Childcare group faces closure due to Stormont impasse
A childcare group which helped catapult parents into education and well-paid jobs faces closure if funding is not renewed because of the Stormont impasse.
Voluntary groups across the country await a decision from Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley on next year's budget and the timing for its announcement will be decided by her.
Staff at the Southcity Resource and Development centre in Belfast fear redundancy by April unless their state contract to provide services is extended.
Their support helped mother-of-four Laura Magill (36) obtain a first-class honours degree. She is a paediatric nurse at a Belfast hospital and is buying a house.
She said: "The kids are benefiting, I have benefited, and I think that other people in this community would benefit if funding was there and for the future, not just month to month, for the years to come.
"I just think it is a brilliant programme and the Government should support it a wee bit more or give more security in their funding."
The Southcity centre was established in 1993 to address social and economic problems facing a relatively deprived part of the city.
Claire Magill (34) also a mother of four, is hoping to return to education.
She would love her youngster, Avery, to go to the Donegall Road group.
She added: "In this area growing up, all my life, there has never really been anything around here for anyone.
"Out of the whole area this is the best thing that the area has for working parents and non-working parents so it would be an absolute disgrace if they never got any funding and this was not to exist any more, because this is a big help."
The Department for Communities funds organisations like Southcity using a neighbourhood renewal programme.
It said: "Final funding decisions can only be made once departmental budgets have been set for this and other departments.
"In the meantime the Department through its Neighbourhood Renewal teams will continue to work closely with delivery partners in the weeks ahead."
Bob Stoker, development manager at the centre, said staff had been put on protective redundancy notice on a regular basis because of the uncertainty.
"We would just like someone in Government to make a decision instead of living month to month and waiting on resources, to plan for the future of children and and communities.
"The money is available, it is just that there is no one seems to be willing to make a decision to allocate the resources to local groups right across the whole of Northern Ireland."
DUP Assembly Member for South Belfast Christopher Stalford said services delivered by community and voluntary organisations in neighbourhood renewal areas had a positive impact upon education, training and empowering community groups to improve local neighbourhoods.
A Department of Finance spokesman said: "The Department will continue to work with the NIO (Northern Ireland Office) so that the budget can be set as soon as possible."