Sinn Féin reiterates call for Children's Minister
Speaking at the launch today of a Children's Manifesto by several of the North's leading children's NGO's, Sinn Féin health spokesperson and Upper Bann MLA, John O'Dowd has reiterated Sinn Féin call for a Children's Minister. Mr O'Dowd said:
"As a party we reaffirm our support for the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child with its clear demand 'that the child should be fully prepared to live an individual life in society and brought up in the spirit of peace, dignity, tolerance, freedom, equality and solidarity'. It is our contention that all state actions in relation to children should adhere to the letter and the spirit of this convention.
"The reality is that children and children's services are still seen as the Cinderella service. Children's services have been under funded for a number of years and while there were some improvements while the Assembly was in session, where we saw the appointment of the Commissioner for Children and Young People, and the development of a ring-fenced Children's Fund, the situation for children's services has deteriorated markedly since the imposition of direct British rule.
"Sinn Féin appreciates the good work that is being done by the Children's Commissioner for children and young people in difficult circumstances, and I would like to reaffirm my support and the support of our party to this office and the positive work that they are carrying out.
Addressing members of the children's NGO's and others from the community and voluntary sector who attended the launch, Mr O'Dowd MLA added:
"By failing to provide adequate funds for children's services, the British government is damaging the future of our society. They have no right to do this. Most recently, we have witnessed the cutbacks within the Education and Library Boards, against the advice of the Commissioner, the advice of NGO's and the advice of all Political Parties. These cut backs have, and will continue to impact on the most vulnerable of our society. There is simply no justification for this.
"Sinn Féin deplores the treatment of the Children's Fund in the recent budget. We believe that funding for children and children's services should be ring fenced. I support the intervention from the Commissioner on the recent budget were he said, 'he has no doubt that children and young people will lose out under this budget and that the reality is that when services are cut, the potential of children to achieve can be lost and the potential for them to be at risk is increased'.
"As a party we have tried to ensure that the rights of children remain centre stage and while we welcomed the appointment of the Commissioner we were disappointed that there was not a Minister for Children appointed during the Assembly. We will continue to push for a Children's Minister.
"Sinn Féin is also going to launch its own Children's Manifesto based on the principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Among the practical steps we wish to see is the rolling out of UNICEF's Child Friendly Cities Scheme. To that end, we are presenting motions to a number of District Councils calling for them to become part of this scheme.
"Sinn Féin supports the demands of the Children's Manifesto. Sinn Féin also recognises the importance of a close and effective working relationship between the Children's NGO sector and political parties to ensure that the welfare of all our children is promoted as effectively as possible." ENDS