COMMISSIONER for Children and Young People, Patricia Lewsley, today said the next Assembly must work together to make communities safe for children.
Speaking as she published her response to the government’s Community Safety Consultation, the Commissioner said the strategy had taken some positive steps in tackling community safety issues. But bigger braver steps were needed to challenge the way children are demonised by negative perceptions and stereotyping of young people.
At a time when 85% of young people consider themselves judged negatively simply on the basis of their age, shows this strategy must make every effort to make sure communities are safe and include young people.
Ms Lewsley went on: “For example with the devolution of policing and justice, this strategy needs to focus more on providing better support for children and young people in their community.
“Children and young people need to be valued and recognised as integral members of their communities. Many of them are often vulnerable and in need of our protection. This is particularly important in areas of community conflict and division where children can experience disadvantage and marginalisation and also be exposed to high levels of violence.
“This strategy must make sure all parts of government work together to address community problems in Northern Ireland and that young people continue to remain part of and at the forefront of the debate. As part of this, children and young people themselves must be actively involved in the strategy.”
Ms Lewsley said she was especially worried by plans to keep the use of Anti Social Behaviour Orders: “I am concerned that this draft strategy outlines plans to continue with the use of these Orders and repeat my call that government should end the use of these against children. By continuing to focus on the punishment of young people we move further away from making communities and town centres safe and welcoming places.
“So I welcome the commitment shown by this strategy to invest in wider community initiatives that are needed to tackle the root causes of community safety issues.” Ms Lewsley said.
“I hope that the final Community Safety Strategy will reflect my concerns and develop plans that respect the vital role children and young people play in our communities."
I have published my response to the strategy here on the web site.
Notes for editors
- You can view NICCY's response from the Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People to the Community Safety Strategy (April 2011). You can also read this document in MS Word format here.
- You can find NICCY's research paper released last week on negative stereotyping, using the questions we included on the Young Life and Times survey 2010 here
- The Young Life and Times Survey is a regular survey of the attitudes of 16-year-olds in Northern Ireland; 775 took part in the survey. The survey is conducted by ARK and contains a variety of topics, of which negative stereotyping is one.
- The Commissioner's Youth Panel has been working consistently to address the issue of negative stereotyping, and contributed to the formation of the questions.
- Members of the Youth Panel surveyed media coverage of young people in 2009 and identified that almost three quarters of coverage of young people had been negative. You can find more details of their survey here
- They have also produced a video commenting on growing up in Northern Ireland which you can view here
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