Education Minister, John O’Dowd has decided that all youth services funded by the Department of Education will in future be provided through the Education Authority.
The Minister made the announcement in a Written Statement to the Assembly.
He also published a “Summary Report of Responses to the Consultation on Proposals for the Future of the Youth Council.”
Acknowledging the work of the Council over the last 25 years, Minister O’Dowd said: “I want to record my appreciation for the excellent work the Youth Council has provided in supporting regional youth services and I thank everyone who responded to the consultation for their valuable contribution.
“I have considered all of the views expressed in the consultation including the concerns which have been expressed. However, I have decided that the creation of the Education Authority presents an opportunity which we should not miss. The establishment of the Education Authority earlier this year means there are two statutory bodies responsible for youth services, both now operating at a regional level.
“I have therefore decided that the Education Authority will take over full responsibility for the provision of all youth services funded by the Department. 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.
“I acknowledge that this has been an uncertain time for staff in the Youth Council, many of whom have delivered long service and shown the highest level of professionalism. Therefore, whilst TUPE arrangements do not apply, I have decided that staff currently employed by the Youth Council may transfer to the Education Authority under the TUPE principles. I also intend to launch a Voluntary Exit Scheme (VES) as soon as possible for Youth Council staff who would wish to consider it.
“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 Member should also have a role to play in advising and supporting that partnership, recognising their responsibilities in relation to providing encouragement and advice.
“It is my intention to seek Executive agreement to the drafting of a Bill to repeal the Youth Service (NI) Order 1989 to resolve the administrative effect of the creation of the EA. The effect of this legislation will be to wind up the Youth Council.”
In concluding, the Minister said: “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.”