One of Northern Ireland’s youngest councillors is calling on his local authority to urgently stand up against “devastating” Education Authority cuts to youth services.
Youth centres across all 11 councils are due to receive less funding this year from the Education Authority with approximately £30k in cuts to their budgets.
Newry, Mourne and Down District councillor Michael Rice (23), brought forward a notice of motion in chambers last night (Monday) to gain council support for local youth centres.
He said: “I am calling on the council to recognise the devastating impact that these proposed cuts will have for youth providers, youth services and ultimately our young people across the district.
“A reduction of over £30,000 in funding will have huge implications for our voluntary youth sector, leading to job losses and damaging the delivery of services across our communities.
“At a time when people are struggling with the rising cost of living, people do not need the added pressure of reduced working hours or the prospect of no work at all.
“Our voluntary youth workers provide invaluable services to families and young people, helping to tackle anti-social behaviour by offering our children a place to go and enjoy time with friends and build positive relationships with others.
“What we need to see is more investment into our youth services right across Newry, Mourne and Down.
“Support from the Education Authority is vital for our local community and voluntary organisations working with our young people.
“I’ve been speaking directly with youth groups across the Mournes area who have stated their disappointment at how this news was communicated.
“The lack of clarity and effective communication has meant that Youth Groups have been left in limbo wondering what services they will be able to offer following these cuts.
“The council must write to the Education Authority and urgently ask them to scrap any plans that will see a reduction in funding.”
The Education Authority has responded to the concerns on the pending budget cuts.
A spokesperson said: “The Education Authority fully understand the vital role youth services play in all communities.
“We will work to minimise the risk to these really important services against the backdrop of very significant financial challenges.”