PASSIONIST priests at a monastery in the north of England have decided to close their government-sponsored training programme for unemployed people because of a series of cutbacks in funding.
At least 15 people have been made redundant, and 100 trainee places lost, at the Minsteracres Monastery Project near Consett in Co Durham. The project, which was set up in 1977, had provided training in clerical work, painting and decorating, and horticulture.
Fr Andrew O'Connor, chairman of the project, said there had originally been 450 trainee places available under the old community projects scheme. When Employment Training was introduced in 1988 the numbers were cut to 336, then a year later to 220, and finally in May this year to 100.
Funding for the project is on a per capita basis, so the low number of places forced on the scheme meant it was no longer viable. "We cannot afford to continue," said Fr O'Connor. "It is the end of our involvement in government programmes.
The Minsteracres project is one of six church-sponsored organisations to have withdrawn in recent months, said the Revd David Everett of Churches Training for Employment, an organisation which monitors church action for those out of work.
The chairman of another Catholic church-sponsored project, Fr Hugh Bridge of Southwark diocese's Cathedral Employment Enterprise Ltd, accused church authorities of making "very little noise" over recent cuts in employment projects.