DoJ Budget Meeting - Key Asks
That there is a recognition of the work that the Community and Voluntary Sector has done to rehabilitate offenders, youth work in areas of high deprivation and more generally improving outcomes for society; all of which have contributed to keeping levels of crime low. Like Scotland, Northern Ireland departments should consider what outcomes have been achieved from work delivered by the community and voluntary sector before making cuts. Furthermore, if jobs in the community and voluntary sector are lost due to the lack of funding available, the public sector loses the expertise and skills of those who have worked in those areas.
That the DOJ, when considering where to make the cuts to departments, should protect early intervention and prevention measures to ensure the Executive is not hit with a more expensive bill in five to ten years. The emphasis in the draft budget is on ‘front line services’ of prison and policing which will ultimately be under more pressure in the long run. Maintaining early intervention and preventative measures is also in keeping with the Programme for Government priority three commitments of:
- Reducing serious levels of crime
- Tackling crime against older and vulnerable people by more effective and appropriate sentences and other measures
- Improving community safety by tackling anti-social behaviour
- Introducing a package of measures aimed at improving Safeguarding Outcomes for children and vulnerable adults
That the DOJ makes every effort to engage with other departments when deciding where service provision will be cut. This was crucially important for the DOJ as when society starts to feel the impact of the cuts, it will be the department that feels the impact.
That the DOJ maintain the Juvenile Justice Centre model that had been fought so hard for by all involved in youth justice. Officials had assured delegates that the model would be maintained but the delivery of services may be affected across the different youth justice sectors.
DOJ should be doing a centralised Equality Impact Assessment (EQIA) as opposed to the current set up of each Non Departmental Public Body (NDPB) and the Department of Finance and Personnel (DFP) carrying out theirs. A stage has been missed to the detriment of vulnerable groups.
Key points from department:
The details had not been finalised but cuts to the departments were likely to impact on the community asset transfer scheme. Where departments were able to avail of money from sales of property to fund services, they may opt for that option.
A key ministerial priority is to protect frontline services so the PSNI budget had been the lightest hit by cuts. However, as the PSNI budget is the largest budgetary benefactor by a significant margin, the smaller percentage will still hit the service hard.
The £200 million security funding granted by the Treasury to DOJ is over a four year term and can only be spent on matters pertaining to national security.
The DOJ budget is complicated by the multiple agencies working within it (14 NDPBs). Each of these NDPBs will produce a savings delivery plan in keeping with their section 75 commitments and carry out a ‘high level equality screening’ it before feeding it back into the department. It is worth noting that a ‘high level equality screening’ does not have to be consulted on whilst an EQIA does.
The DOJ is seeking a bilateral conversation with the DHSSPS to ensure there is strategic direction in the chosen cuts to services. This will focus on cross cutting areas of responsibility such as the Domestic Violence and Sexual Violence Strategy.
The department was aware that this was a short term approach and admitted that it did lack the strategic direction that longer term budgets could have. However, the department did admit that although the budget was for one year, these cuts would be establishing longer term cuts given the forecasted austerity measures ahead.
The Legal Aid Bill is not cut and there has not been anything taken from ‘scope’ (entitlement criteria). The savings and measures to reform legal aid over the last number of years had only impacted the legal sector which is the highest publicly paid sector in the western world.
The department needs the input of the community and voluntary sector to envisage more innovative ways of delivering services within tighter budgets.
The department needed to ensure their cuts did not jeopardise European funding available for the Executive.