IN an innovative pilot scheme, specially appointed community co-ordinators are to liaise with people in designated neighbourhoods to tackle a range of social problems.
The eight community co-ordinators will soon begin work in Limerick city and will link up with the local authorities, gardai and the HSE to help local people on both sides of the city deal with a variety of problems in their districts.
The Limerick City Community Safety Partnership is based on a very successful UK 'ranger' scheme to help make neighbourhoods safer and better places to live.
The pilot scheme, which will run for two years, will cost in the region of €1m. The co-ordinators are each on a salary starting at €32,000.
Chief Superintendent at Henry Street Garda Station, Willie Keane said the co-ordinators had no enforcement powers.
"I have great hope and expectation from this scheme and it is a first for everyone involved. The co-ordinators will come back to the different service organisations and address whatever issues they come across," he said.
He also urged local people in the communities where the co-ordinators will be working to get to know the new faces.
"The co-ordinators are not another layer of bureaucracy and I hope that it will help cut through some of the bureaucracy that already exists," said Superintendent Keane.
Mayor of Limerick, Joe Leddin said the co-ordinators will engage with the youth, listen to their points of view and encourage them to take part in community activities.
"They are also there to help vulnerable people like the elderly by providing links for them with other services. The co-ordinators are highly qualified, full of energy and enthusiasm," said Mayor Leddin.
Limerick City Council received over 260 applications for the eight positions. The designated areas where they will work are Janesboro, Rosbrien, Kennedy Park, Thomondgate, Watergate Flats and St John's Square.
The co-ordinators will carry two-way radios that will be linked up to City Hall and wear casual distinctive blue uniforms. The majority of them are from Limerick.
All have third level education.
Team leader Ann Marie Hogan worked as a human resources manager before taking up her new post.
"I took this job because I wanted to move from a purely money making environment to work where I could make a difference to the quality of life of these communities," she said.
Should the pilot scheme prove successful, it is believed similar schemes will be introduced in other areas of the country.