Junior ministers Jonathan Bell and Jennifer McCann have published a draft children’s strategy for Northern Ireland, designed to tackle child poverty and improve children’s rights. The final strategy, due to be published in March, will be reviewed and revised in 2017.
Its draft sets out six desired outcomes:
• families have adequate incomes and work that pays;
• children in poverty achieve good educational outcomes;
• children and families “thrive and have a healthy future”;
• children and families live in a “safe and secure environment”;
• children and young people “contribute positively to community and society”; and
• children and young people “live in a society that respects their rights”.
Many of the services mentioned in the strategy are already in place and are effectively re-announced e.g. the Essential Skills courses for parents, tuition jobs for graduate teachers, road safety promotion and the United Youth Programme placements.
Eleven ‘social enterprise hubs’ will be set up to offer advice and support to parents who want to set up their own businesses. An additional 10 ‘family support hubs’ will be established in deprived areas.
The Department of Education plans to extend free school meals to post-primary pupils from families receiving working tax credit. A guaranteed training place would also be offered to all 16-17 year old school leavers. Separately, the childcare strategy aims to create 3,000 places and a Department of Agriculture and Rural Development scheme envisages another 1,000 places in rural areas.
The consultation closes on 21 February and views can submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org