Systemic Failures In Education, Poverty & Mental Health In NI

The Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People has warned of 'systemic failures' in education, poverty and mental health.

Publishing her inaugural report, 'Statement on Children's Rights in Northern Ireland', Commissioner Koulla Yiasouma, said: "While it is clear the lack of a Government is preventing improvements being made to the lives of our children and young people, there is also a history of slow progress on children's issues which pre-date the collapse and add to systemic failures in their lives."

The Statement assesses how Government and their statutory agencies have performed in a number of vital areas of children's lives. It also looks at how recommendations, made two years ago, by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, have been progressed.

The Commissioner highlighted government's failure to address the issue of educational underachievement. She said: "If the education system in Northern Ireland were a business it would have folded years ago, there is insufficient evidence that resources are spent as well as they could be and whether the various education sectors in NI represent value for money.

"We are failing to have the honest and open conversations that set aside vested interests and put all our children at the centre of decision making. Our children cannot continue in a system where, how well you do in education, relies on your gender, religion, race, sexuality or whether you are 'rich' or 'poor'. Statistics are telling us that all of these things impact children's ability to achieve academically."

The report also demonstrates how children with special educational needs are not being identified early enough and have to wait too long to be assessed and have their needs met.
News Image
"Whenever I visit a school, particularly a primary school, children with special educational needs is the number one issue raised with me. This is also being reflected in the calls coming through to my office", the Commissioner said.

Children remain the most likely age group to be in poverty in Northern Ireland. This has an adverse impact on their educational achievement, mental and physical health and has been the case since 2002/3 when data was first published.

The Commissioner continued: "27% or 118,000 children in Northern Ireland are in poverty and changes to social security are likely to increase this. So not only are we failing currently we are set to take major backwards steps.

"It is concerning that a lack of Government in NI has meant there has been no consideration of any mitigation packages for the 'Two Child Limit' which is projected to affect 2,518 children and their families in Northern Ireland this year and 11,870 by 2020. This will cost families £2,780 per child or £7m across NI this year and £33m by 2020."

The Commissioner highlights the historical under-investment in Children and Young People's mental health with the percentage of the mental health budget allocated to children and young people remaining at an unacceptably low 8%.

She explained: "This is despite evidence that demonstrates the growing scale and complexity of mental health problems among our children and the fact that adolescence is a peak time for the onset of mental health problems.

"The system is under extreme pressures as a result and we are not meeting the needs of our young people, I look forward to sharing my review of mental health services for children and young people in the Autumn."

Koulla concluded: "At a time when Northern Ireland is at the centre of 'Brexit' negotiations, it is more than disappointing that we don't have a Northern Ireland voice informed by young people here, to discuss how future rights, the 'border', funding and child safeguarding arrangements will be protected.

"The lack of Government can no longer be used as an excuse for lack of progress."


Related Northern Ireland News Stories
Click here for the latest headlines.

09 October 2001
World Mental Health Day helps to dispel myths
The Minister for Health, Social Services and Public Safety, Bairbre de Brún, has emphasised the importance of World Mental Health Day which is taking place on 10 October.
18 November 2003
One in four NI people will develop mental health problems
A new study has revealed that around one in four people in Northern Ireland will develop mental health problems in their lifetime.
11 October 2011
Poots Targets Mental Health Care
NI Mental health has been getting a focus this week with news that the Stormont Health Minister Edwin Poots has launched his Department's Service Framework for Mental Health and Wellbeing Announced on World Mental Health Day on Monday, the framework sets standards for the prevention, assessment, diagnosis, treatment, care and rehabilitation of peop
17 September 2014
£32m Mental Health Facility Approved
A new £32m mental health facility has been approved for Belfast City Hospital. This new facility will centralise all acute mental health inpatient beds for the Belfast Trust and will consist a 74-bed acute mental health unit and a six-bed psychiatric intensive care unit.
26 April 2012
Suicide Awareness Training To Be Introduced To Council Staff
Suicide awareness training is to be introduced for all staff and politicians at Belfast City Council, the Lord Mayor has announced. The new initiative is just one outcome of a community conference hosted at City Hall by Councillor Niall Ó Donnghaile.
03 October 2008
Mental Health Professionals Criticise Lack Of Progress
Despite several health groups slamming the provision of mental health treatment in Northern Ireland - which they say has not improved much six years after a major review of services began - the NI Health Minister, Michael McGimpsey has reiterated his commitment to delivering the review content's 'vision'.
24 April 2012
Over A Quarter Of Students Have Or Previously Had Mental Illness
A study has found 27% of students state that they currently or previously had a mental illness. Today sees the launch of this year's Open Your Mind campaign across Northern Ireland.
11 September 2009
Health Minister Announces Single Bill Approach For Mental Health
Health Minister Michael McGimpsey has announced the future pathway for new mental capacity and mental health legislation for Northern Ireland. Traditionally enacted as two separate areas of law, mental capacity and mental health legislation will, for the first time, be encompassed into a single piece of legislation.
28 April 2004
Young men’s mental health project wins top award
A project aimed at raising awareness of young men’s mental health has won the top award in a regional competition.
24 January 2013
NI Suicide Rate Hasn't Fallen Since 2006
Northern Ireland’s suicide rate has not fallen since 2006, despite over £32m of investment by the Department of Health. This was the message from Health Minister Edwin Poots as he launched a new report which will, he hopes, help tackle the problem of suicide.
29 March 2012
Progress Slow In Treatment Of Prisoners Mental Health
Progress in the treatment of prisoners with mental health problems has been slow. While some improvements have been made a report published today by Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland shows that many challenges remain.
21 March 2007
NI youth benefit from £5.2m Lottery windfall
Innovative projects developed by young people to tackle a range of issues including mental illness, disabilities and antisocial behaviour will benefit from a £5.2 million grants windfall announced by the Big Lottery Fund today.
11 October 2012
Media Can Help Break Mental Health Taboos
Health Minister Edwin Poots says the media has an important role to play in breaking the stigmas which surround mental health. Reports show that people with mental illness complain society’s stigmas create major barriers to their health and quality of life.
10 November 2011
Mental Health Issues No Workforce Barrier
People with mental health issues are making a significant contribution to the workforce. Far from being any burden, the Employment and Learning Minister, Dr Stephen Farry, has highlighted the significant contribution that those with mental health issues make to Northern Ireland's workforce.
10 February 2012
Worker Given £10K For Sectarian Abuse
A catholic worker has been awarded compensation of over £10K for sectarian harassment in the workplace. The man employed by Shorts/ Bombardier has been awarded £11,500 after a workmate harassed him via text messages. The judge said that the texts messages contained ‘chillingly frightening’ sectarian comments.