'That is disgraceful': Derry Councillors says 33% of youth service funding is being cut

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There was unanimous support from councillors sitting on Derry City and Strabane Health and Community Committee for council to urgently write to the Education Authority to express severe concerns at the impact planned cuts on youth services will have and demanding the decision is reversed.

Councill will also write to the CEO of the Youth Work Alliance, John Lynch expressing support for the retention of voluntary youth services.

The matter was brought before the committee by Sinn Féin councillor Emma McGinley who said: “MLA Ciara Ferguson, councillor Christopher Jackson and myself met with the CEO of the Youth Work Alliance.

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“At that meeting it was outlined the impact cuts being imposed by the Education Authority (EA) would have on youth provision and more specifically voluntary youth provision across the district and indeed across the North. These decisions have been made without consultation with the voluntary youth sector and no community impact assessment.”

Councillors warned youth club services are under threat.Councillors warned youth club services are under threat.
Councillors warned youth club services are under threat.

Councillor McGinley outlined the effects the cuts would have adding: “They mean a reduction in the number of days services will be open, a cap in the numbers per session at 35 and limits to access the provision as junior youth services for five to eight year olds, summer schemes, intervention schemes and pathway schemes are not provided for within the current proposals.

“For Derry City and Strabane council area this means a 33% reduction in funding for our youth services – take a second to think about that because I think it is disgraceful.

“Our youth workers are the backbone of our community and they should be valued and be supported, not stripped of resources.”

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Seconding the proposal, SDLP councillor Brian Tierney called the impact of the proposed cuts ‘frightening’.

Sinn Féin Councillor Emma McGinley.Sinn Féin Councillor Emma McGinley.
Sinn Féin Councillor Emma McGinley.

He said: “What does this mean for Derry? No youth clubs, no summer schemes and no working with 18+.

“I want to draw people’s attention to another aspect of this. There is a voluntary community youth provider within my own DEA which stretches out and reaches out to people right across this district, it’s called the Bud Club and they work with children with learning difficulties.

“The EA Local Youth Development Plan and Regional Youth Development Plan states increased access to inclusive and welcoming youth space for section 75 young people across Derry and Strabane council area and it also states support for increased access regionally for youth provision for section 75 people as we meet their individual needs. It’s my view that the proposed cuts goes against these two core values.

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“In the 2021-23 funding cycle this organisation were committed and contracted to providing a minimum of 250 young people across our area with youth club provision.

“In the new funding cycle 23-26 a minimum of 120 young people, that’s 130 people with SEN who aren’t going to have access to a youth club.

“The Bud Club is the only youth club across this city and district that is contracted to work with people with special educational needs only and the Educational Authority are potentially reducing access to youth clubs by 52%. That’s not something I think we can allow to happen.”

The Ballyarnett representative made his feelings clear on the lack of local government.

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“This needs and deserves a governmental response and we can’t get it, we don’t have it."

“We don’t have anyone who can step in and protect these people. Are people really telling me that the protocol is so important?”

“This is the time where services across our community, people in our community are being impacted by the fact we have no government.

“I’m going to predict it that when a DUP representative comes on they will try and tell me you got your mandate at the last Assembly election blah de blah de blah – you’re right, we did but we have a job at Stormont to do and that’s hold ministers to account, we can’t do it.”

“It’s about time those issues were put aside, people were able to get back to work and support the vulnerable people across our district who are losing out on services hand over fist and we don’t have anyone in a local position who will put their hand up and speak out and say I’m going to put a stop to this and I’m going to support your community, it’s an absolute disgrace.”

There was support from all parties with People Before Profit Shaun Harkin added: “We have to send a strong message from council that we stand with our youth services, we stand with our young people who need these services, we stand with youth workers, we stand with everybody in the sector saying that these cuts should be opposed.”

The proposal passed unanimously.

Gillian Anderson

Local Democracy Reporter