Alex Easton MLA has been deeply angered to hear about the way the SEELB have treated learning disability children and parents who attend the Balymagee Youth Centre.

Speaking today Alex Easton MLA said:

“I have been approached by many concerned parents who are deeply concerned and upset at the way their children have been treated by the SEELB who have changed the way the format of the Ballymagee Youth Centre operates without any proper consultation with a majority of the parents

The children who attend the a Ballymagee youth Centre all have learning disabilities and have been attending the youth Centre with the age range covering 14-24. In September when the children went to register the ones that were aged over 19 were told they could no longer attend as the age had been changed to 12-19. As you can imagine the children were deeply upset as they had no notice of any change. Parents have contacted the (seelb youth service) to ask for an explanation and why we hadn’t been consulted.

The new provision is to separate the ages into two groups 12-19 from 6.30 until 8pm and the 20-25 (those who have left school) from 8-9.30pm. The point of contention is that parents don’t want to separate the children. They have grown together through their school years and are like one big family who trust each other.

Parents have sought answers on the following issues

– formal procedure governing this consultation

– selection of service users for participation in the consultation

– refusal by SEELB to attend or facilitate public meetings on this matter despite numerous requests from concerned parents

– lack of transparency on consultation progress and outcomes

– the basis for any decisions made altering the services

– why there has been no announcement of the findings of the consultation exercise

– expected benefits of proposed changes to service provision to the young people and families who use these service

– details of how the proposed senior and junior groups will interact, specifically how the ‘mentoring and leadership’ opportunities will work in practice

– details of proposed staffing levels available to meet the overall extended hours

– how this change will affect those young people who registered in September aged 19 but are now 20

“It is quite clear that there has been a lack of consultation or thought gone into this process and I am today seeking a meeting with the Chief Executive of the SEELB to try and get answers as to why this has been allowed to happen and what they will do to rectify the situation.”