British government Ministers putting children's services at risk
Sinn Féin MP Martin McGuinness, accompanied by MLAs Caitríona Ruane and John O'Dowd today visited the Whiterock Crèche in Belfast to launch the party's Children's Charter. Speaking at the launch Mr. McGuinness called for universally available, publicly funded pre-school education for all children from the age of three to five years.
Mr. McGuinness said:
"Children's services have been under funded for a number of years and while there were some improvements while the Assembly was in session, including 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 seriously since the imposition of direct British rule.
"By failing to provide adequate funds for children's services, the Britishgovernment is putting children's services at risk. Most recently, we have witnessed the cutbacks within the Education and Library Boards, against the advice of the Commissioner, those in the education sector and parents. Thesecut backs cannot be justified and are in stark contrast to British government proposals to recruit thousands of teachers for England, Scotland and Wales.
"This approach can also be seen in the disgraceful decision to eliminate theChildren's Fund. Sinn Féin believes that this decision should be overturnedand funding for children and children's services should be ring fenced.
"As a party we are determined that the rights of children remain centre stage and that is why we are launching a Children's Charter as a centrepiece of this election campaign." ENDS
Our priorities include:
- The creation of a Minister for Children in the Six Counties and the development of a formal relationship between that Minister and the Junior Minister for Children in the Department of Health and Children.
- The development of an action plan to implement the United Nations CRC throughout Ireland
- Introducing motions to all district, city and county councils calling for the appointment of a children's advocate to ensure that UNICEF's Child Friendly Cities approach to protecting and enhancing the rights of children is advanced at local levels throughout the country.
- Immediate establishment of a single, all-Ireland body responsible for the holding of standardised child protection information
- A progressive increase in the level of child benefit that is greater than the rate of inflation.
- The ring fencing of funding for children's services to ensure that these services, which are often seen as soft options for cutbacks are protected.
- Our priority is the re-introduction of the Executive Children's Fund.
- A single body to provide resources for youth services - there are currently six funding bodies for the voluntary youth sector - the Youth Council and the five boards, all funded by DENI.
All parents to exercise their choice to care for their children full time up to one year of age.
To establish universal provision of early childhood care and education based on the Swedish system, which involves local authorities providing high quality and educational childcare facilities for low fees, enabling all parents to reconcile their childcare needs with participation in the labour force, education and training.
Universally available, publicly funded pre-school education for all children from the age of three to five years, with appropriate resources to facilitate on-site work with parents and accommodate the earliest and most effective detection of Special Educational Needs