Sugden to present Early Years petition

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Independent MLA, Claire Sugden, is to present a Northern Ireland wide Early Years petition to the Assembly Speaker.

“Since the announcement of a £2 million cut to the Early Years fund, I have liaised with Early Years Organisation and the 16 funded groups in my constituency; eight in the Limavady area, five in Coleraine, and three in Portrush, Garvagh and Aghadowey.

“Having met with Early Years Chief Executive, Siobhan Fitzpatrick, I have agreed to present a Northern Ireland wide petition of 13,551 signatures, to the Speaker of the Assembly on Tuesday, June 30.”

Ms Sugden revealed: “In 2014/2015, Early Years provided 2500 pre-school and crèche places.

“This cut will mean 177 jobs lost, mainly for women in disadvantaged areas of our communities, and support lost for around 1800 single parent families.

“620 places will be lost for children with special needs, and 250 places for children whose first language is not English. This cut will impact upon many aspects of our communities.Groups have been notified that funding will continue until the end of August, but there is no indication beyond this date. Some groups have had to put staff on protective notice; they need to be able to plan for the incoming year. The Minster has indicated that the Early Years fund is a priority for him in the June Monitoring round. It is my hope that this petition, such a large expression of support for the reinstatement of the fund.”