Belfast Telegraph

Forget the rulebook, education bosses need to show some compassion for widow denied nursery funding for daughter

Editor's Viewpoint

There are occasions when the coldness of the bureaucratic process almost beggars belief.

A good example of this is the case of Louise Burke, a widow with four young children, who has not been given nursery school funding by the Education Authority for her youngest child because of what she believes is a technicality.

She receives a Widowed Parent's Allowance following the death of her husband Daryl in the Portadown Pikers fishing tragedy on Lough Ree in March 2014.

Sadly, she has discovered that this allowance, unlike other common forms of benefit such as Income Support, does not qualify a child for a funded nursery place.

Louise was hoping to send Ella to the nearby Edenderry Nursery to join her three older brothers there, or to Seagoe Nursery, but she has come up against a brick wall of bureaucracy.

Because of the Education Authority's ruling, Mrs Burke would have to pay around £2,300 a year to send Ella to a non-funded place at a nursery school further away.

Mrs Burke is struggling to bring up her family alone, and naturally she wants to do the very best she can for her children, on her limited income.

The least that the Education Authority could do would be to treat her with sympathy.

Instead, she has received a reply from it couched in the cold language behind which bureaucrats try to hide.

The former UUP Assembly Member Jo-Anne Dobson has taken up the case and is continuing to pursue it, even though she is not at Stormont.

Admired as a hardworking representative, her continued support for the family shows her innate decency. She is a loss to politics.

Both women are shocked by the "cold-hearted" manner of the Education Authority in dealing with this sad situation.

Rules may be rules, but this is clearly a case crying out for a commonsense and compassionate approach.

Belfast Telegraph


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