Northern Ireland Childcare To Be Axed

Subsidised childcare places across Northern Ireland – including many in Londonderry – are set to lose their government funding, the Sentinel can reveal.

More than 2,800 childcare places across the Province could be lost as of December 31 as the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPS) has said it will not renew its funding beyond that date.

In Londonderry’s Waterside, Tullyally based ‘Club United’ and ‘Drumahoe After School Care’ are among the services facing the axe.

Elaine Campbell of Club United, who provide day care and after school facilities to 35 children, said she was “devastated” to learn of the funding cut.

She said unless an alternative funder was found Club United, which employs five people, would have no option but to fold.

“This is devastating news, there’s is never a good time but with Christmas approaching this is the worst time possible,” Elaine said.

She said the past twelve months had been a turbulent time:

“We have been left in the dark and pushed from pillar to post by the government departments. No one has taken responsibility, hopefully alternative funds can be found or we will simply have to close.”

Ms Campbell said rising costs had already impacted on the running of the scheme and said passing on costs to parents was simply not an option.

Both Club United and Drumahoe After School Care are funded through the Playboard scheme, which oversees the financing of 54 childcare groups across Northern Ireland.

Earlier this year, Playboard were given a six month funding reprieve In June Health Minister Michael McGimpsey stepped in with a rescue package that safeguarded the Playboard initiative for six months.

A spokeswoman for the DHSSPS yesterday confirmed funding would cease at the year’s end.

She said DHSSPS’s only responsibility in relation to general childcare is as a regulator.

The spokeswoman said the department would not fund the scheme beyond December 31 2008.

“Funding will not be provided beyond this date. It was hoped that this arrangement would give the afterschools projects time to plan for their future.”

The Sentinel contacted Playboard yesterday but no one was available to comment.