Durkan visits Shankill poverty project

 

The North¿s Deputy First Minister Mr Mark Durkan today received a warm welcome on the loyalist Shankill as he visited a project aimed at tackling child poverty.

The SDLP leader, who will be attending a Joint Ministerial Council meeting on poverty in London tomorrow, said the Sure Start project on Belfast's Shankill Road was a shining example of what the Executive was seeking to achieve.

"This is an excellent facility. It is a quality centre but the people benefiting from this are worth it. The sort of work being done here is setting the standard for other areas," he said.

Mr Durkan was welcomed by Project Director Richard Mealy and Baroness Flood, Chairman of the Early Years Programme in the Greater Shankill area.

It is one of 23 Sure Start programmes across Northern Ireland which support more than 17,000 children aged 0-3. The Executive has allocated #6.3m to fund these programmes which aim to help children in deprived areas.

During his visit he met parents, grandparents and the pre-school children enjoying facilities at the centre.

Baroness Flood said the project was currently looking for more funding as demand for the centre's facilities were growing.

But she praised the Stormont Executive for targeting child poverty: "One of the ways that is helping us is we are now in contact with our own elected leaders.

"I would like the Executive to look at long-term funding because this is where its got to start. The core of all 23 projects in the north is the same - supporting families, tackling health issues and providing day-care."

PA