Education Minister Peter Weir has welcomed the phased return of Sure Start and youth services.
The Executive has given approval for initial steps to be taken in resuming some early years programmes, including Sure Start, and youth services allowing the gradual re-opening of programmes to support children and young people who may be facing disadvantage.
Welcoming the Executive’s decision today, the Minister said:
“The COVID pandemic has created many pressures on families and it is clear that these pressures are having greatest impact where disadvantage already exists. I have therefore been focussed on the reopening of vital programmes such as Sure Start and the Pathway Fund which provide much needed support to children.
“The restart of services must, of course, be balanced with the risk of transmitting the COVID virus. Therefore, services will initially be open where children only are attending. We will, of course, seek to reopen all services, as soon as it is safe to do so.”
Turning to the provision of youth services, the Minister continued:
“There is no doubt that the current restrictions are having a negative impact on many young people. Issues such as growing mental health problems, increased drug taking and anti-social behaviour are of great concern.
“My proposal is to take the first steps in a phased and carefully managed reopening of youth services.”
The Minister concluded:
“It will be for the Executive as a whole to consider any further phased re-opening of these areas as part of the ongoing review of restrictions.”
Notes to editors:
1. The first step to a phased return of generic youth work will involve both statutory and voluntary youth work settings operating in line with any overarching restrictions permitted within educational settings relating to outdoor or indoor gatherings, group sizes, social distancing, face coverings and hand washing.
2. In addition to detached (working where young people choose to congregate) and outreach youth work (engages young people with a view to support them in youth work centres) will recommence.
3. The Education Authority is leading on Youth Restart and will be publishing more details for youth work providers on its Youth Online platform (www.youthonline.org.uk )
4. Follow us on Twitter @Education_NI and our Facebook page, Department of Education Northern Ireland.
5. Media enquiries to the Department of Education Press Office at: Press.Office@education-ni.gov.uk
6. The Executive Information Service operates an out of hours service for media enquiries only between 1800hrs and 0800hrs Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The duty press officer can be contacted on 028 9037 8110.
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