Education Minister Peter Weir has welcomed the Executive’s agreement to allocate over £51m to deal with Covid-19 pressures along with confirmation that full resumption of all Sure Start services will recommence from 24 May.
This decision by the Executive will provide £32.7m to cover a range of areas including support for Special Educational Needs services, support for outdoor education centres and a Wellbeing & Pastoral Support Recovery Programme.
The Minister said: “This funding announcement is a major step forward in helping to address many of the pressures faced by my Department as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I welcome that £10m will be made available for a Wellbeing & Pastoral Support Recovery Programme which will include a primary school counselling pilot for children and young people who have been so adversely affected throughout the pandemic.
“It will also address pressures experienced by CCEA, the Irish Medium sector and CCMS as a result of the pandemic and ensure support for SEN services. There will be funding to extend Covid relief for outdoor education centres into 2021/22, outdoor play in primary schools, and IT devices for voluntary youth services.”
The Minister also acknowledged the Executive’s agreement to provide a further £19m in capital funding to provide laptops for teachers.
Agreement to the full reopening of Sure Start will see the resumption of face to face parental services from 24 May, after services for Sure Start children restarted on 25 March. This will include services attended by parents/ families such as parenting programmes, ante-natal support and outdoor physical activity. Home based support will also recommence as will support from midwives, health visitors and speech and language therapists.
Peter Weir added: “The full resumption of services will allow dedicated Sure Start staff to resume the vital support which families in Sure Start areas depend upon. It will also allow Sure Start to provide support to parents whose mental health and wellbeing may have been impacted due to lockdown.
“By providing support to parents, Sure Start in turn enables parents to support the education and health of their children.
“In light of the impact of the pandemic on many families and to help support communities to recover, I have increased the budget for Sure Start in 2021/22 by £2.3m.”
Restart arrangements in Sure Start will apply to all targeted Early Years interventions funded by the Department including the Pathway Fund and Toybox project.