Atlas welcomes funding decision

The Atlas Women's Centre in Lisburn has welcomed the announcement that the Women's Centres Childcare Fund will continue to be funded for a further year with an investment of £800,000.

Pictured with Social Development Minister, Lord Morrow MLA and Gay Sherry-Bingham from Atlas Women's Centre are (left-right) Dawn and Yasmin Cairns, Nathan Gowdy and Darcey and Carly Hawk. Picture: Michael Cooper

Social Development Minister Lord Morrow MLA made the announcement as he met with Karen Sweeney, Director of the Women’s Support Network and representatives from Atlas Women’s Centre, Lisburn in Parliament Buildings.

Gay Sherry-Bingham, of Atlas Women’s Centre, was pleased to hear of the announcement.

“I am delighted. It will enable many families to continue to participate in education and learning,” she said.

“We will be able to continue the services of the registered cresh at Atlast centre and the outreach cresh which goes out to the community.”

The Women’s Centres Childcare Fund, provides around 88,000 free childcare hours for economically and socially disadvantaged women to enable them to undertake training and other development opportunities and take up employment.

The programme currently funds 14 centres across Northern Ireland.

Minister Morrow said: “The Women’s Centres Childcare Fund provides childcare services across Northern Ireland for vulnerable women who are striving to develop their skills and employment opportunities.

“I have met with a number of Women’s Centres representatives recently and I am acutely aware of how important this programme is.

“My predecessor, Mervyn Storey MLA and I both gave an assurance that we would do all we could to secure this funding.

“I am therefore pleased that my Department is able to continue to fund this programme again in 2016/17.”

The Department for Social Development has funded the programme since 2008.

Funding was due to end in March 2016, but the Minister has confirmed that his Department will continue to fund the Women’s Centres Childcare Fund until March 2017, when the fund will be considered as part of a co-ordinated Childcare Strategy.

The Minister continued: “My Department recently commissioned an evaluation of the Women’s Centres Childcare Fund, which concluded that the programme provided a wide range of positive impacts in relation to the development and well-being of children and in supporting parents to access services and opportunities.