Closure of two key family services in the Waterside area of Derry will have a devastating impact on families in need, Action for Children has warned.
Funding for the Clooney Family Centre and the Chance for Change projects is due to end by the end of March because of Government cutbacks.
But the cuts are simply a false economy, Action for Children say, because the loss of services in the area will lead to deeper social problems in the future, meaning increased work and costs for social services, police and other agencies.
The DHSSPSNI, which has funded the projects for the past two years, announced this week that the services were to fall victim to cutbacks due to the current financial situation. The closure of both services would also mean the loss of 16 local jobs.
Carina Boyle, the strategy development manager of Supporting Families UK said: “Research shows the many benefits of early intervention and the real savings that can be made over a period of time. The work that we do by intervening and helping children at an early age has a dramatic effect in savings over the longer term.
“By tackling learning difficulties, social issues and mental health issues early on there are clear benefits in terms of savings to other agencies which would have to come along and deal with these problems later on.”
Suzanne Woods, the acting service manager of Clooney Family Centre said: “There is a great deal of support for the work that we do from the local community and also from the schools.
“In many respects we are the only source of support for the schools and if we weren’t here doing the work that we do, their safety net would disappear.
The Clooney Family Centre provides a range of services for pre-school and primary school age children and their parents in the Waterside area as well as in Eglinton, Strathfoyle, Claudy and Newbuildings.
As well as creches facilities and after school programmes they run a volunteer mentoring project to help vulnerable young children and outreach services such as parenting programmes.
Action for Children is hoping to find an alternative source of funding, but is aware how difficult that may prove in the current climate.
“We are not the only services to be hit,” said Carina. “We will look to agencies like Children in Need and the National Lottery, but do that knowing they are committed to projects elsewhere.
“We believe these are vital services for the local community and we believe passionately that they should be protected.”
“This news has come as a massive blow to our services in the north west,” said Action for Children operational director Dawn Shaw.