04/11/2012 Sunday Politics Northern Ireland


Mark Carruthers looks at the political developments of the week and questions policy makers on the key issues.

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Anton Sunday Politics in Northern Ireland. Thousands of young people


here cannot find a job, we are asking why a scheme that helps them


Apology for the loss of subtitles for 2060 seconds


Hello and welcome to Sunday Politics. 24,000 young people here


are out of work and that is the highest in the UK. Reducing this


figure is a priority for the Executive but it is planning to


change a scheme that encourages young people to stay in education.


Student representatives say any cuts would be catastrophic. We ask


the employment Minister if the Executive is failing our young


people. You can do it in Argentina, Brazil and even the Isle of Man, so


should 16 year-olds be able to vote. 16 year-olds can buy a lot of


tickets and joined the Army. We are looking ahead to the US election


and we are joined by two fresh- faced politicians.


The Education Maintenance Allowance allows up to �30 per week to


encourage 16 to 19 year-olds to stay in school. Proposed changes


would reduce the grants that are targeted at low-income families.


Student groups are opposed and say it will lead to massive numbers of


young people dropping out of education. Stephen Farry is with me


now. Thank you for joining us. Youth unemployment is its huge


problem, far worse than it is in the rest of the UK, why are you


proposing such wholesale changes to a scheme which helps young people


stay off the unemployment register and in education? Let us break this


down. First of all, youth unemployment is clearly an issue in


Northern Ireland. In some respects we are better than in the situation


in the Republic of Ireland and in the European Union, but this is a


major challenge for society. Youth unemployment here is 23.5%. When


you look at that, it does not equate to one in four people being


unemployed, that equates to people looking for work. We have a higher


participation rate in higher education in Northern Ireland, so


in practice one in seven young people is out of work. That is a


major challenge and that is why we have introduce the youth employment


scheme. We are now investing more than any other part of the UK in


helping a young people stay close to the labour market and to find


opportunities for them to get work experience and to get that chance


to compete with other workers. These people are not in employment


or education or training and they need help. They do. We are


investing in resources for them. The investment is investing �40


million in youth unemployment and that is a bigger package than is


available in any other part of the UK. Let us focus on the Education


Maintenance Allowance. There are a number of options. People who work


with students and represent them say that this will be catastrophic.


That is overdoing it. That is the dramatic language they're using. In


practice, they are engaging with us and they responded to our


consultation. We're open to alternative ideas, but the reality


is we have to find some savings and we are doing other investments for


young people so this must be taken in the round. Why do you have to


find savings? You got �13.8 million of money for a youth employment


scheme. Why are you getting extra money in one bit of your budget but


losing money in another? We have to spend scarce resources where they


will make the biggest difference in helping young people. The reality


is that this game, the evidence shows it is not effective in


keeping young people in education, almost two-thirds of young people


say it does not make any difference. A survey was carried out which


disagreed. I have the statistics. It suggests it does keep young


people in education and encourage them to stay there and it helps


them. We can argue over the precise scale of the statistics, but we are


not seeking to abolish the scheme, it has been abolished in England,


in Scotland and Wales they have reformed it. We're talking about a


minimal changes compared to elsewhere. We want to keep it and


make sure it applies to the young people for whom it makes a


difference and remove it for those for whom it does not make a


difference. Do you accept that there will be young people


currently in receipt of the allowance who will lose it are


having scaled back and that that potentially will have an impact on


them? It should not. If the scheme is reformed correctly, it will


focus on those for whom it makes a difference. We will remove the dead


weight from the system. What does that mean? Where we are spending


money, where it is not making a difference, there is other things


we can do with those resources. Look at what we are doing regarding


tuition fees. We have frozen them in Northern Ireland and that makes


a huge difference to young people. We have a new widening access


strategy insuring that people from disadvantaged backgrounds have a


chance to access and gain from an education. We have extended and new


training allowance, for those people who are or on a European


Social Fund type schemes. We're the only part of the UK that has a


training allowance for those on training for success. We do a lot


more regarding this allowance been other parts of the UK. Can you give


me a profile of the student currently and receipt of the


alliance he will lose that and not be in some way affected? There are


three different thresholds. Per week that is. We are looking at


various options for reform, the five options in the consultation


which closed last Friday, we will seek to look at those options and


see how the public have responded to those and we will look at other


ideas that come through and to see how we can actually target the


available resources were it will have the biggest impact. It is for


those young people who do needed as an incentive to stay on in


education, it will be there. For those for whom it is not making a


difference, we want to address that. We understand that. I am sure


everyone would support that part of the plan. The difficulty is those


individuals who are going to Lusaka, they may feel that they are losing


out and they may choose to leave the courses they are on because


they feel they cannot afford to stay. If that happens, you will


have got this wrong. The that could be a by-product of your action.


