Three years since the Assembly collapsed in Northern Ireland, the UK and Irish Governments have published a deal, entitled New Decade, New Approach, and the Assembly was restored on Saturday 11 January.
Celine McStravick, Director of the National Children’s Bureau in Northern Ireland, said:
“As we welcome our Politicians back to Stormont, we must be hopeful they will deliver for our children, young people and families, as during three frustrating years of inertia many of the important issues facing children have been left unaddressed.
“The stagnation of Northern Irish politics has failed young people, denying them and their families the support they need from Government. A restored Executive can bring urgently needed leadership and the draft Programme of Government has the potential to bring about positive change.
“The need for urgency is plain to see. A quarter of children are living in families stuck in a cycle of poverty, struggling to make ends meet, while gaps in educational attainment are widening and services are not meeting needs.
“We welcome the new Executives commitment to deliver a fair and compassionate society that supports the most vulnerable. In particular, we look forward to supporting the Executive to deliver key priorities including:
- Delivering a Mental health strategy by April 2020 and an action plan by December 2020.
- Undertaking an independent review of education provision, with a focus on securing greater efficiency in delivery costs, raising standards, access to the curriculum for all pupils, and the prospects of moving towards a single education system.
- Developing an action plan to address links between persistent educational underachievement and socio-economic background
- Delivering a new special educational needs framework to support young people with special needs to achieve their full potential.
- Developing an improved approach to careers advice, curriculum, training and apprenticeships to enhance employability and support economic growth.
- Developing and implementing an Anti-poverty Strategy.
- Implementing a Childcare Strategy with resources to deliver extended, affordable and high quality provision of early education and care initiatives for families with children aged 3-4.
“We would also like to see the delivery of the online strategy for children and young people and the 10 year children and young people’s strategy.
“NCB has long campaigned for an outcomes-based approach to developing policy and practice and the Executive is taking a positive step reaffirming its commitment to citizens engagement and co-design when developing the outcomes-based Programme for Government. People and communities must be at the heart of Government policy.
“It is vital that there are meaningful opportunities for all children and young people to be involved in the development and delivery of this work and that policymakers work urgently to make up for lost time.”