Belfast Telegraph

Parents unite to defend Playzone

by Natalie Irvine

Parents and community workers will “stand together” tonight against the threat to close “a much loved and deperately needed” children’s project in east Belfast.

They are holding a public meeting at the Ballymac Centre on Fraser Pass this evening to address the concerns that Playzone, a summer and after-school project for young children, has “been left in limbo”.

Alison Baxter, Ballymac project manager said: “We have been passed from pillar to post while trying to determine if we are to get funding to continue this much needed project.

“So we have invited all the MLAs in east Belfast in the hope that they can give us answers as to what the situation is. If not, we will be taking our questions to Stormont directly. We have 36 children from the local area registered with our after schools project and 25 children attending everyday over the summer.

“The Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety was funding our play staff posts, on a six month basis, subject to a future review of what department would be responsible for this funding. As far as I am aware this review has not taken place. Yet we have not been told by the department that the funding is to continue for us to start the after schools’ project.

“We have also been told they are not responsible for the policy of after school’s projects, this lies with the Office of First Minister and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM).

“I have been on the phone constantly to find out if we are to get a representative from these two departments to attend the meeting.”

Ms Baxter said she had yet to get a reply from Peter Robinson over whether he could assist them.

“The parents are up in arms about this. Most parents all work throughout the day. Those that are unemployed are at training. This is really needed in the area. They have just closed the local school and the local library. Now they are taking this away —it’s going to have an effect on the whole of the community.”

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