The scheme has ensured that every family of a baby born in Northern Ireland received one or two books suitable for babies and toddlers.
“The news that funding from the Department of Education for the Book Start Baby programme is ending will come as a real blow to children and families across Northern Ireland.
“Reading and access to books is crucial to the development of our children and their well-being. This is particularly true in their early years, making this scheme vital for families that are unable to access books.
“This is just the latest in a series of catastrophic cuts to the education budget with Healthy Happy Minds, the School Holiday Food Grant Scheme, the Engage Programme, and youth services all being squeezed due to the lack of an Executive and Assembly.
“Without this scheme, Northern Ireland will be the only part of the UK not to provide every baby with free books. It is totally unacceptable and will impact our most vulnerable children most significantly and risks our children lagging behind their counterparts across the UK.
“Our children are continuing to suffer due to the inaction of the DUP and their refusal to join the other parties to get the Assembly up and running and form a functioning Executive.”