NORTHERN Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People, Patricia Lewsley has issued a cautious welcome for improvements to proposed spending contained in yesterday’s budget announcement.
Ms Lewsley said the voice of children and young people must be heard as departmental plans are developed fully, and the detail of budget plans become clearer.
“I welcome the fact that my response to the consultation, together with others, helped the Northern Ireland Executive renew its focus on the pressing need to invest in children and young people’s services”, she said.
“Those services have been underfunded for too long, and I hope that this budget will start to redress the balance.”
The Commissioner welcomed increased funding for child and adolescent mental health services, youth services, and other areas of children’s services.
“Some of the announcements made by departments have highlighted areas I have been bringing to Ministers’ attention,” said Ms Lewsley. “These include the Care Matters strategy and the suicide and self-harm initiatives.
“However, these must be resourced properly, and I will be monitoring how these are developed.
“For example, I want to make sure that the Speech and Language Taskforce recommendations are fully implemented, with proper financial allocation.”
The Commissioner said she and her team would be closely examining detailed departmental proposals.
“If, as I hope, there has been a serious attempt to address the social inequalities that blight the lives of too many children and young people, then I hope we can look forward to a sustained push to eradicate those inequalities and the poverty that is the scourge of too many families.
“I hope that the funding announced will be enough to make sure that innovative programmes are maintained and new ones put in place to address gaps.”