Avenue Road based playgroup Kidzone is calling on Education Minister John O’Dowd to think again on a decision to withdraw vital funding for the group.
The Minister recently took the decision to withdraw £2 million of funding from the Early Year’s Fund which will directly affect the playgroup as well as a number of pre-school and playgroups across Craigavon.
UUP MLA Mrs Jo-Anne Dobson has rallied round to support the group and said: “This is an utterly shameful decision by John O’Dowd to cut the funding which goes to help young children in greatest need in our community. This is a fund which he should be seeking to increase rather than end!
“Kidzone has been an extremely successful playgroup catering for children from the heart of Lurgan and beyond. I pay tribute to the drive and determination of the staff and the committee members.
The Ulster Unionist MLA continued: “Across Northern Ireland this decision will affect some 4,000 places at 153 groups. A quarter of the children have special needs and requirements and I am disgusted that this decision came about with absolutely no consultation or fore-warning.
“I am raising concerns on behalf of Kidzone and all children and staff affected with Minister O’Dowd at Stormont and appeal to him directly to reverse this decision and reinstate the funding immediately.”
Ann Thompson from Kidzone said: “This announcement has come as a real shock to us. As a group we are absolutely determined to stay open and continue to provide a welcoming and caring environment for the children.
“We are calling on the Minister to think again, especially when this affects the most needy areas in the community, and provide the funding for next year.”
Gary Girvan, Chairman of Kidzone Committee, said: “If the Minister does not reinstate this important funding it will adversely affect children across the local area.
“At Kidzone we have provided quality education for vulnerable children for 14 years and will work hard to continue to do so.
“We are proud of our record of serving the community and helping our kids and I would thank the staff and parents for their continued support for Kidzone.”
The Early Years Fund was originally established in 2004 to help sustain early childhood services in areas of greatest need.