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

June 2016

New Government  


After 70 days of negotiating the new Government was formed on May 6th. Fine Gael has 12 ministers and 3 (including the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs) are independents. There are a few changes in personnel also. As has widely being commented on the Government also has an understanding with Fianna Fail to facilitate its coming in to being and to pass budgets and other issues. This is definitely a new approach to politics and already the Government has lost votes in the Dail. Only time will tell how the political landscape plays out. It may present an opportunity for NGOs to have greater influence on decision making through a more empowered parliament.

RTE News

New Government Ministers  


Government Programme 

The Programme for a Partnership Government sets out the commitments for the current administration. There have already been signals that many commitments may not be implemented by particular ministers (see latter article on child benefit). The programme contains 6 pages on Children and Youth Affairs largely divided by age groups. The provisions on youth are very much in line with the current policy framework of Better Outcomes Brighter Futures. Specifically, there is a commitment to “fund an expansion of Youth Services that support, in particular, Early School Leavers into employment and in recognising the value of such services and groups”. Youth Mental Health features prominently in the document but in the education section.

Government Programme

Summary of Programme for Government  


New Minister for Children 

Katherine Zappone was announced as the new Minister for Children and Youth Affairs on May 6th. She is a newly elected independent TD for Dublin South West. She served in the last Oireachtas as an independent Senator nominated by the Taoiseach. She was prominently associated with Seanad reform and previously was known for taking a legal action for the recognition of her Canadian (same sex) marriage. While this case failed it was very much the precursor of the campaign for marriage equality which culminated in the Constitutional Amendment last year. She is co-founder of An Cosán, an organisation that combats inter-generational poverty through education and training, with her spouse Dr. Ann Louise Gilligan.

Katherine Zappone Biography

Ministers Speech on the Adoption (Amendment) Bill 2016  


Child Poverty Conference 

The Children’s Rights Alliance will host a conference on child poverty on June 24th in Dublin. The event will breathe life into important commitments on child poverty in Ireland and explore how they should be translated into reality to improve children’s lives. This includes an ambitious commitment to reduce the level of children living in consistent poverty as promised in Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures: the National Policy Framework for Children and Young People 2014-2020. At a Europe-wide level, important commitments have been made under Europe 2020 and the European Commission Recommendation on Investing in Children.

More about the Conference

Video from a recent Eurochild Poverty Conference  

QUB Children’s Participation

The Centre for Children’s Rights at Queen’s University Belfast was held a Summer School on children’s rights-based participation from June 1-3. The Summer School was led by Centre director and deputy director, Professor Laura Lundy and Lesley Emerson, who have developed a pioneering approach to children rights-based research and consultation, implementing it at local, national and international levels. The Queens University Belfast Centre for Children's Rights is a cross-university research centre which operates as a focus for research intended to better understand and improve children’s lives. Their research activity focuses on substantive children’s rights issues, children’s participation in decision making and children’s rights-based research methods.

The Summer School

The Centre 


Proposed Child Benefit Changes

The new Programme for Government contained a commitment to “reform the monitoring of child benefit payments by amalgamating the two existing school attendance monitoring systems, currently run by the Department of Education and Tusla, to address poor attendance within some families”. This change was presented as reducing the payment for parents where school attendance was an issue. This proposal has been advanced at times by the current Minister for Communications and Climate Change Denis Naughton. This commitment led to some controversy and the Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar said he had no plans to make such a link. However Minister Naughton has stated he still supports such a development.


Denis Naughton on Child Benefit


Other Ministerial Appointments  

There are some other relevant appointments for those involved in work with Children and Young People. Simon Harris the new Minister for Health is still one of the youngest TDs and has being associated with youth work in recent times. Helen Mc Entee representing County Meath has been appointed Minister of State for Mental Health and Older People. David Stanton a former guidance counsellor with a strong involvement with youth work has been appointed Minister for Equality and Integration

 Minister for Health Simon Harris Biography

Helen Mc Entee's Website  

Profile David Stanton


Youth Mental Health


Problems with youth mental health continue. It emerged recently that monies allocated to mental health services have been reallocated to other parts of the health service despite the recognition of the importance of investment in this area. More recently a supplementary budget has been agreed. The UN and the Children’s Rights Alliance continue to highlight the poor conditions of our mental health services. Local youth services, which often provide services based on limited support, have come under huge pressure. Often a local tragedy will put such pressure on a service many young people need to be turned away which is the worst outcome for vulnerable young people. One young person involved in Youth Work Ireland Cork recently wrote an open letter to Minister Simon Harris on the subject which was covered in the national media.

Student's Letter to Minister Harris

Mental Health Reform Reaction to Programme for Government

Mental Health Commission Annual Report

"Government Committed to Mental Health Funding"

European Youth Event 

The European Youth Event is becoming a well-established part of the youth policy landscape in Europe. It takes place in the European Parliament in Strasbourg and involves young people from all member states and beyond. During the event young people exchange ideas and perspectives on youth-related issues, develop innovative solutions to crucial questions for the future and meet with European decision-makers and speakers with a wide range of professional experience. These were the five themes for this year’s event; War and Peace, Apathy or Participation, Exclusion or Access, Stagnation or Innovation and Collapse or Success.

