Social Democrats Councillor, and professional youth worker Aidan Farrelly has called for greater assurances from the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone, who this week refused to rule out funding cuts to the services offered to children and young people.
“It seems that youth services throughout Ireland are facing as turbulent a post-COVID future as the young people they support,” said Farrelly.
“It’s clear from this response that the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs has begun the process of handing over her portfolio to a yet unknown incumbent. The lack of assurances regarding funding coming from the Department are very concerning.”
“It has been suggested in some quarters recently that the Department of Children and Youth Affairs could, in its entirety, be wound down. Despite being met with rejection from organisations such as the National Youth Council of Ireland and the Children’s Rights Alliance – no assurances have been offered by the negotiating parties to suggest the Department, established in 2011 will remain in any new government.”
“We continue to treat young people in Ireland as though their needs, opinions and welfare are secondary to those who are of voting age. A simple review of the furore surrounding the Leaving Certificate points to a series of leaked water-cooler conversations and kite-flying exercises that showed no regard for the impact of decisions on young people’s mental health,” said Farrelly.
And yet whilst it’s clear thousands of young people will rely on a professional youth work intervention in the coming months, we can have no confidence that the sector isn’t in line for further funding cuts.
Following the 2008 recession, youth services saw upwards of 30% of their funding stripped away – and never restored. This happened in a time when organisations were asked to diversify their offerings to support initiatives focussed on youth unemployment, justice and health.
“In a time when the threat of youth unemployment looms of a possible return to 2012 rates of 30%, youth services are likely to be called upon once again to initiate a needs-based, relationship-focussed intervention with often unrivalled outcomes,” continued Farrelly.
“2020 is also the expiry date of the National Policy Framework Document ‘Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures’, so in many ways the nation is on the brink of having no strategic plan to meet the needs of children, young people and their families.”
“First things first – we need commitment from any new government that the Department of Children and Youth Affairs will remain, and that services working with young people won’t receive any funding cuts. I would then call on the new Minister to begin with immediacy the process of liaising with all stakeholders towards identifying a new Policy Framework for children and young people.”
10th June 2020