Public meeting to ‘Save Banagher Playgroup’

Children in Banagher Playgroup this year.
Children in Banagher Playgroup this year.

A public meeting in Feeny tonight will discuss the future of a local playgroup described as “a vital service”.

Banagher Playgroup says the threat of closure is due to the challenging funding environment they’re operating in.

A spokesperson said the Playgroup receives most of its funding from the Pre-School Education Programme (PSEP) funding that comes from the Department of Education for each pre-school child.

However, due to a number of changes, the amount of funding and the fund from which the playgroup receives funding has changed. They say that funding, which helped cover its core costs, was not replaced with anything equivalent.

“The remaining income we generate, therefore, is from community fundraising,” said a spokesperson.

Banagher Community Playgroup was set up in the late 1980s to provide a place where children from the broader Feeny and Banagher area could learn and develop in their year before primary school.

A spokesperson said: “We feel that the Playgroup is a vital service that should be funded, and the benefits are not just for the year the child attends. We continue to apply for grant funding where we can, but often this funding is for a specific item. For example, purchasing new dressing-up clothes or for new projects. The funding often does not help to cover our core costs.”

The spokesperson said they feel frustrated that “government is not providing realistic funding to sustain a quality pre-school environment”.

They also point out that the playgroup sector is heavily regulated by social services and through ETI inspections.

“We feel that the pre-school year should be protected and funded in a meaningful way to allow groups, particularly those in rural areas where access to alternatives is not readily accessible to many, to continue to make a difference working with these children,” said the spokesperson.

“As with many charities and community and voluntary organisations, the Playgroup faces an additional challenge which is the recruitment of Trustees. As highlighted by the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland, the Trustee role is vital in providing leadership and direction to the group; however, we have struggled to recruit new trustees to join. There is a significant risk that the trustees will be retiring from their positions in the next year, or so and, without new trustees to take their place, the Playgroup cannot continue to operate.”

Members of the public are encouraged to attend the meeting in Feeny Community Association tonight (February 28th) at 7.30pm.