On April 7th, the Ormeau Road in Belfast was blocked by young people who use Rosario Youth Centre, along with their youth workers and hundreds from the local community, in order to show their determination to defend the centre from cuts.
Rosario is only one of many youth clubs and services under threat. In every part of Belfast, youth workers have told they are to be laid off and programs cuts as the funding for the Extended Youth Provision scheme runs out due to the political crisis at Stormont. This has been met with significant protests at the various youth centres and at the Education Authority headquarters.
We need immediate action to ensure that no jobs or services are lost. If the politicians can find money to plug the black hole in the RHI scheme or hand out tax breaks to big business, then there is enough money to fund these services for working class communities.
The precarious nature of work in the youth sector needs to be transformed. These cuts are not just a product of the political crisis in Stormont, they are happening because many youth workers are only given a one-year contract. This makes it hard for workers to get a mortgage, for example. The trade union movement should fight for these jobs to be properly funded long-term, with permanent contracts and a decent rate of pay.
At these protests, taking place during election campaigns, public representatives from the mainstream parties make themselves very visible. They are responsible for these cuts, both because of the political crisis which they have stirred up but also by not providing these workers with long term funding. They cannot be trusted. The youth workers, young people and local communities, backed by the trade union movement, have shown that they have the mettle to defend these services themselves. It is that strength they should rely on.