Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Education Project for School Age Mothers axed without consultation

7 August, 2006

Sinn Fein Education Spokesperson Michael Ferguson has expressed his shock and anger at a decision by BELB middle management to axe a very successful teenage pregnancy programme from the Whiterock Children's Centre.

The decision to end the programme was taken without any consultation with the appropriate board committee or full board consideration and without even discussing the matter with the four West Belfast elected representatives who sit on the Board.

Commenting on the decision Michael Ferguson said:

"I am shocked to learn that an employee in middle management of the BELB had the arrogance to axe a children's service to West Belfast without even discussing it with the Board Committee responsible and the Full Board which has the ultimate say on all such matters.

" I am also extremely angry that this School Age Mother (SAM) project which is part of a comprehensive package of services delivered from the Whiterock Children's Centre and which shares a site with the BIFHE should be closed without any warning to the delivery team, the Department of Education or the Board members.

"We have now learnt that no Equality Impact Assessment was carried out yet it is located within a designated neighbourhood renewal area.

"The SAM project, located in the Children's Centre, had 26 young pregnant teenagers through their doors last year from across the community and many had already dropped out of the formal education system. The project has successfully managed to support their complex needs and move them into Further Education with BIFHE demonstrating the success of this project."

"Pregnancies such as these are never planned and it is crucial as with last year that the facility is operational. The notion that teenagers who are pregnant and already out of the school system would simply dump their baby in one site and rush off to Loughshore miles away when they wouldn't even go to their own secondary school is an indication of the how ill informed the middle management staff who axed the service were.

"I have written to the Chief Executive of the BELB who probably doesn't even know about the decision as well as the Department of Education and the British Minister Marie Eagle and asked them to resume the investment to this project immediately.

"I also want assurances that decisions like this will not be made again without proper consultation with the respective committee, full Board, the Department and the inclusion of an Equality Impact Assessment, which everywhere else would be considered professional good practice." ENDS

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