The Playzone scheme at the Ballymac Centre has been without funding now since May. The Office of First and Deputy First Minister have promised a funding for three months but the long-term future for this service is under threat and time is running out.
While the clock ticks away the politicians have washed their hands of all responsibility. Instead of fighting for funding to keep the Playzone open, they want to shift the burden on the local community by introducing huge increases in charges for working parents – from £1.50 a day to £5 a day / £100 a month. This is totally unacceptable as many parents will not be able to afford these charges.
Politicians from the UUP, DUP and Alliance parties call this a “sustainability plan” – but it is not sustainable for some parents to expect to pay more than 300% rise in charges. The service will not survive by introducing unaffordable charges. The way to save the service is to demand the Assembly Executive coughs up the £60,000 needed to fund the service – small change for the politicians!
Determined action gets results
The local community needs to organise a genuine campaign – democratically controlled by the local community and the workers whose jobs are at risk, which demands the funding for the Playzone is fully restored immediately.
The politicians who are carrying out cuts from the Assembly must not be allowed to stand in the way of an effective campaign – the local community cannot afford that. Parents and workers at the centre brought the issue to the attention of the politicians by rightly taking protest action and blocking roads.
The public meeting called to establish a campaign agreed to fight to save the service, but the committee which was set up has been sidetracked by politicians who are involved in carrying out cuts. With an election coming up next May, there is a real opportunity for a proper protest campaign to put huge pressure on the parties in the Assembly. They are responsible for funding Playzone, not just for a few months, but for the long-term. During the summer parents, staff and trade union activists organised protests against the cut in funding to summer schemes for special needs children and forced the Education boards to reverse the cuts. The same can be done to save Playzone.