The Commissioner said that over the term of the previous Assembly, there appeared to have been a rolling back in practical measures to implement children’s rights but the Executive now had a chance to change that.
“I am pleased to see the release of the draft Programme for Government today,” she said, “And that there is a commitment to improved childcare.
“Over the past six months I have met with the new Executive Ministers to talk with them about the critical issues for children that they need to address, and have advised them to make children a key priority in the Programme for Government.
“Given the context in which the Executive will be working over the next three years, with growing pressures on budgets, and families experiencing increased hardship, it is vital that the Executive have a clear plan of action.
“Children were virtually invisible in the Budget published in 2011-2015. This must be addressed.
“I will now carefully review the Executive’s draft Programme for Government to assess how it will deliver for children, particularly those most vulnerable within our communities.’
Early this month Ms Lewsley-Mooney published a landmark report, Barriers to Effective Delivery by Government for Children, which assessed government performance.
“I commissioned Queen’s University, Belfast to assess the effectiveness of government delivery for children in Northern Ireland,” said Ms Lewsley-Mooney. “It is clear that there are significant barriers to the development and implementation of policies and strategies, and too often children’s rights and best interests have been sidelined.
“Over the past four years there has been a real lack of momentum in delivering on children’s rights while other parts of the United Kingdom have been more effectively concentrating on children’s rights.”
“When the Assembly created my post they outlined a clear set of duties for me, including advising government when I believed they were failing our children. One of the areas I am particularly concerned about is the right budget being spent at the right time for children and young people. I will be looking to the Programme for Government to put a framework for children on the budget published earlier this year.
“In February I expressed concerned that children were virtually invisible in the 2011-2015 Budget, and I will be looking to the Programme for Government to redress this imbalance.”