Update on Policy Issues for those in Youth Work in Ireland 
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Policy Brief

March 2017

DCYA and Government’s Brexit Consultation  

It is widely accepted that Ireland will be the country most dramatically affected by Brexit economically, socially and otherwise. The Government has put together a major response involving all departments and all sectors of society. Central to this has been the concept of a civil dialogue where the Government consults with a variety of interests about this topic. After initial meetings Departments sponsored sectoral events which focussed in on their specific areas.

The DCYA event took place on January 30th in Croke Park with several organisations represented and young people form the Comhairle na nOg Executive. The event highlighted issues such as co-operation on crimes against children, funding schemes such as ERASMUS+ and issues related to free movement. The Government held another civic dialogue event on February 17th to gather all the findings together and hear from a variety of participants in the field f politics, public administration and affected fields.

Speech by Katherine Zappone 

BIPA Process on Brexit

Youth Work Ireland has separately been engaged in an ERASMUS+ project with Youth Action Northern Ireland, UK Youth, Young Scotland and Youth Cymru. This work was primarily aimed at the British Irish Parliamentary Assembly which met in November in Cardiff. The project however involves follow up by young people with decision makers in their own jurisdictions on issues like Brexit but also other youth issues connected to transport, the environment, mental health and others.

The BIPA Asks


Parliamentary Questions

Youth Service Funding
Garda Youth Diversion Projects
EU Youth Guarantee
Youth Unemployment
Job Seekers Allowance for Young People
New Internship Programme

Child Marriage 

The recently published Domestic Violence Bill contained provisions to prohibit the concept of child marriage” The Bill aims to further prevent domestic violence and give greater access to the courts for those affected. The Bill also repeals previous exemptions on the age of marriage to be 18 and provides for the voice of the child to be heard in any relevant proceedings consistent with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Irish Constitution. Much of the work in advance of this bill was carried out by Senators Jillian Van Turnhout and Ivanna Bacik.

The measure was welcomed by NGOs including the ISPCC whose CEO Grainnia Long saying; “Allowing a child to marry at a young age can have emotional, psychological and legal consequences. Of the child marriages reported by the CSO, in some cases there was a significant age differential, and in several cases both parties were minors. Most were young girls.

Numerous international legal instruments prohibit forced and child marriage, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the United Nations Convention on Consent to Marriage, Minimum Age for Marriage and Registration of Marriages, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. Child marriage is wrong.”

ISPCC Release 

Children’s Rights Report Card

The Children’s Rights Alliance produces an annual report card which is the definitive view on how the Government is performing in delivering on its obligations to children and young people. Report Card 2017 contains information up to the end of January 2017. The Government is awarded an overall ‘D+’ grade, reflecting a barely acceptable performance to date with little or no positive impact on children.

2017 marks the ninth edition of the annual Report Card series, launched in 2009. Report Card 2016 marked the final year of the five-year Fine Gael/Labour coalition Government and examined the commitments in the Programme for Government 2011-2016. Over its lifetime, the previous Government was awarded on average a ‘C’ grade overall. This reflects several vital commitments it fulfilled for children, such as the establishment of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs with a seat at the cabinet table, a standalone department and Tusla, the Child and Family Agency as well as holding the Children’s Referendum to insert the rights of children into the Irish Constitution. The grade also reflects areas in which challenges remained at the end of the Government’s term such as child poverty, child and family homelessness and Traveller and Roma Children.

The Report Card

Travellers Ethnic Identify

The Government has recently decided to recognise Travellers as a separate ethnic group.

Traveller children are more than three and a half times more likely to die in infancy than non-Travellers. Traveller children leave school an average of five years earlier than non-Travellers. Almost six out of ten Travellers live in overcrowded accommodation. Many Travellers in mobile or temporary accommodation have no access to water and sanitation.

Youth Work Ireland has been responding to understanding barriers young Travellers face in accessing youth work services as evidenced by the “Nexus” research company as well as developing practical tools for youth work services to enhance and improve services for young Travellers. While youth services operate many Traveller projects they still see the need to improve their accessibility and ensure they have strong policies and procedures to ensure this.

Travellers are one of the most discriminated against groups in Irish society and this has huge impact on young Travellers. The social and economic exclusion young Travellers face leads to huge issues and problems for them. Youth projects need to develop specific strategies and outreach to ensure they can continue to work with this key group. A specific took box has been developed through the Youth Work Ireland lead ERASMUS+ Funded project which can make a big difference to the future of this work

Taoiseach’s Statement  

Public Health Alcohol Bill

The saga of the Public Health Alcohol Bill has been a long standing one. The previous Government introduced this Bill to give long awaited effect to the provisions of the National Substance Misuse Strategy. The Bill was widely considered to be a significant watering down of the recommendations of the strategy for example in relation to pricing and advertising. The provisions on minimum pricing were one positive aspect of the legislation. However, these have now been subjected to a concerted lobby by the drinks industry and have considerably slowed the progress of the Bill which is itself a compromise.

