27 May 2010

NORTHERN Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People, Patricia Lewsley, today called for Government not to cut already underfunded children's services.

As Ministers prepare to meet to discuss drastic spending cuts to Northern Ireland's budget Ms Lewsley said that any reduction in services could lead to children and young people's lives being drastically affected.

"Everyone recognises that cuts need to be made," she said. "But there must not be further reductions to children and young people's services that are already struggling to meet existing needs.

"Research by my office, the Department of Finance and Personnel and the Office of First Minister and deputy First Minister shows clearly that there is too little spent on the urgent needs of too many children.

"Each year hundreds of parents, carers, children and young people contact me, many of whom are left distraught by the existing lack of services.

"We help each and every one as far as possible - as we must by law - but I fear that cuts to children's services such as health and education will leave more parents in despair and more and more children in greater need.

"I am also very concerned at the impact on children and young people with disabilities, young people who have been in care and homeless young people."

Ms Lewsley said that NICCY exists to make sure that voice of children and young people is heard at the highest level.

"The Assembly set up NICCY to promote and safeguard the rights and best interests of children and young people.

The Commissioner called for departments to think carefully about where the axe will fall.

"To each and every Minister I say: when you look at the figures on the page, remember behind them there is a child's life; there is a parent wondering whether cuts will end hope of better life chances for their child.