11 Sep 2008

NORTHERN Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People, Patricia Lewsley, today told a powerful Government committee that children had to be top of the political agenda.

Ms Lewsley said there is no room for cutting services to children, and called for strategies supporting children and young people to be brought forward urgently.

The Commissioner was meeting with the Ministerial Sub-Group on Children and Young People, chaired by Junior Ministers, Jeffrey Donaldson and Gerry Kelly, at which she outlined her priorities for the next three years that will be launched later this year.

“I am quite clear that it is time for Government to address early years, early intervention and early investment in children,” she said.

“For too long now there has been an under-investment in children. For example, there is £226 less spent on children’s personal social services in Northern Ireland compared to Scotland.”

Ms Lewsley did, however, want to emphasise that there had been some progress by Government, particularly the commitment by the Junior Ministers to find ways that young people can participate in Government and decision-making.

“A lot of positives have been undertaken, such as the 10-year Children and Young People’s strategy and the Family Support Strategy. We now need to see that these initiatives turned into firm reality with clear, measurable action plans and the right funding packages.”

Ms Lewsley said it was important to recognise that Government department had appointed Children’s Champion – a first step towards joint working across all departments for children and young people.

“One of my key messages to the Committee was that Government departments must work together for Children and Young People. I also made sure they understood that it was essential that funding for children services is only spent on children and young people.”