The Upper Bann MLA said, “This announcement is a recognition of the need to protect the most vulnerable in our society. There has been widespread acknowledgement of the hugely beneficial role played by programmes such as the Pathway Fund.
The budget handed down by the Secretary of State is deficient and the choices within education are a stark demonstration of that. These cuts were proposed in an attempt to avoid overspending an inadequate budget, but the programmes are not only meeting real need within Northern Ireland, but amongst the most disadvantaged in our community.
The letter from the Permanent Secretary points out that proceeding with these cuts would actually have worsened the budgetary situation the longer-term by creating even greater pressures including within areas like special educational needs.
That clearly underscores the need for a sustainable, needs-based funding model for Northern Ireland as a whole and education in particular. That requires action from the Government and the Secretary of State should be championing this rather than playing politics with public services and our budget.
Sustainable local decision-making and sustainable public services require sustainable funding from Treasury. Threatening Early Years programmes in the short-term or special educational needs in the longer-term does nothing to move Northern Ireland forward and build a better future for everyone.”