Department for Employment & Learning publishes draft Departmental Savings Plan

Mr Benjamin Franklin once wrote, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”

Well in the upcoming Assembly budgets, nothing can be said to be certain except cuts, cuts and yet more cuts.

The Department for Employment and Learning has published its draft Departmental Savings Plan in relation to the 2015/16 budget. Personally, I have been working in education for the last seven years, at Higher Education level, in the community, with adults and young people, and, most recently, for a local Further Education college. So, the piece on BBC Newsline yesterday from outside BMC Millfield is obviously of concern to me. The question, I imagine, is if it should be of much concern to anyone else.

The Minister for Employment and Learning, Stephen Farry, had this to say:

“The level of cuts being proposed for the Department is unprecedented and this will have far reaching and deep implications across all of the Department’s provision. The potential measures will impact on the universities, colleges and other sectoral training providers and will almost certainly result in a reduction in places offered to train and educate our young people. I am asking the public to respond by 29 December 2014.”

These cuts mean that young people leaving school will have limited places at universities, colleges and training providers to progress on to, and, as a result, many will fall through the net, not qualifying for a place or not getting a space on an over subscribed course, leaving them cast adrift in a labour market which is low on jobs and high in graduates filling everything from retail and service level positions upwards. The cuts mean that the quality of the training and education on offer will inevitably be negatively impacted on both for people leaving school or adults who want to return to education and training to up-skill and develop their prospects for employment.

Either way, have your say. The full DEL Draft Budget is available to read online here and completed consultation responses should be emailed to:

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  • Dan

    Let the minister lead the way with a 10% reduction in his salary and let each and every person employed by his department and across the sector follow suit.

  • salmonofdata

    Worth noting that the cuts are even worse than they appear at first – the £82m of cuts exclude £35m in youth skills programmes that are due to expire, but were intended to be replaced with similar schemes. When you include the £35m, the total cuts amount to £117m, or 14.8%. This would make it the highest cut in any government department, ahead of Finance and Personnel (10.9%) and the Environment (11.1%).

    The proposed cut in Corporation tax is ostensibly aimed at attracting high-tech and multinational companies to bring new jobs to Northern Ireland. But these companies are going to base themselves where they have access to a well trained and highly educated workforce. Paying for a Corporation tax cut by raiding the Education budget is like buying a gold plated cart and then shooting the horse.

  • I spent this afternoon teaching a GCSE class in a Belfast Women’s Centre. The women in this class are both local and from all around the world. Many have young children. The centre I was in, like many other women’s centres, offers free creche places, after school clubs and are situated in communities around the city, meaning people don’t have to travel far to get to the classes. They offer a wide variety of training from basic Entry Level skills up to GCSE, classroom-based and vocational. They, like many other centres I have been working with for both adults and young people, have all been told that they face huge reductions in funding or a withdrawal of funding altogether. The lucky projects that retain some funding will not be able to offer qualifications above a Level 1. They will face financial penalties if some students don’t complete the year. Students, no matter how vulnerable, socially isolated and struggling, are supposed to be directed to FE colleges, which do not have free creche places for every course, don’t offer the same degree of wraparound support and are not always conveniently situated to women who have several young children and can’t drive.

    I am far from a political master strategist but this looks like an extremely questionable decision with long reaching and devastating consequences to people who rely on these programmes.

    But….They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?

  • The minister…and then the OFMDFM budget too perhaps?

  • Zeno3

    OFMDFM’s staff costs come to £16.6 million which is over £2 million more than it costs us for all 108 MLA’s and their expenses, OFMDFM have almost 400 staff. I do wonder what they all do and how they manage to fit in one office.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I’d be interested in just how many OBEs there are among the advisorary staff of the OFMdFM. I’d got the impression that that was what they were doing principally, collecting OBEs, etc. But that’s anecdotal, like my story over on another thread about Charlie Haughey, so if anyone actually knows the number of awards so far collected……..

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Its the old walking and chewing gum problem. One thing at a time to actually think about please.

    Did anyone other than Peter Robinson and the gang see “Field of Dreams”? “Build it and they will come…..”

  • Dan

    I quite agree. All of them…in fact, perhaps the two jet setters ought to set a better example with a 20% cut

  • Yet would anyone miss the illustrious personages of FM/DFM if they gave up the jetsetting? I don’t know. I’d say we will miss our community education when it’s gone, not to mention the choice of courses and teachers in FE / HE when they are gone too. Ah well. Cuts.

  • I wonder if anyone will take you up on the offer to set a good example for greater good etc? No? Anyone?

  • I can’t speak to the number of OBEs among them, Seaan, but to put things into context, Zeno3 is right – there are close enough to 400 staff members in there, pretty much twice the number David Cameron employs…

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Yes, W[r]iteNoise, the classes would be missed, and all they can do to open up something more important than devisive politics to real people’s real lives. The money was seldom prioratised for people even before the cuts, not when important people had to swan about to meet with other important people and have important photo opportunities to show us all what important things they were doing. I had too much time out there with advertising, marketing and film to ever start believing the hype they are trying to sell us all.

    But this jealous guarding of the machine of governance’s absolute access to first dip in the purse while everything else is cut to the bone………..

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Yes, I’d watched from the wings as all the important committees created by constant need for expert advice absorbed academics into the system up on the hill, and all the noted “talent” was picked up and retained by the OFMdFM, which just grew and grew. I know a few of the lucky winners in this surge to collect posts and retainers.

    One of old mentors, the Bollingen ex “Crown Prince” who turned down the opportunity to succeed Jung, James Hillman, once wrote a book provocatively titled “We’ve Had a Hundred Years of Psychotherapy – And the World’s Getting Worse”. You’d think that such a galaxy of talent at the OFMdFM would have solved all our political problems by now, what with the enormous amount of money doled out, for, yes, twice the number of experts Cameron feels he needs to call on. That’s why the OFMdFM budget is so astronomical. But there are a lot of well placed, important people with excellent cvs involved who are indispensible now! I think they call it “ring fenced”.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Indeed so, but let’s consider how much money DETI gets to spend subsidizing industries to come to Belfast, and how much money DEL themselves wasted on subsidizing ICT courses the local ICT sector was too cheapskate to try to pay for themselves. If we are to tackle welfare reform, we need to tackle the corporate welfare that is easily handed out by the DUP and the Alliance Party to their interests on the East of the Bann!