Before the allowance was introduced, Northern Ireland had the highest


participation rates in education and we still have those rates and I


expect that will remain the case. The evidence shows from the survey


we conducted, it was an independent body, which shows that almost two-


thirds of young people, this is not making a difference. We want to


focus at on those who find it does make a difference. Have you got


reservations about the tinkering about his proposed or are you


relaxed about them getting it right? And I am comfortable with


this because there were recent statistics that showed a huge bulk


of people who were in receipt of this allowance, it was spent on


social activities. The idea that this allowance, if it was reformed


and fewer people were getting it, that this would be a catastrophic


blow that would discourage young people from stain on in education...


It is a waste of public resources? I think it is dead weight in the


system. The resources can be targeted more effectively to Jenny


Wyley encourage people who do find barriers in the wake to their


education to stay on in education. I come from a working-class family


and I was encouraged to stay on in education, I did not need a state


handout to encourage me to stay on. There are people out there who do


encounter obstacles... You could be in the child with many siblings.


do have many siblings. There are families were there may be a number


of children in a household and parents cannot give the kind of


support to several children that they bite be able to give to one.


have two sisters and a brother and I came from a family were we were


all encouraged to continue in education. I do not necessarily


think that a blanket handing out of taxpayers' money in the way that


the system is currently weighted represents good value for money.


you have reservations? No, I support the retention of the


allowance. I think there is a clear link between social disadvantage


and educate -- educational attainment. There is a need for


intervention of some sort to encourage young people and give an


incentive to stay on in education particularly in these economic


times. It is important for young people to get qualifications to


make them more employable. Your colleague is working closely with


Stephen Farry to negotiate a path through this change. If the change


to the allowance targeted those in most need and left out are those


who do not need it, that would be better, we Det? Like every scheme


are there has to be a review to see how effective it is. The students


that I have talked who are worried about the changes and are confused


about what will happen and it is important that we have that


incentive for people. I know that Sinn Fein are in favour of it and I


have yet to be convinced that any of the options in the consultation


will be better. She is yet to be convinced. Yes, we will have to


review what comes back from the consultation. We do have to find


savings across a range of different programmes. We have to shift


resources from weather been used inefficiently to where they can


make a difference. When savings are found, they will be reinvested in


young people, they will not be put into another area of government


activity. This is about investing in young people and we're doing


more than anywhere else in the UK on this issue. Stay with us. Thank


you. We are going to move on to another issue, should 16 euros get


the vote? In Scotland it will get the opportunity to vote in the


independence referendum. Sinn Fein and the Green Party think the time


is right to lower the voting age here and have raised the issue. We


caught up with some young people on a visit to Stormont this week to


see what they thought. I do not think there is any difference.


There is no difference in maturity levels. What is the difference?


do not believe that 16 year-olds have the responsibility to make an


informed decision about who should represent them because I think


they're more likely to be swayed by things like fashion or how they


appear and will not look into the candidates. I think it would bring


a more into education and people would know more about it. You can


buy a lottery ticket and joined the army so why should she not be able


to vote? They should have the right to voice their opinion. It is a


difficult enough question it occurs some people are more mature than


others. It raises issues of quality. Ageism is a huge thing right now.


It is reverse ageism. Reverse ageism. There you go. The Assembly


motion is in fact signed in your name. It is due to be discussed on


Tuesday. Why do you think 16 euros here should be voting? I think it


is about giving young people a voice, giving them the ability to


take part in the democratic process and have at the right to vote. We


have an opportunity to send out a message that young people, their


voice matters, and it is as relevant as anyone else's. There is


as serious issue of apathy among young people that has to be


addressed. By lowering the voting age we conspire in interest and may


be grounds for future political engagement which is essential for


the future. A what is wrong with that? Statistics show that the


lowest turnout at election time is amongst people aged between 18 and


25. The argument that is being put forward is that if we lower it,


that will in some way address apathy and increase turnout. If the


people two years older are not voting, why would the people


younger than that be more inclined to vote? Perhaps they feel that


they're not being taken seriously and if you say that we do care we


think and let 16 year-olds boat, they would feel that they are being


listened to and that people want to hear their voice and they would go


out to vote. You were politically active when you were a teenager.


think that that is a challenge for political parties to demonstrate


that they take young people seriously and certainly my own


party, my experience has been that every young person comes forward


who has interest and talent they will be encouraged. So why not let


them vote early? I think that there is a false premise on which the


argument that reducing the age to 16 will in some way inspire young


people or increase turnout, I do not see that based on strong


evidence. Is there evidence for it? He is right when he says the 18 to


25 year olds are generally do tend to be pretty apathetic. In parts of


Austria were you can vote at 16, the turnout has been a lot higher.


