Calls for reinstatement of Belfast youth work team amid rise in trouble

Stock image of police in Falls Park
-Credit: (Image: Facebook: Police West Belfast)

A local MLA has called for the reinstatement of funding that supported a team of youth workers in West Belfast.

Sinn Féin's Danny Baker says due to a rise in anti-social behaviour in the area, he has spoken with the PSNI, community safety teams and council safety teams. He said "all of whom believe that the reestablishment of the West Belfast Detached Team would bring the necessary resources back into our communities to address these needs and believe this is the best model going forward".

The West Belfast Detached Team had to cease operations on March 31, 2023, after funding was not extended. The issue has been raised to the attention of the Education Minister.

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In a statement sent to Belfast Live, Mr Baker said: "Since the establishment of the team in April 2021 to when it ceased in March 2023 the project has made a significant impact on the lives of some of our most vulnerable children and young people who have limited access to support networks and socialise in our public spaces, communities and streets.

"The project made significant impact on the coordination, development and strategic delivery of detached and street based youth work across West Belfast by working closely alongside colleagues in youth work voluntary and community sector, the statutory sector and colleagues in Belfast City Council, PSNI, Translink, local post-primary schools and community safety teams.

"They also worked alongside elected officials, community reps, NIFRS, NIAS and more. The project was coined a "Model of Best Practice" by the partners and stakeholders involved.

"It ensured that the needs of street based young people were being met through the intentional and strategic delivery of detached youth work across West Belfast, making sure that each area of need had covering staff allocated, ensuring that hot spots and hot periods were covered effectively, by organising rotas, communication structures and developing modes of operation.

"They did all of this alongside the other 15 youth work staff in the area."

Mr Baker says that in the two year of operation, the West Belfast Detached Team worked with thousands of young people. He said speaking with groups, they are "crying out" for the reinstatement of the service, as reports of anti-social behaviour continues to increase.

Two weeks ago, a 15-year-old boy was knocked unconscious during a violent incident in Falls Park, with police still appealing for information and witnesses to come forward.

"This is only a small amount of great work that the West Belfast detached team were involved in when they were operating and the young people within our communities are crying out for this help to be reinstated," Danny added.

"It is just not the young people wanting this reinstated, the PSNI, local community groups and business owners are all asking for this to be reinstated. They saw the difference when it was there, now young people are feeling the repercussions without it.

"Reinstating the Detached Team is the best model for West Belfast."

Belfast Live contacted the Department for Education for a comment.

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