23 Feb 2011

CHILDREN and young people have been left invisible in the draft Northern Ireland Budget, claimed the Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People, Patricia Lewsley, today.

Ms Lewsley told today's meeting of the Committee for the First Minister and Deputy First Minister that it was all too possible that the final budget would leave children's services the hardest hit.

"It is clear that the draft budget looks at areas where budgets could be cut instead of looking at the wider impact on children and young people" said the Commissioner.

"Children's services in health, social care, education and in the community are already under-funded.

"Having met and spoken with groups within the children's sector, it is clear that there is real concern.

"The budget needs to be re-written to clearly show where resources are being allocated to meet children's rights and best interests."

Ms Lewsley briefed committee members on her work and the recent review of the office, addressing many of the points raised in that review.

"I welcome this review and, while there were several areas that I disagree with, it is clear that this review is in line with reviews of children's commissioners in England and Scotland which all state that there needs to be a strong, statutory, independent voice for children.

"I look forward to the forthcoming review of Arm's Length Bodies, and have already contributed ideas to make further efficiency savings.

"The Assembly clearly set up my post to challenge Government, to influence Government, to change Government policy and to promote children's best interests.

"Today I am challenging Government to make sure that children are not invisible in the budget.

"Today I am saying Government must have children foremost in developing policy.

"Today I am saying that Government must have children's best interests at heart.

ENDS

Notes for editors