Hundreds of youth work posts under threat after funding cut
HUNDREDS of youth work posts are under threat due to government funding running out.
The Education Authority (EA) has advised that money for `extended provision' positions across the north will end in March.
Parties are now seeking an urgent meeting with education minster Peter Weir to ask why continued funding is not available.
In west Belfast alone, it is feared about 130 posts are now in jeopardy.
The EA has been unable to estimate the total number of posts across the north that will be affected.
SDLP Belfast councillor Tim Attwood said one youth club in Divis, which works with vulnerable young people, could lose one full time and five part time posts.
Projects under threat include outreach and street based work, weekend youth provision and work with young people in juvenile detention centres.
"There are questions to be answered by the minister, if he was minded to extend funding for a period, why has this not happened?" Mr Attwood said.
"We cannot allow essential educational and youth services to be hostage to a failure to make decisions in Stormont."
West Belfast Sinn Féin assembly member Órlaithí Flynn said the end of funding would be an "attack on working class children".
"This funding helps to support additional youth work, allowing youth organisations to employ hundreds of workers in the most socially deprived communities across the north," she said.
"These youth workers carry out work which makes a huge positive difference to children's lives."
EA chief executive Gavin Boyd said as well as funding for core youth services, it had been provided with funding on a short term basis to support the delivery of additional youth initiatives.
This funding, he said, was reviewed annually and always subject to availability.
"As the youth budget for 2017/18 is not yet known, in line with statutory procedures, EA has written to the management committees of the relevant youth organisations to advise that the continuation of funding cannot yet be confirmed beyond March 2017," Mr Boyd said.
"It has been standard practice to place staff employed as part of funded initiatives on 'protective notice' until detailed budgets are confirmed. We note that this issue has caused some concern and would like to emphasise that no decision has yet been made in relation to funding for these initiatives nor has any proposal been made to end the funding."
Mr Weir said no decisions had been made on funding for organisations delivering extended, outreach and detached initiatives.
"No funding has been withdrawn, no decision has been taken to remove funding and there are no proposals to remove the funding," he said.