CARRICKMORE youth club has been notified by the Education Authority (EA) that children aged between five and eight-years-old will no longer be able to avail of the services it offers, a local councillor has said.
Speaking at the monthly meeting of Fermanagh and Omagh District Council, Cllr Catherine Kelly said she had been contacted by numerous residents in Carrickmore regarding the “ongoing development” at the EA-controlled youth centre.
The Sinn Féin councillor said, “Taking guidance from the ‘Priorities for Youth’ document, the EA have notified the youth club that young people from ages five to nine will no longer be able to avail of the centre and the programmes on offer.”
In a letter sent out to local parents and guardians, Eoin Ruddy, leader-in-charge at Carrickmore youth club, said that the changes had already been implemented within most EA youth centres to date.
He stated, “This change is beyond my control and a decision I do not agree with nor can challenge on my own.”
Mr Ruddy said that the club was going to appeal the decision, in order to keep the centre “open and accessible” for all junior young people.
Parents and other members of the local community in Carrickmore have been invited to attend an information evening in the youth centre on Monday, October 14, starting at 8.30pm, to discuss the issue.
Meanwhile, at the monthly meeting of the council, Cllr Kelly said that mental health experts believed the socialisation process that youth clubs provided for children was vital to their mental and physical wellbeing as they grow up.
She told the meeting that children were increasingly struggling with social skills, poor emotional regulation, anxiety and self-esteem
The Mid Tyrone councillor said, “The removal of facilities for our young children will ultimately result in the need for additional resources down the line to help what will then be young adults struggling to cope with much greater stresses such as crime, teen pregnancy, substance abuse, mental health challenges, suicide and so forth. Decisions on youth services should be guided by the ethos, ‘Spend Early, Save Later on’.”
Cllr Kelly proposed that the council write to Clare Mangan, the director of Children and Young People’s Services at the Education Authority for clarification on their policy and for a meeting.
She added, “The letter should also be sent to Fiona Hepper, the deputy Permanent Secretary for Education Policy and Children’s Services at the Department of Education.”