It has become clear that within current political configurations, the commitment of government departments to work jointly and collaboratively on issues affecting children and young people can be sporadic and isolated. Without explicit obligation, such activity is unlikely to develop as standard. Since 2011, momentum has been lost on the over-arching 10 Year Strategy for Children and Young People.
The Delivering Social Change agenda does aim to achieve a sustained reduction in poverty and associated issues across all ages, as well as improving children and young people’s health, well-being and life opportunities. While we very much welcome the Signature Projects, more needs to be done by departments to achieve long-term, evidence-informed investment in children and young people, focused on impact and outcomes.
At a time of economic austerity, the benefits of investing early in a child’s life are well-documented. However, the converse is also true: tremendous opportunities are lost when sufficient resources are not made available to meet the needs of children and young people. The timeline of a child’s life means that occasions for intervention are short and consequences of absent, unclear or inadequate policies can be significant.
CiNI believe that children and young people must be accorded greater priority and made more visible in all levels of government policy and planning. We continue to be committed to working in partnership with government to deliver better outcomes for children and young people. Our organisation is dedicated to the realisation of policy objectives which help keep children and young people at the centre of decision-making.
This can be achieved through creating greater co-operation and co-ordination among government departments in the planning of services for children and young people by introducing a statutory duty to co-operate; as well as working with government departments to achieve long-term, evidence-based investment in children and young people, focused on impact and outcomes by introducing children’s budgeting.
In October, we are launching these two ‘Policy Calls to Action’ to help ensure greater effectiveness from policies and spending, which in turn should assist in improving the lives of children and young people in Northern Ireland. We are seeking the support and partnership of our membership, political parties, elected members of the Northern Ireland Assembly and senior officials in government departments.
It is only through genuine, collaborative, co-operative, joined-up working across government that the true opportunity to maximise scarce resources in the best interests of children and young people is achievable.