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Keane, Martin (2013) Young people appeal for a more inclusive society. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 46, Summer 2013, pp. 12-13.

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The Department of Children and Youth Affairs (DCYA) recently published a summary of the main issues to arise from a regional consultation with 239 young people in Sligo, Cork and Dublin; 57% were female and 73% were aged under 18 years.1 The consultations were undertaken as part of a European programme called ‘Structured Dialogue’, a process established by the Council of the European Union in its resolution for a renewed framework for co-operation in the youth field (2010–2018). The consultations centred on the theme of ‘social inclusion’ among young people and the main issues are presented here under a number of sub-headings.  

What does being included mean?
A synopsis of the issues covered in Table 1 show that young people feel included when their uniqueness as individuals is recognised and respected, when their opinions are actively sought and responded to, when they are afforded equal dignity and respect as that shown to others and when the can form attachments and bonds with significant others.


What stops young people being included?
As illustrated in Table 2, young people feel excluded when their significant others do not afford them trust and respect and do not legitimately recognise their differences, and when they experience bullying and discrimination due to their differences.

What times in their lives are young people most at-risk of being excluded?
Table 3 illustrates that at important milestones in their lives young people can experience elevated risks which can contribute to their feeling excluded. 

The report documents a large number of achievements that young people claim they secured through participation in youth-related clubs and activities. These are listed under three broad categories (i) personal development and happiness (ii) skills and experiences needed for life and (iii) feeling more included. Young people talked about how participating in youth-related clubs and activites helped them ‘to discover who they are, “what they want from life”, and to accept themselves for who they are by building self-confidence and self-esteem. In addition, “young people feel that clubs give you an opportunity to talk to people you wouldn’t talk to otherwise”, resulting in respect, tolerance and acceptance of others and their differences’ (p.9). 
When young people were asked for their views on how the existing activities could be improved, and new ideas for clubs and activities, the main responses centred on young people having a more active say in running clubs and activities, more interaction with similar groups outside the clubs, greater diversity of activities in clubs and an emphasis on providing a welcome to new members and a safe space in clubs to address specific issues, such as disability, sexual health and orientation.
This is useful snapshot of the lives of young people which illustrates their strong desire to be recognised for their unique individuality and their enthusiasm and willingness to build a more relevant and meaningful understanding of the main issues confronting young people in contemporary society. Their appeals for a respect for difference and for justice and equality are striking and their testimony to the value of participation in youth sector related activities is encouraging.
1.     Department of Children and Youth Affairs (2013) Young voices: have your say. Summary report. Dublin: Department of Children and Youth Affairs. www.drugsandalcohol.ie/19479

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