7 Sep 2010

NICCY warns of damage budget cuts are causing already

COMMISSIONER for Children and Young People, Patricia Lewsley, today warned that budget cuts are already hitting home on vulnerable families.

Ms Lewsley said cuts to existing budgets, plus any further reduction to children’s services, will create further disadvantage, breach children’s rights and cost the Government more in the long term.

“I have spoken in recent days to care providers, volunteers, parents, and teachers, who have all experienced what the cuts mean in real terms,” said the Commissioner.

“Government must realise the devastation that can be caused when a social work service is cut, when a lifeline for a family at risk is cut, or when support for a disabled child ends.”

Ms Lewsley said that while everyone acknowledges that there is a need for financial care, cuts may cost Government more in the medium and long term, while early intervention improves families’ chances and children’s opportunities

“The cost to Government to support a family volunteer can be less than £10 per week. If that service is not supported some families may be broken up. The cost of a child in care can be as high as £2,500 per week. Does cutting such a service make economic sense?”

The Commissioner warned that children’s services are already underfunded compared to the rest of the UK.

“A report I produced in partnership with the Office of First Minister and deputy First Minister and the Department of Finance and Personnel clearly showed that Northern Ireland’s children were truly the poor relations in terms of services.

“The expenditure per child in Northern Ireland on personal social services is £287. In Scotland it is £513; in Wales £429.10; and in England it is £402. That is £226 less spent per child each year than in Scotland.

“We already not providing enough support for our children, but Government is proposing further cuts to services.”

Ms Lewsley will be writing to the Northern Ireland Executive, before the end of September to clarify where cuts have already been made to children’s services in advance of the Comprehensive Spending Review.