Fears for jobs as ‘Early Years’ funding is slashed

LCDI general manager, Damien Corr and Lifestart coordinator, Paula Thomson with some of the signatures on the petition to stop cuts to Early Years funding. (derr2703SJ2)

LCDI general manager, Damien Corr and Lifestart coordinator, Paula Thomson with some of the signatures on the petition to stop cuts to Early Years funding. (derr2703SJ2)

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Tree jobs at a home-based education programme delivered to almost 300 families throughout the Limavady borough are at risk due to budget cuts.

The LCDI Lifestart programme has been operating for more than 15 years, and will close its doors in August if impending cuts of £1.7m to the Early Years budget go ahead.

LCDI general manager, Damien Corr, and Lifestart coordinator, Clare Thomson, say if the programme ends it will have a devastating impact on the 266 families who avail of the service.

“What we do is invaluable,” Mr Corr told the ‘Journal’.

“This is about educating parents to make sure their children get the best start in life and it’s for everyone. We also do a lot of sign posting for parents to other services. It would be devastating if it closes.”

Ms Thomson said news of the cuts was a “bolt from the blue”, and said such actions usually follow a period of consultation, which did not happen in this instance.

Ms Thomson said 50 per cent of the families visited in the Roe Valley are in areas designated in need and 25 per cent of the children on the programme have additional support needs such as hearing difficulties. She said 18 per cent of Roe Valley clients are single parents.

“The project attracts people evenly, from both the main traditions and from all socio economic backgrounds but, in the final analysis, no one could argue that our statistics do not constitute a significant representation of vulnerable families,” said Ms Thomson.

Mum of two, Donna Laird, said she was shell shocked to hear the news the Lifestart programme would end in August. She said she had no doubt the programme has had a positive effect on the cognitive development of her children, aged one and four, and who have been on the programme since birth. She urges to sign the petition at early-years.org The petition is available at LCDI reception in Limavady.