The National Youth Council of Ireland (NYCI) recently welcomed a statement by Minister of State for Mental Health and Older People, Helen McEntee, reiterating her support for the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill and highlighting the impact alcohol is having on the mental health of young people in Ireland. Mary Cunningham, Director of the NYCI and a member of the National Taskforce on Youth Mental Health said "The facts around alcohol harm are chilling. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) for example, alcohol is a contributory factor in half of all suicides. And we know that suicide is the leading cause of death here among young Irish men aged 15 to 24. This legislation aims to reduce the damage that alcohol causes to individuals, families and society, with a particular focus on protecting children and young people from alcohol harm. It is vital that it passes and that we do not let business interests prevail at the cost of our young people’s wellbeing.”

NYCI Statement 

State of the Nation’s Children Report

The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr Katherine Zappone TD, recently published the State of the Nation's Children Report: Ireland 2016.  This is the sixth such report since 2006, and was compiled by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs with data contributions from a broad range of government departments, agencies and research organisations. The State of the Nation's Children Report presents administrative, survey and Census data on children’s lives. It focuses on outcomes in key areas such as health and education, as well as social, emotional and behavioural outcomes.  The report also focuses on children’s relationships with family and friends, along with formal and informal supports and services.
Some of the positive findings highlighted in the report include;

  • The proportion of children who have never smoked cigarettes continues to rise
  • The percentage of children taking cannabis has declined
  • The number of graduates working in early years education and care continues to rise, helping improve quality of provision.

Irish teenagers continue to perform well in OECD-PISA international comparisons on literacy, maths and science

The Report 

Votes at 16 Private Members Bill 

Sinn Fein tabled a private Members bill in the Seanad providing for the extension of the franchise to 16 and 17 year olds. Many in the youth and children's sector believe the bill is a key initiative in engaging young people at an early age in the political process and establishing a habit of engagement. It is also felt that there could be great potential for the reinvigoration of political participation, for example through voting in schools and associated political education. The bill also recognised that much change can be achieved without a referendum in this area serving as a “pilot” for constitutional change in the future if things work well in the locals and European elections. The bill did not pass due to Fine Gael and Fianna Fail opposition which has put the matter back to the end of the year.

Sinn Fein Release
The Bill

LGBT Symposium  

Youth Work Ireland recently held a symposium to explore youth work with LGBT+ young people in Ireland and provide participants with practical information they could use to develop services for LGBT+ young people. The event gave space to some big picture discussion on how the LGBT+ youth strategy may impact on work with young people.

There is now a considerable body of youth work practice experience in working with LGBT+ young people in Ireland that can be usefully reviewed, reflected upon and shared as valuable evidence. At the same time, there are still services and practitioners looking for support and resources to implement work with LGBT+ young people. Additionally, The Department of Children and Youth Affairs has committed to develop the first LGBT+ Youth Strategy and it was timely that the sector comes together to discuss this area of work.

Symposium Notice

The EU Youth Conference of the Maltese Presidency   

The Youth Conference is a headline event of each EU presidency. It brings together policy makers, young people and relevant stakeholders to consider and discuss youth policy development and implementation. It also affords young people the opportunity to inform and influence policy makers on the issues that are impacting on their lives. The Structured Dialogue between young people and policy makers is a central feature of each Youth Conference. This year's conference at Buġibba marked the conclusion of the 5th cycle of the Structured Dialogue process.  A joint session with the European Commission took place during the Conference.

The Youth Conference during the Maltese Presidency focussed on the third and concluding phase of the 5th cycle of the Structured Dialogue process “Ready for life, ready for society - Enabling all young people to engage in a diverse, connected and inclusive Europe”. The Youth Conference discussed and developed practical measures for implementing the recommendations resulting from the consultation of young people conducted during the Slovak Presidency and will also propose an implementation toolbox.

Information from the Maltese Presidency

Oireachtas Committee on Children and Youth Affairs 

The Joint Committee examined the issue of cyber security for children and young adults at its meeting in February. The Committee head from the ISPCC on various issues in this field including, social media, illegal activity, harassment, bullying, grooming, isolation and other areas. Attention was drawn to the recent report of the Law Reform Commission on these issues and their recommendation that cyber staling be made an offence. The ISPCC indicated that one in three of all the cases it deals with through its various services contain an online dimension. 

