The Fund, which supports 153 early years organisations across the North, will use the funding to ensure current services continue until March 2016
Making the announcement, Education Minister John O’Dowd said:
“Over recent months I have emphasised that supporting early years education was a priority. Since setting the budget in March, I committed to finding funding for early years organisations that had been affected by the reduced budget for the Early Years Fund. I am therefore relieved and delighted to now be in a position to offer additional funding that will secure existing services until March 2016.
My department and the Executive more widely face enormous challenges as a result of the reductions imposed on us by the Westminster government. This has made the task of defending Early Years Provision enormously difficult. However, I have been able to secure savings in administration of the Fund through ongoing discussions with the Fund administrators. Funding to the groups will continue at the current level.
Moving forward, I have already made clear that the Early Years Fund in its current format will end and that the Pathway Fund will be introduced, with awards made from April 2016. Today’s announcement will allow time for the new Fund to be established with minimum disruption to those groups receiving funding.”
Notes to editors:
- The Early Years Fund was originally set up in 2004 to help sustain some early childhood services in areas of greatest need, which were facing funding difficulties when Peace II ended. Services provide early years care and education to children in areas of low provision, ensure inclusion and diversity and a standard of excellence in relation to quality, and includes playgroups across sectors; multifunctional early years centres; crèches; parent/toddler groups and after school and full day care groups.
- The fund has effectively remained closed since it was first set up.
- Applications are only accepted from previous recipients of the fund and it therefore perpetuates a situation that rarely allows for new entrants who may be equally deserving of funding.
- Over £219million has been invested in Early Years services in 2015/16.
- In 2014/15 the budget for the Early Years Fund was £2.941million. Following a reduction of £2million, the Minister allocated £941,000 at end of March which is enabling the current recipients to receive funding until 31 August 2015 on a pro rata basis of the amount received for 2014/15.
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