Minister commits to preserve funding for Growing Together

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Caroline Cochrane, the minister of Education, Culture and Employment, has committed to supporting the Growing Together program for young children and their families in Hay River. NNSL file photo
Caroline Cochrane, the minister of Education, Culture and Employment, has committed to supporting the Growing Together program for young children and their families in Hay River.
NNSL file photo

It appears that Growing Together – a long-running program in Hay River for young children and their parents – has succeeded in convincing the GNWT not to reduce its funding over the next three years.

Hay River North MLA R.J. Simpson put the funding question to Education, Culture and Employment Minister Caroline Cochrane on March 12 in the Legislative Assembly.

“Can I assure the people over at Growing Together and all the parents and the children who rely on this service that, come April 1st, there won’t be a reduction in their funding and that their programming can continue?” he asked.

“I will give a commitment that, although we may be changing the (funding) program, any program that is currently providing parenting support will actually be either getting the full amount through the Healthy Children Initiative or they will be supported in applying for the application for the new program called the Supporting Child Inclusion and Participation,” Cochrane responded. “Anyone that is providing parenting support to community members will have their funding as is.”

In comments to The Hub, Simpson said he posed the question to the minister as clearly as he could.

“As far as I can tell, the funding is going to continue on as it has been,” he said.

Simpson called that great news.

The MLA noted that he had previously said at a Jan. 29 meeting at Growing Together that government policies never get changed after they’ve been created.

“This proves me wrong,” he said. “So I really have to give it to the minister because she saw that the reallocation of funding was going to hurt existing programs that do a lot of good, and so she took action. And I really have to give her credit for it.”

Simpson and Brenda Hall, the executive director of Growing Together, met Cochrane in Yellowknife on March 7 to discuss funding.

Hall is hopeful, but cautious, following Cochrane’s comments in the Legislative Assembly.

“I think that it will be good news for Growing Together, but I’m still cautious until I sign a contribution agreement,” she said. “Then I’ll be relieved.”

Hall said it’s not entirely clear how the funding process will work.

“The new funding is you have to apply for it every year, so I’m not sure if that’s the way it’s going and if we’ll have the same amount, but it sounds good,” she said.

The Growing Together resource centre is for families with children five years of age and under.

It received $53,000 this fiscal year from the GNWT, and the cuts were to begin in the 2019-2020 fiscal year until the funding was eliminated after three years.

Growing Together is currently funded through the Healthy Children Initiative, but that is being transitioned to a new program called the Early Childhood Intervention Program.

Growing Together, which has been operating for 22 years, served 275 parents and children last year in the one-year-old to five-year-old age group.

It also offers services to children zero to one year of age, which are funded through other sources.