Booktrust says it is “very disappointed” that the Northern Ireland government has cut its Bookstart funding.
The charity said 50,000 children “face disappointment” this year because of the cuts. Last year, it distributed 50,000 packs, containing two books for babies and pre-school children, in the country, funded by a £250,000 grant from Northern Ireland’s Department of Education.
“It is a great pity that children in Northern Ireland are in danger of missing out on valuable book gifting that is available to other children in the UK,” said chief executive Viv Bird. “We are passionate about ensuring that we continue to reach the children in Northern Ireland who need us most. We will be working around the clock to find new partners – whether public bodies, corporates or individuals – who can help us continue to change lives through reading.”
Booktrust was told of the removal of funding for Bookstart after education minister John O’Dowd presented his budget to the Northern Ireland Assembly’s Education Committee earlier this week.
The NI Department of Education has yet to respond to a request for comment on the funding cut.
Booktrust has been forced to fight for funding in recent years, and in October chief exective Viv Bird, who stepped down this month, said her biggest challenge was when when the Department for Education called to say it was taking away Booktrust’s £13m grant in 2010. Bird managed to claw back some of the funding (this year Booktrust’s budget is £6m), but the charity still had to make cuts and create more targeted programmes.