Plea to save Northern Ireland’s children’s services

Children’s services could be hardest hit by Northern Ireland’s draft budget, the Children’s Commissioner has warned.

Young people have been left invisible by the four-year spending plan, said Patricia Lewsley.

She said children’s services in health, social care, education and in the community were already under-funded.

“The budget needs to be re-written to clearly show where resources are being allocated to meet children’s rights and best interests,” she said.

She briefed members of the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister’s scrutiny committee at Stormont and said she looked forward to the forthcoming review of all arms-length bodies.

She said on Wednesday: “The Assembly clearly set up my post to challenge Government, to influence Government, to change Government policy and to promote children’s best interests. Today I am challenging Government to make sure that children are not invisible in the budget.

“Today I am saying Government must have children foremost in developing policy.

“Today I saying that Government must have children’s best interests at heart.”

The budget for the next four years is intended to save around £4 billion.

Chancellor George Osborne ordered Stormont to cut spending as part of the spending review announced on October 20.