My whole issue with this is that there should be a vote of


confidence in young people. Young people are mature enough and


informed enough and articulate and smart enough to make informed


decisions. Politicians deal with issues, we have just discussed the


Education Maintenance Allowance, issues are being discussed that


affect young people so why should they not have a say and a vote is


one of the best ways that anyone can influence what happens. Your


party is broadly supportive of this? The Liberal Democrats are


supportive as well. We should be supporting the motion on Tuesday.


We have a crisis of democracy at the moment were young people are


not voting at the same volumes as their older peers. I do not see any


difficulty in extending the franchise if it encourages young


people to participate at an earlier stage, that is a good thing. We're


looking at a whole range of issues that affect young people, it is


important that they have their say, they can pay taxes at that age,


they can marry, they can have children, they can join the armed


forces... Can I say on that, one of the younger people there raised an


idea, I think we should have an increased role of citizenship


classes in schools, whereby people understand the value of the vote


and the way it can make a difference. That is interesting.


Thank you. Now it was half-term at Stormont


but even though there was no business in the chamber, our


politicians were busy. Here is our correspondent at the political wick


macro. -- Week in 60 Seconds. In the Commons, the Prime Minister


paid tribute to the army medic killed in Afghanistan. I think you


stroke -- e spoke strongly and movingly on it and I think he is


right that those in the medical regiment do a fantastic job. It has


been an honour and privilege for me to meet some of them. Also at West


Minister the government to, as rebels joined Labour to vote down


the EU budget. They were helped by the DUP who hailed it as historic.


In Belfast and you play opened based on the life of a new


firebrand preacher politician called Ian Paisley. This city of


culture gets a makeover. Hundreds of thousands of pounds even in the


course of this year, for their heritage buildings, the listed


buildings that so fully define the character of this great city.


The tragedy of the past week of course it was the murder of David


Black. That United local politicians in condemnation. It did


more than unite politicians, it united the whole community. They


are determined that these criminals will not be allowed to drag


Northern Ireland backwards. Too many people have lived through the


violence in the past and we do not want to go back to that. The war


you pleased to see Martin McGuinness standing with Peter


Robinson condemning what happened. Absolutely. My heart goes out to


them. It is important that we stand shoulder to shoulder with each


other and show that there is no appetite in society for this.


you. One final subject for us, the American presidential election is


on Tuesday, the campaign was suspended as Super Storm Sandy


wreaked havoc. According to polls, it is a close call, but no matter


who it is, Northern Ireland is certainly not on the political


radar on the way it used to be. Let us look back at a time when trips


across the Atlantic were And so I ask you to build on the


opportunity you have before you, to believe that the future can be


better than the past, to work together because you have so much


more to gain by working together I welcome you here. I congratulate


you for seizing the moment and That certainly brings back memories,


it will probably not be like that anymore. You are a big fan of Mitt


Romney, so I can say you are a Republican. A You are absolutely


right. The election, any person who says they know how what will go is


telling you lies. It is neck and neck. I think there are poles all


over the place and I think it is a genuine cliffhanger and I do not


know how it will go. One do you think that is? I think the


circumstances are or, people in 2008 were prepared to give hope and


change a real chance and over the course of the past four years and


of a lot of people who thought there would be hope and changed


think it has been more of the same and feel are disillusioned. It is a


bit like 2004, you have an incumbent president who is not


entirely popular, but you have an opponent whose huge chunk of the


electorate are not persuaded on and it is then into genuine neck and


neck territory in that regard. depends how many people bother to


turn out and of course Super Storm Sandy could impact on that. Do you


have a hunch if you have to plump one way or another? I am of the


opinion that it is up to the American people to -- at who they


decide on. President Obama's policies are more progressive, but


it is up to the American people. Sinn Fein have had a good


relationship with all the administrations and we hope we can


continue the work with the peace process and encourage investment in


Ireland. To come back to young people, do you think of that them


of voting would have a big bearing? When you take Ohio, there are so


many people here who are undecided that at this stage it will come


down to what actually happens on the day President Obama I think so.


Young people tend to have more liberal views so that might have an


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