The Committee also considered governance and control procedures in Tusla with Fred Mc Bride the CEO of TusLa and other staff. Much of the presentations covered historical allegations and associated matters. TusLa emphasised the high volume of cases it deals with in terms of responding to controversy on some recent high profile failures. The Committee also discussed youth service funding and welcomed recent increases and expressed an interest in the spatial distribution of funding

The Committee Debate  

Child Poverty 

Concern is being expressed that not enough is being done to reduce child poverty. The recent CSO survey of incomes and living conditions showed little progress in this area. The figures relate to 2015 and show a slight drop from the 2014 figure of 8.8%.

It revealed the 2015 ‘at risk of poverty’ rate was 16.9%, down from 17.2% in 2014. This relates to the share of people whose income was less than 60% of the national median income and was down from 17.2% in 2014. The percentage of people considered to be experiencing ‘enforced deprivation’ was 25.5%, also down from 29% in 2014.”

Enforced deprivation is defined as not being able to afford two or more basics such as going without heating in the past year, or being unable to afford items such as two pairs of strong shoes, a warm waterproof coat, and, every second day, a meal with meat, chicken, or fish.The Simon Communities in Ireland said that, at the present rate, Ireland will not meet its 2020 aim to reduce the numbers experiencing consistent poverty to 2% or less.

Media Coverage 

The New EU Skills Agenda   

The EU’s new Skills Agenda for Europe launches several actions to ensure that the right training, the right skills and the right support is available to people in the European Union. It will aim at making better use of the skills that are available; equip people with the new skills that are needed - to help them find quality jobs and improve their life chances. The Commission invites Members States, social partners, the industry and other stakeholders to work together to:
  • Improve the quality and relevance of skills formation
  • Make skills more visible and comparable
  • Improve skills intelligence and information for better career choices
The Communication contains the concept of a Skills Guarantee which aims to help people acquire a minimum level of literacy, numeracy and digital skills and/or acquire a broader set of skills by progressing towards an upper secondary qualification or equivalent.

The EU Commissions Proposals 


Equality 2017    

Equality 17 is a year of work by Youth Work Ireland to promote and develop the contribution youth and community work make to equality for young people in Ireland. Through focusing on Equality, we aim to promote actions and initiatives amongst young people, in Irish society and within our own organisation that support and build equality.

The theme of Equality was chosen by a yearlong consultation and consensus campaign with young people, staff and volunteers, which culminated in a vote at our National Consensus Conference in October 2016. In focus groups and discussions leading up to this vote, we heard many young people and volunteers say that they were concerned about issues such as Black Lives Matter, the backlash against feminism in media, the rise of populist and far right political movements and Brexit. They felt that young people had a role in challenging these trends, and becoming more active and involved, to support a fundamental belief in the value of all people.

Equality 2017 Learning and Sharing Workshops
Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission

LGBT Youth Strategy

The DCYA recently announced the development of a national LGBT Youth Strategy. A group will work with young people across the country to develop a strategy which will address the challenges faced by young members of Ireland’s LGBT community. The Irish Times journalist and author Una Mullally has been appointed as chair of the group that will oversee the first-ever National LGBT Youth Strategy.

Speaking following the announcement, Mullally said young LGBT people continue to face “a unique set of challenges when striving to fulfil their potential, particularly when it comes to mental health, facing bullying in schools, combatting negative stereotypes, and dealing with the anxiety of environments hostile to their sexuality or gender identity.

@LGBTYouthStrat is the twitter handle


Action Plan on School Age Children  

For many years, the issue of the use of school buildings and after care for school age children have been debated. The Department of Education and the Department of Children and Youth Affairs have recently come together to publish an Action Plan On School Age Childcare. Under the plan, funding of €3m is being made available to support the provision of services aimed at school-going children. The Group engaged with key stakeholders including school principals, parents, children and early years’ services during their work.

As part of a wider commitment to enhance the use of school facilities out of school hours, the Minister for Education and Skills, Richard Bruton met with education partners in a roundtable discussion held during the summer where relevant issues were discussed. The Minister for Education and Skills is developing guidelines for the use of school buildings out of hours with a view to facilitating increased use of school buildings where feasible. The report highlighted the crucial importance of childcare for school aged children. 

The Action Plan


State saves €2.20 for every €1 spent on youth work  - NYCI Conference  

Too much of the excellent work undertaken by youth organisations with young people is unseen and unheard by politicians, policymakers and the public in general. That was the message emerging from the National Youth Council of Ireland’s annual conference entitled Talking Cents which took place in Dublin Castle on December 12th. The event looked at increasing support and recognition for young people and those working with them.
The conference also included speakers from the public sector looking at  trends in funding initiatives, as well as panellists from A&L Goodbody, Philanthropy Ireland and the Irish Youth Foundation answering questions and highlighting the pitfalls to avoid; and a debate on the ethics of fundraising. The ‘Youth Work Changes lives’ campaign will be rolled out over the next three years.
Press Release











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