Education Minister Peter Weir has expressed his concern that the issue of funding for the youth sector is being used to cause unnecessary anxiety for those working in the area.
Peter Weir said:
“I made it clear yesterday that in relation to funding for organisations delivering Extended, Outreach and Detached initiatives that no funding has been withdrawn and no decision or proposals have been taken to remove funding. This is an annual exercise which has been carried out by the Education Authority and which has not received this level of attention before.
“My concern is that some people have chosen to use this issue as a political football and as a result have caused anxiety for youth sector staff. This is unnecessary and unfair.
“I want to again reassure those working in the youth sector that I have not received any proposals to cut funding. Moreover, I have not proposed to withdraw or reduce support for these important initiatives.
“I appreciate the uncertainty around short term funding streams which are additional to the core youth budget and the impact this can have on workers across the sector. Whilst the overall budget available for youth services has not been agreed, I have asked officials to ensure that within the funding available, a longer term approach is adopted to prioritising access to and longer opening times for centres operating in areas of disadvantage or on or near interface areas.
“I note there have been calls to make similar commitments in line with recent announcements on Early Years funding. However, the Pathway funding stream for Early Years operates in a different way to that for the youth sector. An immediate decision was needed regarding the process to be followed for Pathway funding in 2017/18, given that Pathway had only recently been introduced in 2016/17 and so that the future arrangements for 2017/18 were clarified.
“Youth sector funding is not administered in the same way, as unlike Pathway Funding, there is an ongoing annual process in place which follows similar procedures every year. As I have said, I have asked my officials to review this system to ensure that this annual scenario cannot be exploited to cause anxiety and concern.
“Youth organisations carry out vital and important work every single day for our children and young people and I am committed to ensuring this good work continues.”
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