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.
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.
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“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.”