Belfast Telegraph

Lack of funding prompts fears for after schools club

by Chris McCann

Concerns are mounting that a ‘vital’ east Belfast after schools facility is set to close ahead of the new term in September.

Playzone — located in the Ballymac Centre on the Newtownards Road — is staring down the barrel as funds that have been dripping in from the Department of Health And Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPS) look set to finally dry up.

The department has refused to commit long-term funding to the facility, instead only granting money on an ongoing basis after every six months.

The latest installment came in May and the centre has received no confirmation of any further funding, prompting fears of imminent closure.

A total of five jobs will be lost should the facility’s funding end.

Alison Baxter, Ballymac project manager, said staff morale was low as they await news on their future.

“If Playzone closes, it will not just affect the kids, but the parents, who will be forced to look for a new childcare facility, and the staff,” she said.

“This is a deprived area of the city and parents rely on this vital facility — if it closes many will be forced to pay for private childcare facilities, which can be very expensive.”

Ulster Unionist leader and East Belfast MLA Sir Reg Empey has thrown his weight behind the centre as it struggles to stay in business. He said: “I understand that these are tough times and the departments are facing difficult decisions in terms of budgets but we need clarification on whether or not this facility is to get the funding it requires.”

Playzone’s programmes include homework support, school pick-ups, arts and crafts, healthy eating and physical activities.

The Department of Health and Social Services declined to comment.

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