20/06/2006

NICCY announces ten-year strategy

The Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People has today welcomed the launch of the governments Ten Year Strategy for Children and Young People.

The Commissioner, Barney McNeany, who attended today's launch, said: “This has been a long awaited day so I am very pleased to welcome the launch of the strategy. Along with the recent announcement of additional funding this strategy signals the Governments long term commitment to the children and young people of Northern Ireland."

However, Mr McNeany also expressed disappointment that there was no action plan to accompany the strategy saying that he is urging the government to ensure that a plan is put into place as soon as possible as it is an essential part in making sure that the strategy is fully implemented.

He said: “The strategy represents the exciting possibility of bringing together all the providers of services to children and young people to make children and young people's lives better.

“We have at every opportunity highlighted our concerns about making sure children's rights as outlined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) are at the heart of the strategy and that their voices are heard so I particularly welcome the fact that these principles now underpin the whole strategy.”

The Commissioner added: “In making this a reality NICCY calls for the full inclusion of the UNCRC in law in Northern Ireland and see this move today as the vehicle to make progress on this.

"NICCY acknowledges their important independent oversight role in the implementation of this strategy to make sure these plans are fulfilled for the benefit of all children and young people in Northern Ireland."

Minister for Children and Young People, Maria Eagle today affirmed the government's commitment to improving the lives of children in Northern Ireland.

Outlining the focus of the strategy which aims to improve outcomes for children and young people, the Minister said: “It will aim to ensure that all children and young people are healthy, living in safety and with stability, achieving economic and environmental well-being. These are set out in the strategy's outcomes framework, which also includes learning, achieving and enjoying; making positive contributions to both community and society; and living in a society which respects their rights.”

The Minister acknowledged that more needs to be done for children and young people who are either disadvantaged or marginalised.

She said: “I am well aware that not all children and young people in Northern Ireland have equal starts in life, nor do they have equal chances. We want children who are doing well to continue to do well. However, we also want to narrow the gap between those who do best and those who do worst.”

Ms Eagle also emphasised the need to embed a culture of engaging with children and young people and involving them in decision making, which is one of the strategy's supporting themes.

She added: “It is crucially important to support parents and carers and the communities in which our children and young people.”

The Minister urged their support and pledged to help parents and carers who may need additional support.

The Minister will be assisted by the Ministerial Sub-Committee for Children and Young People, who will have a key role in driving the strategy forward.

There will also be a number of bodies, which are to be set up to oversee and advise on implementation of the strategy.

The Minister concluded: “We have merely started on a journey. The key challenge for us now is to deliver on the strategic vision through concrete time-bound action.”

(EF/SP)

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