SDLP Education Spokesperson Daniel McCrossan has said that the Pathway Fund cannot fall victim to the same cuts as so many important initiatives to support children.
The Department of Education initiative provides funding to organisations that provide early years education to children aged 0-4 to improve educational outcomes and support the early years sector.
Providers have expressed concern that interim funding is set to run out at the end of June, with the future of the fund hanging in the balance.
West Tyrone MLA Mr McCrossan said:
“With a number of harsh cuts being imposed on important initiatives to support our children and young people in recent weeks I can well understand the concern of providers across the North that funding for the Pathway Fund will not be renewed when it runs out in June.
“We simply cannot allow this to happen. The Pathway Fund and the organisations involved provide an invaluable service in communities across the North, helping children who require additional support during their early years development to prepare them for starting school equipped with the tools necessary to give them the best chance of reaching their full potential.
“The end of this funding would mean that over 10,000 children lose out on support they desperately need, with the salary of 500 staff who make a real difference in these kids' lives also being affected. This fund targets those with complex and additional needs, in socially deprived and rural areas and we cannot keep stripping services away from vulnerable children and the isolated communities who need them most.
“The campaign to save the Pathway Fund has the full support of the SDLP and I stand alongside providers who are urging Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris to listen to their pleas and safeguard this funding which makes such a different for our children. Again we are seeing the futures of our children falling victim to Tory austerity and the DUP’s Stormont boycott and if we continue down this road we will be failing a whole generation of children and young people by not providing them with the education and support they need.”