25 Mar 2005

Mr Williams yesterday wrote to Secretary of State, Paul Murphy expressing his fears over the Government’s Priorities and Budget 2005-2008.

“I have no doubt that local children and young people will lose out under this budget,” said the Commissioner. “The reality is that when services are cut, the potential of children to achieve can be lost and the potential for them to be at risk is increased.”

Following a series of discussions with Government ministers, Mr Williams told the Secretary of State, Paul Murphy MP, that services will be less adequate and effective.

“I have now no doubt that this budget means children and young people in Northern Ireland will receive worse levels of service compared to other parts of the United Kingdom.

“I would be failing in my statutory duty if I did not make Mr Murphy aware of my concerns on behalf of all the children and young people in Northern Ireland.”

Mr Williams met with Finance and Personnel Minister Mr Ian Pearson and Health, Social Services and Public Safety Minister, Ms Angela Smith over recent months to tell them of his concerns over funding for children and young people’s services, including the end of the Executive Programme Children’s Fund.

"While we have had discussions with Ministers about the possibility of ring-fencing funding to services to children and young people it is now apparent that this is not going to happen. I believe this will result in services to our children and young people being poorer and I have no doubt many of them will suffer as a result."

“This has all been further compounded by my concerns over cuts being made in education and library board services that seem to be cutting deep into front line services.”

Mr Williams said that he believes Northern Ireland’s children and young people services are missing funding that other parts of the United Kingdom are receiving.

”In England and Wales the Children Act 2004 introduced policy that brought additional funds to some crucial areas of service delivery. We here in Northern Ireland have, as yet, no similar policy initiative that would help develop services.

“While the structures we use in Northern Ireland to deliver services to children and young people may be slightly different, it should not mean that individual children in similar circumstances should receive different types and levels of support.”

Notes for Editors:

The Northern Ireland Commissioner is available for a limited time for interviews on 24th March 2005. Please contact the NICCY Press Office on the number below.

The full text of the Commissioner's letter to the Secretary of State is available here
Further information on the work of the Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People is available at www.niccy.org