Youth Services must be Protected – Adams
West Belfast MP MLA Gerry Adams has revealed that Sinn Féin is pressing the Department of Education and the Belfast Education and Library Board to quickly agree how much money from the recent budget will be allocated to Belfast by the Department for Youth Services, and how this will then be allocated by the Board within the City.
Mr. Adams has welcomed the fact that the Minister for Education Caitriona Ruane "succeeded in reversing threatened cutbacks to the Youth Services budget and securing an additional £4.6 million over the next three years which she has said needs to go into the areas of greatest need. The Minister has turned a potentially negative situation into a positive outcome for the youth budget overall".
Mr. Adams said:
"It is important to remember that currently 25 youth workers attached to area outreach projects in Belfast have been put on protective notice. This means that their contracts will not be renewed after the end of March unless additional funding is obtained. This is obviously a source of concern to the individuals affected but it would also adversely impact on the provision of youth services.
"On the basis of what has now been secured by the Minister these jobs should be reinstated and grassroots services sustained. The Minister made it clear that the additional funding must go to those in communities of greatest need.
"We now need speedy decisions from the Department and the BELB about how much money is to be allocated. As a grassroots activist party Sinn Féin is very concerned to maintain the current levels of youth service, especially in areas of severe disadvantage, and improve on them with additional resources and planning. Youth Services have a vital role in ensuring that young people have access to a range of positive activities that can contribute to their individual learning and achievement.
"Effective, properly funded Youth Services also play a crucial role as an integral and important part of the community and voluntary structures. The importance of their role was evident in the Upper Springfield area which was thrown into turmoil by two criminal
"In conjunction with community activists and youth workers, an intervention project was created. One crucial part of that project was youth work. The Intervention project has been going from strength to strength in the short time it's existed. In an area, like the upper Springfield, with a population of 12,000, more than 50% of them under 18 years old, this work has reached hundreds of that number at a critical time.
"It must also be remembered that not all Youth Services are funded through the Department of Education. Some programmes of work depend on European money through the Peace 2 programme which comes to an end this summer.
"Other vital services to young people are funded through "renewing communities", a DSD responsibility. Some of the services provided in the Shankill district are dependent on that funding and my office is informed that DSD have yet to give a clear answer about what will happen to those employed and the services they manage when this funding runs out in March. That is not good enough and is a matter I will be taking up with the Minister for Social Development." ENDS