Egan pleased by U-turn on youth service cuts but dismayed at treatment of organisations

Alliance Education spokesperson Connie Egan MLA has said she is pleased the Department of Education will not proceed with a range of proposed cuts to early years and youth services but added she is dismayed at the treatment of affected organisations by the Department to date.

Education Connie Egan

The North Down MLA was speaking after the Department announced it would not proceed with proposed cuts to the youth services and early years programmes, including the Pathway Fund, Sure Start, Bright Start and Toybox. Nor will the full scale of cuts happen to Extended Schools. Permanent Secretary Dr Mark Browne said he believed any such decisions should be taken by a Minister and not a civil servant.

“These cuts would have affected some of the most vulnerable children and young people in our community, given the organisations’ focus on tackling social and educational disadvantage,” said Ms Egan.

“I therefore welcome this announcement by the Permanent Secretary, as I have been lobbying him for several months to reconsider the decision. It would have not only had a detrimental impact on children and young people directly but also would have seen subsequent costs to Health, Justice and other Departments in future, massively outweighing proposed savings by the Department of Education.

“While it is good news for the many organisations who would have had their services affected, I am dismayed at the treatment of the sector by the Department throughout this entire time. To publicly propose funding cuts, subsequently give poor communication throughout and then at the last minute announce a U-turn considerably added to the organisations’ stress. It was no way to treat those delivering vital services.

“My thanks go to everyone who petitioned the Department and asked them to reconsider the proposed cuts.

"Budget decisions of this nature are indeed inherently political and should be taken by a Minister. It once again reiterates the pressing need for the DUP to end their deadlock, restore power-sharing and join the other parties in taking strategic decisions to help protect those who need it the most.”