EYE Website

Participants Article in SpunOut

Job Bridge   

One immediate change announced by Leo Varadkar Minster for Social Protection was the ending of the work experience programme, Job Bridge. The Minister cited the changing employment situation as the reason for the change. The scheme was often controversial particularly with some employers advertising positions which many felt should be actual jobs. While the scheme was associated with youth unemployment research showed that the majority of participants were not actually young people. While sometimes criticising aspects of the scheme organisations like the NYCI and Youth Work Ireland never formally opposed it seeing the need for a variety of interventions to deal with youth unemployment. The Minister has said he wants to develop an alternative programme. Those working with young people will have an interest in this

Minister Varadkar's Announcement



EU General Data Protection Regulation 

Data Protection is critically important to those working with children and young people and a working Data Protection Policy is a must for voluntary groups in this field. Due to recent developments internationally the EU, which determines many of these matters, has updated the basic legislation in this area. While change may focus more on large controllers of data everyone with a Data Protection policy needs to be aware of the changes which need to be introduced within a two-year deadline. As a regulation it does not need transposition in to Irish law. One of the changes is a legal right to erasure previously known as the “right to be forgotten”

General Information on the GDPR

Law Society MOOC on Data Protection  

Youth Employment Initiative and Youth Services - EESC Opinion


The European Economic and Social Committee adopted an opinion on May 25th on the European Structural and Investment Funds stating; “The EESC has always encouraged active involvement of civil society in this work, we continue to urge in particular that the Member States should include youth organisations and youth services in delivering the YEI” The opinion, which is a response to a Commission Communication, contributes to the EU legislative and policy making process under the Treaties.

The EESC Opinion

The EU Commission Communication


School Attendance 


The school attendance functions of the former National Education and Welfare Board are now exercised by TusLa under the Education (Welfare) Act, 2000. A system of reporting and monitoring absences including sanctions is well developed. The act is focused on identifying children and young people who have, or who in the future may have, school attendance difficulties and addressing their needs both in their schools and their communities. The Board of Management in each school is obliged to prepare a school attendance strategy and submit it to the Agency. Of late there appears to be a greater trend towards court actions and even imprisonment in those rare incidents where alternative approaches are not successful. This clearly presents a dilemma as often the situations of families where attendance is a chronic issue may not be improved by a custodial approach.

Jail Over School Attendance

The Constitution and School Attendance


Juvenile Justice 


As part of an EU funded the Child Law Clinic at UCC has developed a manual on how to make European juvenile justice systems child-friendly. The manual was presented at a one-day conference in Dublin on May 10th. While Ireland has an opt out from many EU Justice and Home Affairs provisions under the EU treaties this international project is still following these developments closely. Of particular interest have been developments at an EU level in relation to the right to legal representation. Similarly, the idea of young people receiving advice about participation in the Garda Juvenile Diversion Programme has been discussed. It is felt such advice might increase the take-up of this option.

Juvenile Justice Manual

Presentation from Naomi Kennan & Dr Angela O’Connell 


Opposition Spokespersons 


With the formation of the new Government opposition parties and groups have nominated their spokespersons in the area of children and youth affairs. The Fianna Fail spokesperson is Anne Rabbitte who is a TD for East Galway. She has previously been a board member of GRETB, a member of the Loughrea Municipal District, the Portumna Camogie Club and Portumna Scouts. The Sinn Fein spokesperson is Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD from Cork South Central. He is a Law graduate from UCC, a Scout Leader with the 5th Cork (The Lough) Scouts, a lifelong member of St. Finbarr’s Hurling and Football Club. Jan O’Sullivan the former Minister for Education is Labours spokesperson.

Anne Rabbitte Biography

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire Biography

Jan O'Sullivan Website


Leaving Certificate 

Summer time and good weather usually mean its exam time. There has been huge change at Junior Cycle coupled with some controversy. However, the senior cycle exam has changed little and is still a source of stress for many students and criticised by many parties as failing to prepare young people for the world they will face in many ways. The review process appears to be far slower at senior cycle. The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment published a document “Proposals for the Future Development of Senior Cycle Education in Ireland” in 2005! The document focused on, programmes of study, curriculum components, key skills, assessment and certification and a different school culture for senior cycle.

The ISSU Leaving Certificate Blog

The NCCA's Proposals for Reform from 2005!



Pride 2016 

On Saturday June 25th LGBT young people from Youth Work Ireland and BeLonG To youth services across Ireland, will travel to Dublin to march in Dublin Pride Parade. This year’s theme for the festival is ‘Rebel Rebel’ and there will be 15 - 20 LGBT youth groups from Youth Work Ireland represented with over 200 young people marching. The aim of this event is to: Celebrate all that has been achieved by LGBT youth work in Ireland, raise awareness about the needs of LGBT young people today and envision the future for young LGBT people in Ireland.

Dublin Pride 2016
Youth Work Ireland LGBT Groups



Oireachtas Issues 

After a long layoff normal Oireachtas business resumed for a few weeks before the summer recess and new ministers had a chance to deal with some relevant issues. With ministers familiarising themselves with their briefs there were not be many new developments but a restating of policy is an interesting point in and of itself.

Youth Work Funding

Child Protection and Bullying

National Educational Psychological Service

Drug and Alcohol Task Forces


Copyright © 2016 Youth Work Ireland, All rights reserved.

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