. A real highlight for the team in 2016 was six (8%) individuals progressing on to employment and 17 (22%) progressing on to further education, completing Level 4,5 & 6 qualifications in courses such as health care, computerised payroll and beauty therapy.

Catherine* is one of the many success stories to emerge from Waterford PETE after she was referred to Focus Ireland at 49 years of age. She had decided to leave a difficult home situation. In time, she went on to go through the PETE Job Coaching Initiative which helped to prepare her for finding employment and the world of work. Catherine secured a part-time job which was a huge step on the journey toward economic independence, at the same time she began an accredited evening course. This is an opportunity for Catherine to gain valuable experience in an area in which she really wants a career in. On top of this achievement, Catherine recently found out that she has secured a home of her own and is moving out of her Focus Ireland supported housing.

The Focus Ireland awards ceremony came in the wake of major new research revealed earlier in the week, ‘Living in Limbo- Homeless Young People’s Paths to Housing.’ The study helped to present a valuable insight in to the causes of youth homelessness in Ireland. It highlighted the factors that cause young people to become- and remain- homeless and can often lead to early school leaving and a lack of access to employment.

Focus Ireland’s David Niblock explained: “The research clearly showed there are very targeted measures that can- and must- be put in place to prevent more young people becoming homeless and to help others who are currently homeless to move on. The report found that providing educational supports such as PETE are vital to achieve this and help young people to avoid even becoming homeless in the first place or at the very least to spend as short time as possible as homeless. There is real need for solutions to youth homelessness that extends beyond the provision of housing. People of all ages need on-going support after leaving homelessness so they can develop the skills, confidence and employment required to move on to independent lving and reach their full potential in life.”

Those seeking help and advice in the Co. Waterford area should contact Focus Ireland at; Advice and Info, Convent Lodge, Mitchell Street, Dungarvan. Phone- 058 43570, Mobile- 086 417 1160 or email


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