Department of Education U-Turn on budget cuts is welcome, but raises serious questions about decision-making elsewhere

Published 1st June, 2023

Responding to the announcement that the Department of Education is no longer proceeding with proposed cuts to Youth Services and a range of Early Years programmes, Pauline Leeson, Chief Executive of Children in Northern Ireland said:

“The news that these budget cuts will not be happening is welcome relief from the relentless wave of damaging decisions arising from the NI Budget.

“The Department of Education has clearly recognised that early intervention and prevention are critical for children’s long-term health and development, their educational outcomes, and leads to wider societal benefits.

“In his statement, the Permanent Secretary acknowledges that the proposed cuts contravened long-standing Executive policies and Ministerial decisions. He also highlights evidence that short-term cuts would lead to greater budgetary pressures in coming years and that reductions in services would run counter to the government’s efforts to tackle educational disadvantage.

“All of this raises serious questions around decision-making elsewhere. For example, why it was deemed appropriate to end the School Holiday Food Grant, Happy Healthy Minds, and the Engage Programme in the absence of a Minister.

“The Department of Health should also be paying close attention to this announcement. According to Education, ‘the scale and cumulative impact of the proposed cuts’ which represent a major change to policies led to the view that the decision could only be made by a Minister, not a Permanent Secretary.

“In our view, the decision to end Core Grant funding for the Community and Voluntary Sector, who work directly with children and their families, also falls into this category. Why did the Department of Health come to a different conclusion regarding its ability to make cuts that will have such a negative impact? They need to address this question urgently and reverse the decision immediately.”

Department of Education U-Turn on budget cuts is welcome, but raises serious questions about decision-making elsewhere

Published 1st June, 2023

Responding to the announcement that the Department of Education is no longer proceeding with proposed cuts to Youth Services and a range of Early Years programmes, Pauline Leeson, Chief Executive of Children in Northern Ireland said:

“The news that these budget cuts will not be happening is welcome relief from the relentless wave of damaging decisions arising from the NI Budget.

“The Department of Education has clearly recognised that early intervention and prevention are critical for children’s long-term health and development, their educational outcomes, and leads to wider societal benefits.

“In his statement, the Permanent Secretary acknowledges that the proposed cuts contravened long-standing Executive policies and Ministerial decisions. He also highlights evidence that short-term cuts would lead to greater budgetary pressures in coming years and that reductions in services would run counter to the government’s efforts to tackle educational disadvantage.

“All of this raises serious questions around decision-making elsewhere. For example, why it was deemed appropriate to end the School Holiday Food Grant, Happy Healthy Minds, and the Engage Programme in the absence of a Minister.

“The Department of Health should also be paying close attention to this announcement. According to Education, ‘the scale and cumulative impact of the proposed cuts’ which represent a major change to policies led to the view that the decision could only be made by a Minister, not a Permanent Secretary.

“In our view, the decision to end Core Grant funding for the Community and Voluntary Sector, who work directly with children and their families, also falls into this category. Why did the Department of Health come to a different conclusion regarding its ability to make cuts that will have such a negative impact? They need to address this question urgently and reverse the decision immediately.”