10/08/2005

NI’s first Minister for Children announced

Secretary of State Peter Hain today confirmed that Jeff Rooker is to become Northern Ireland’s first Minister for Children.

The Minister will act as a champion for children within government and will complement the role played by Northern Ireland’s present Commissioner for Children and Young People.

Making the announcement, Peter Hain said: “Jeff Rooker’s appointment is particularly timely as we finalise and then implement the 10-year Strategy for Children and Young People.

“As Minister for Children, he will clearly have a key leadership role in driving the Strategy forward and ensuring that we deliver on the rights and needs of all children and young people in Northern Ireland.”

Mr Rooker added: “One of my first tasks will be to establish a Ministerial Children and Young People’s Sub-committee, which I will chair.

"The Committee will meet regularly to discuss issues affecting children and young people in Northern Ireland, particularly those which are cross-cutting and require a co-ordinated approach across government departments.

Sinn Féin described the news as a "welcome development". West Belfast MLA Sue

Ramsey said: "Sinn Féin argued that there should be a Minster with specific

responsibility for Children and Young People in the negotiations that led

up to the signing of the Good Friday Agreement.

"However if this portfolio is to have any relevance to the lives of children and young people in the Six Counties, then it is vital that this new ministerial responsibility includes adequate powers and resources to ensure that the rights of children and young people are protected and promoted."

The Minister for Children will be supported by the Children and Young People’s Unit, OFMDFM, which also has lead responsibility for the 10-year strategy.

(MB/SP)

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