Quinn: Sinn Fein shame at opposing move to save Early Years’ Fund
Speaking after his motion was passed by 19 votes to 17 and only voted against by Sinn Fein, Cllr Quinn said: “It is vital that all the parties come together to persuade the Minster of Education that he is making a grave mistake by cutting the Early Years’ Fund.
“By slicing £1.71m from this fund he is effectively condemning 2,500 children including some of the most vulnerable, and their parents to hardship and a bleak future.
“A report by the charity Scope painted a stark picture of the potential damage of going ahead with this plan. It said if a child wasn’t motivated to learn and engage early in life they are more likely to fail in social and economic life later on. It inevitably follows that waiting longer to intervene will end up costing more. The process to enable our children to succeed begins long before they get to school.
“It also means 177 of the most dedicated people in our society will lose their jobs and local services in 153 communities in the most disadvantaged parts of the north will be drawn to a close. Minister O’Dowd is making this cut while there is £79m sitting in the Social Investment Fund controlled by OFMDFM – money which is designated for use by the most disadvantaged people in our society.
“And furthermore, an additional impact is of that on parents, especially the estimated 1,800 single parents who rely on the Fund for childcare places so they can go to work. With the prohibitively expensive childcare that parents in Northern Ireland face, for many there is only one choice they can make – stay at home and become the childcare provider themselves. But that means the economy loses out. The Federation of Small Business supports government plans to help parents afford childcare, and I would urge Minister O’Dowd to reverse his decision so that we can support parents to return to work, thereby encouraging economic recovery.
“The SDLP has already spoken to the Secretary of State about the issue of extending the free childcare scheme to Northern Ireland as the government is doing in England. It is being doubled from 15 hours a week to 30. It is utterly hypocritical that parents in England are getting extra support but parents in the north are facing punitive austerity measures. Minister O’Dowd talks about not allowing the Tories to ride roughshod over people here but shows little evidence of doing anything about it.
“We need to help more people to get back into work, and that is where I see welfare being at its best. We do not want a society where people are pushed down by lack of opportunity. The SDLP wants to have a welfare system that supports people and that is why we will keep negotiating to find a fair deal for all.”