First Friends Playgroup in Bangor's Kilcooley Estate has received a funding boost of more than £35,500 from the Department for Social Development.
The investment will support the playgroup to deliver high quality affordable education, play and care for up to 30 children per year, as well as three full-time day-care staff. It will also provide work experience for childcare students and training and volunteering opportunities for local people.
The funding has been provided under Neighbourhood Renewal until 2009, after which the playgroup will become self sustainable. Neighbourhood Renewal aims to close the gap between the quality of life in the most deprived and the rest of society.
Social Development Minister Margaret Ritchie said: "The excellent facilities offered by this project will be a real advantage to local people in Kilcooley. It will provide children with a stepping stone into their primary education, while meaning their parents have the opportunity to take up employment, education or training, secure in the knowledge that their kids are being well cared for.
“Funding this project demonstrates not only my department's commitment to tackling deprivation in its present form, but is also an investment in tomorrow's generation.”
Chairperson of First Friends Playgroup Heather Lupton welcomed the funding and said it would "support our aim to provide high quality care in a learning environment and ensure that the playgroup is accessible to children and parents from all sections of the local community.”
The overall cost of the First Friends Playgroup project is around £109,000. Most of the other costs are being met through childcare charges.