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Early Years Provision: South Belfast

Oral Answers to Questions — Education – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:30 pm on 15th November 2016.

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Photo of Christopher Stalford Christopher Stalford DUP 2:30 pm, 15th November 2016

T5. Mr Stalford asked the Minister of Education to outline what provision is planned for early years in the South Belfast constituency over the next five years. (AQT 480/16-21)

Photo of Peter Weir Peter Weir DUP

The aim is to make sure that a preschool place is available for every child in the immediate preschool year. It is also an aim of the draft Programme for Government and one that I plan to continue. The preschool education advisory group in the EA has direct responsibility for ensuring there is adequate preschool provision in local areas and to allocate funded places on the basis of local need. For 2016-17, every child whose parents stayed to the end with the admissions process in the South Belfast constituency received the offer of a preschool place. I want to ensure that that continues, so that we have that level of adequate provision throughout Northern Ireland, not simply in South Belfast.

Photo of Christopher Stalford Christopher Stalford DUP

The Minister will know that, as well as preschool places, Sure Start plays a valuable and important role, particularly in helping people from deprived communities get back into work. What provision and support is there for Sure Start in South Belfast?

Photo of Peter Weir Peter Weir DUP

The current investment across Northern Ireland as a whole is about £25 million per year, which is administered by the Health and Social Care Board under a service-level agreement with the Department of Education. There are 39 Sure Start projects across Northern Ireland. The core budget for Sure Start in South Belfast in 2016-17 is £920,000. The Sure Start project involves services to legacy wards. Prior to the rejigging of the boundaries in Belfast, these included Ballynafeigh, Shaftesbury, Botanic, Blackstaff, Upper Malone, which despite its name includes Taughmonagh and Benmore, and, through the expansion of services, Minnowburn, as part of the Beechill ward, which falls within the Belvoir estate. In addition to the ongoing resource costs, the Department has made a capital investment totalling £359,000 in 2015-16 for the purchase and refurbishment of the former Belvoir Clinic premises to enable the expansion of South Belfast Sure Start.

Photo of Patsy McGlone Patsy McGlone Deputy Speaker

I call Paul Frew for a brief question.