Alliance Education Spokesman, Cllr Eileen Bell, speaking at last Friday’s Debate at the Forum on the government’s decision to scrap the ACE Schemes said:
“Over the last number of months, this Forum has debated and discussed its concerns over various government proposals on Health, Education, Social and Economic issues and the Elderly. This latest initiative to abolish the ACE Schemes is another example of the government’s basic intention to undermine those who are most disadvantaged in our society and confirms the impression that their overall policy seems to be the “survival of the fittest”.
“The ACE Schemes were designed specifically for the long term unemployed, a section of our people that have been called “the forgotten”. While it is accepted that the Schemes were not perfect they did obviously bring a feeling of self worth and esteem to those people who through not fault of their own were not able to get full-time or even permanent employment.
“Society in general also benefits from ACE workers and in my own area of North Down I do know that there are a large number of small but significant schemes in communities like Kilcooley, Holywood etc. that will have to go to the wall if these Schemes are cut back. This will have reprecussions with old peoples’ lunch clubs, visiting the elderly and mothers and toddlers groups to name but a few.
“I do urge the Training & Employment Agency to acceed to the request from the Northern Ireland Federation of ACE Schemes to release the document which outlines the review of the system and should have been issued some time ago. I also urge Baroness Denton to have a serious re-think about this proposal and realise that it is not just the ACE workers that will suffer but whole communities.”