A senior youth worker has spoken out about the “broken promises” and “deceitful” rhetoric of the Education Authority during an ongoing issue surrounding the appropriation of next year’s budget.
Tyrone I spoke with Barry McGinley – of Dungannon Youth Resource Centre – in December 2022 when the proposed ‘cuts’ were first announced.
However, Barry has now vented his frustration about the changing rhetoric and ‘Machiavellian’ approach of the Education Authority to discussion surrounding the reducing budget.
Barry explained: “When we approached the Education Authority about the matter they came back to say that there are no cuts. But the simple fact is, our budget is not the same as it was last year. We are less £30,000 with no project specification to apply for.
“There is a re-allocating of funds. The Education Authority are holding the purse strings and taking money from our service and putting this towards their own administration costs.”
Ill-feeling towards the Education Authority has not just been borne out of their refusal to address the budgetary issues head on but also out of their refusal to engage directly with the Voluntary Youth services and out of frustration owing to “inconsistent and poor communication”.
Of this, Barry said: “Without warning our funding has been removed. When we initially spoke out about this, the EA attempted to assuage our concerns by saying it was all ‘grapevine talk’ and that the cuts wouldn’t be imposed.
“No one contacted our Board of Trustees to provide insight or warning. There was no communication. We sent emails but received no replies.”
Barry insists that promises continue to be made but are never upheld.
As advised, Barry awaited the project specification in January – for which he must apply in order to receive funding – but was once again left deflated when no specification arrived for the Mid Ulster area.
The specification for the project they were hoping to apply for was specifically for newcomers but sadly the third biggest population of newcomers in the north are neglected. Instead, the bulk of opportunity was given to the Belfast and Derry/Londonderry areas.
Barry further explained that there was additionally a comprehensive local and national needs assessment process completed by Education Authority and the expressed needs cited for the Dungannon (and entire Mid-Ulster area) have also been ignored.
He states that the message was clear at this point: “The needs of all these young people don’t matter, Health and Well-being projects offered out in the two main cities while the rest of us languish in despair.
“Shame on you EA, an absolute shame and we will not lie down.
“This makes a mockery of the needs of children and young people. They deserve better and we will make sure they get it”.
Several elected representatives share similar concern and have opted to take the issue forward on Barry’s behalf, chiefly Councillors Barry Monteith and Colm Gildernew, who met with Youth Alliance members via zoom to discuss funding on January 31.
Whilst, Barry states that he is ‘exhausted’ by his efforts to fight the funding reallocation he insists that he won’t give up yet. He said: “It’s been really tough work so far. The kids are even seeing the toll and asking if there is anything they can do.
“The way I see it, those that shout loudest get the most and if it means following suit with Belfast and Derry in taking a stand by protest then that’s what we will do”.