Hours reduced, but hub to live another year

Funding welcomed . . . Methodist Mission southern director Laura Black is grateful to local funders, whose support has enabled The Early Years Hub in South Dunedin to continue for another year. PHOTO: BRENDA HARWOOD

Dunedin funders have stepped into the breach, providing support to enable the Methodist Mission to continue running the Early Years Hub for the next year.

Founded in 2011, The Hub has operated at the former Forbury School site in South Dunedin since 2014.

In its seven years, the hub has hosted 43 different community groups and non-government organisations (NGOs), 17 local and central government organisations, and has been visited by more than 70,000 people.

Initially funded by MSD and more recently by South Island Whanau Ora commissioning agency Te Putahitanga o te Waipounamu, the hub was told in May that its funding would cease from July 1.

Last week, the Dunedin City Council awarded a grant of $26,000 to the Hub which, combined with funding support from the Otago Community Trust and Mercy Hospital Charities Committee, gives the facility $60,000 in funding.

Methodist Mission southern director Laura Black is “very grateful” for the support from local funders at a difficult time for the organisation.

However, the $60,000 granted is significantly less than the $85,000 budgeted by the hub for providing a “skeleton service” for the year.

With fixed costs, such as rent, rates and electricity, totalling more than $40,000, there was barely enough left to have “someone holding on to the keys”, Ms Black said.

“With the number of groups we have coming and going, and with the early childhood centre next door, we need someone on site holding the keys and doing bookings,” she said.

In order to keep within the budget, the hub would have to cut back hours in evenings and weekends, to be able to keep all its rooms open from 10am to 4pm, Monday to Friday. This will continue until the end of December.

From January, fewer rooms – including the Pink and Green rooms – would be available for use through until June 30, 2019.

“That’s obviously a very cut-down kind of hub, but we’re reading the tea leaves that we shouldn’t be holding our breath for funding from July next year,” Ms Black said.

The signal from the Government was that is was strongly interested in more urgent work, with less emphasis on prevention.

The Labour-led coalition Government had yet to put any extra funding into community social services, with some services actually seeing cuts, she said.

“The way we are choosing to look at it is that here is a facility that for the past seven years has helped 10,000 people a year, and we’ve got another year out of it.

“It won’t be the full service hub, but there is still the opportunity for the groups that operate out of here to continue doing that for another year.”

And while the DCC’s planned South Dunedin hub was very welcome, the large community of more than 9000 people would have benefited from having more than one hub, she said.