O’Dowd closes Youth Council

 The non-departmental body’s functions will be subsumed into the Education Authority.

Education Minister John O’Dowd has confirmed that the Youth Council for Northern Ireland will be closed and its functions will transfer to the Education Authority (EA).

Addressing the future of the Youth Council in a written statement to the Assembly, the Minister made clear his intention to seek Executive agreement to draft a Bill repealing the Youth Service (NI) Order 1989 in an attempt to resolve the administrative effect of the creation of the Education Authority. The repealing of this legislation will effectively bring an end to the Youth Council.

In his statement O’Dowd expressed his gratitude for the excellent work that the Youth Council has undertaken in supporting regional youth services.

“I have decided that the Education Authority will take over full responsibility for the provision of all youth services funded by the Department” read the statement. “I will be moving to put in place the necessary legislation. However, in the interim and with effect from 1 April 2016, funding for Regional Voluntary Youth Organisations will be administered through the Education Authority.

“The Board of the Youth Council will remain in place to provide advice to me and my department until the legislation to formally dissolve the Youth Council is passed in the Assembly. The department will chair a partnership involving the EA and other key stakeholders to inform the development of an effective working arrangement within the authority. While the Youth Council continues to exist in statute, its council members should also have a role to play in advising and supporting that partnership, recognising their responsibilities in relation to providing encouragement and advice.

“I am confident that the new working arrangements for Regional Voluntary Youth Organisations under the EA will provide the impetus for further improvement across the youth sector. I acknowledge that there will be a period of transition and I would ask for the support of all sectoral partners to ensure that young people’s needs continue to be met through a range of high quality youth provision.” 

Following the announcement, the Youth Council for Northern Ireland released a short statement expressing its dismay. “YCNI Board members and staff are deeply disappointed that the Minister has gone ahead with his decision to abolish the Youth Council,” read the statement.  

“We are really concerned about the future of the services which we provide. We welcome the fact that the Minister has said he is ring-fencing the regional funding budget within the EA but it is equally important that the other functions which we carry out are also preserved and developed.  

“Over the 26 years that we have been in operation we have built up an enormous wealth of experience and expertise which has allowed us to do much more than just fund regional voluntary youth groups, for example, through our Youth Work Training Board, we promote and support accredited training programmes.

“The most important thing for us is that quality youth work should continue to be provided for our nation’s most valuable resource — our young people. Hundreds of thousands of young people have benefitted from the activities of the Youth Council over the last 26 years and the Minister’s stated strong commitment to ensuring that such work continues is to be applauded.”

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