Seniornet loses TEC funding

Seniornet is vowing to keep its service operating despite a $400,000 funding cut to its IT courses.

SeniorNet runs computer and online skills throughout the country for people over 50 but the Tertiary Education Council (TEC) has declined funding for 2016.

The organisation has 84 centres around the country, including Dunedin, Green Island, Mosgiel, Wanaka and Cromwell.

SeniorNet Federation executive officer Grant Sidaway said he received a letter from TEC saying the application for funds had been ''declined'' and it had ''changed its priorities'' and was focusing on under-25s and Maori and Pasifika.

He hoped there would be minimal impact to the courses in 2016 but beyond that, was unsure.

Otago centres would be affected by ''several thousand dollars''.

''We'll have to do some serious thinking,'' he said.

''It's too early to say if any will close [and] that would be our last resort. The need hasn't dropped off.

''We're really hopeful that we can get some alternative funding from other government agencies.

''I think it's only fair that the government come to the party.''

The one thing that may happen next year was for fees to go up, Mr Sidaway said.

SeniorNet Otago convener of tutors Val Steele said it would be tough if fees increased.

Classes cost $5 per hour or $30 per year.

''It is going to have an impact on what we charge.

''It's not that cheap if you're on a pension. The committee is going to have to decide whether the membership fee or the class rate is going to go up.

''For a lot of seniors, their life is being able to keep in contact with their families. Learning computer skills can be the difference between sitting at home in a depression [or not],'' she said.

Grey Power Otago president Jo Millar said it was ''absolutely appalling''.

''I'm absolutely disgusted,'' she said.

''We are constantly getting everything [online]. How important is it that older people can use that media efficiently?

"To isolate people and say 'you're not worth spending money on' is appalling.''

TEC chief executive Tim Fowler said in a statement the funding was an ''indicative'' allocation only and no funding amounts had been confirmed as the ''process was yet to be completed''.

Mr Fowler said all providers were advised of the ''priorities'' in 2011 and needed to ensure courses reflected ''these priorities and learners''.

Asked if SeniorNet might still be allocated funding, Mr Fowler said SeniorNet could access funding if it submitted a successful application in the future.

''They will not be funded for 2016.''

rhys.chamberlain@odt.co.nz

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