9 May 2007

“Pick up where the last Assembly left off” – NICCY

THE Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People, Patricia Lewsley today urged the new Northern Ireland Executive to boost funding for services to children and young people.

Ahead of a joint report commissioned by NICCY, OFMDFM and the Department of Finance and Personnel comparing expenditure on children’s services in Northern Ireland and England and Wales, the Commissioner warned that local services were being short-changed.

“The new Assembly must pick up where the last Assembly left off by making children a priority,” said Ms Lewsley. “While there has been some progress under Direct Rule, spending on children is not nearly enough yet.

“For example, despite children making up more than a quarter of the population only a sixth of the budget for personal and social services is spent on children’s services.”

The Commissioner said that while there was some commitment to improving services in the latter days of Direct Rule it was only a start.

“Under the previous Northern Ireland Executive a Children’s Fund was established,” she said. “Last year a Children and Young People Funding Package was announced as a £100 million resource over three years.

“This is a start, but the new Executive team must look at how this can be boosted and maintained to address the under-funding of areas where often the most vulnerable children and young people are in the greatest need.”

Ms Lewsley also urged ministers to significantly speed up the policy process.

“In the devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales there have been considerable, and speedy, advances in legislation and policy for children and young people, which need to be introduced in Northern Ireland as a matter of urgency,” the Commissioner said.

“These include policies for children and young people being looked after, children and young people in poverty and greater support for parents