Northern Ireland governing bodies fail to consider children and young people’s rights in budget allocation

Date: 9th February 2024
Category: General measures of implementation

Budget book

 The Children’s Law Centre is challenging the Equality Commission over advice provided to relevant authorities in connection with the 2023-24 budget set by Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris. This budget, implemented in the absence of a Stormont Executive, involved significant cuts to education and school funding.

The Children’s Law Centre asserted that legal action became necessary after repeated calls for a reconsideration of the budget, contending that some cuts would disproportionately affect disadvantaged and disabled children. The court was informed of an alleged failure to comply with Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act, emphasising that a cumulative equality impact assessment was not properly considered before approving the draft budget.

The High Court was informed that governing bodies purportedly breached legal obligations to protect disadvantaged children before the establishment of a controversial "punishment" budget in Northern Ireland. Counsel for an organisation dedicated to safeguarding the rights of young people claimed procedural failures by the Secretary of State, Northern Ireland Office, and the Department of Finance.

Outside the court, a representative from the Children’s Law Centre emphasised that the case aims to protect young people from harm during future budgetary decisions, insisting on the necessity of following the correct legal procedures to prevent a recurrence of a so-called "punishment budget."