Home > Seanad Eireann debate. Youth cafés provision.

[Oireachtas] Seanad Eireann debate. Youth cafés provision. (12 Feb 2014)

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Senator John Whelan: Anywhere we travel, we see the high esteem in which the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald, is held. People appreciate it is a full Cabinet portfolio and they respect the fine job she is doing despite the limited resources at the disposal of the Government. It is an important area to have designated within the Cabinet. 

Recently, I had the privilege and pleasure of attending a Monasterevin youth action presentation on the need for youth services and facilities in the area. It was a compelling, convincing and credible presentation from the young people in Monasterevin, south Kildare. It was all the more poignant and important to me as I grew up in Monasterevin and went to school in St. Paul's secondary school. I was a member of the first ever leaving certificate class from St. Paul's secondary school. It was convincing to see young people taking ownership of, and responsibility for, the issue and carrying the campaign directly into the public domain and to public representatives and leaders in the community. They have the assistance of the principal of the school, Mr. Brian Bergin, and Paul Marron and other people involved in the Kildare youth services such as Mr. Pat Balfe. It was definitely an organic presentation. It was in the ownership of people like Jenny Byrne, who did a fine job hosting the evening, Patricia Downey, Moses Eribo and Savannah Muller to mention but a few of the people who took part in the presentation.
It was also a sad occasion, which is why I tabled a matter on the Adjournment, because the young people said their abiding memory of growing up in the town was one of boredom. That was disturbing and it is terrible to think that an entire generation of young people will go through the same experience, seeing themselves as having nothing to do, nowhere to go and nowhere to congregate or hang out. The town has grown in population fivefold but the level of facilities and amenities is lower than when I was growing up and going to school in the town. The CYMS hall where we used to play pool, snooker and darts and hang out is boarded up, the tennis courts are overgrown and the sports hall has been demolished. This is disturbing and is a retrograde step in a town with a DEIS school. I am appealing to the Minister of State to ensure towns like Monasterevin get their fair share of resources to enhance and improve badly-needed facilities. We cannot condemn and criticise young people hanging around the streets and street corners or gravitating towards pub culture when we do not provide proper facilities for them. The town is crying out for a youth cafe and a place where people can have ownership of a dedicated youth space.
I know how the youth cafe system has been a success around the country. In Portlaoise, I see the work of people like Joe Thompson and Serena Donovan coming to fruition in the success that is the Portlaoise youth cafe. Young people have ownership of the space, the facility and the amenity and it is thriving and prospering. It is doing good and it is a holistic and healthy experience for young people, who look out for and assist each other in constructive ways. I am not happy that Kildare, Laois and Offaly come off poorly per capita in terms of Government investment and funding for youth services, facilities and resources. In some cases, they receive ten times less than other counties and other centres. We must address that in the next round of funding for youth services and facilities. I hope we can redress the imbalance so that towns like Monasterevin can finally have the youth services, facilities and dedicated space for young people it requires and deserves. It will be money well spent.
Minister of State at the Department of Education and Skills (Deputy Ciarán Cannon): I am taking this Adjournment debate on behalf of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald. I thank the Senator for raising the issue. The youth affairs unit of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs supports the delivery of a range of youth work programmes and services for all young people, including those from disadvantaged communities, by the voluntary youth sector. These schemes include: the youth service grant scheme; the special projects for youth scheme; rounds 1 and 2 of the young people's facilities and services fund; the local drug task force projects; and certain other programmes including the local youth club grant scheme, youth information centres, the European youth in action programme administered by Léargas and Gaisce, the President's award. These funding schemes support national and local youth work provision to some 400,000 young people and involve approximately 1,400 paid staff and 40,000 volunteers working in youth work services and communities throughout the country.
In 2013, €1.75 million was provided for capital projects in the provision of services for young people, made up of an allocation of €1.5 million for new youth cafes and €250,000 for the provision of play and recreation facilities. Pobal assisted the Department with the application and the evaluation process for the youth cafe scheme. Some 95 applications were received. To be eligible, applications were required to demonstrate that the proposed new youth cafe would be developed in line with my Department's "Youth cafés in Ireland: a best practice guide", that the facility would target 12 to 25 year olds and aim to meet the needs of the local youth population, particularly in disadvantaged areas. Criteria also included the extent to which the proposed new youth cafe would add value to existing provision for young people in a locality, the capacity of the organisers to effectively manage the project, the involvement of youth in the development of project, how the project would be sustainable and the strength of the overall proposal.
Eligible applications were then appraised on the basis of a detailed assessment of the extent to which the criteria were met. The applications were further evaluated taking account of youth population, existing youth service provision and geographic considerations. Following the completion of the assessment and evaluation process, 30 proposals for new youth café projects were approved for funding. This included funding towards the cost of setting up a new youth café facility in Kildare town. While an application was received in respect of a new facility in Monasterevin, this application was unsuccessful on this occasion as it did not achieve a sufficiently high score when assessed against the programme criteria.
Some €49.78 million is being made available to support the provision of youth services in 2014. The Department of Children and Youth Affairs, in line with Government policy, has been required to achieve significant savings on schemes and services as indicated in the comprehensive review of expenditure, CRE. The final allocations for 2014 take account of the €1 million allocated in budget 2014 to offset the impact of the CRE on youth services and other identified efficiencies. The funding allocations for 2014 will involve a reduction of 3.75 % on the allocations provided in 2013 for each of the schemes as follows: youth service grant scheme; special projects for youth; young people's facilities and services fund, rounds 1 and 2; youth information centres; and local drugs task force projects.
The youth affairs unit of the Department issued notification of funding for individual youth projects and organisations last week to the relevant grant administering agencies and national youth organisations. In order to ensure that the maximum use is made of the available resources, the Department has in previous years afforded flexibility to youth services and grant administering agencies, mainly education and training boards, to reconfigure the funding allocations made by the Department on the basis of their knowledge of the needs in their respective areas. For 2014, it is open to grant administering agencies and youth services to submit proposals for reconfiguration of the allocations to individual projects, provided the overall financial allocations for the area remain within the allocated funding for the year. This approach will help ensure that we respond to local needs and that the services being provided are relevant to the challenges young people are experiencing and target those most in need. Proposals for reconfiguration of allocations will be subject to the approval of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs.
The new capital funding programme for 2014 involves €750,000 for the provision of youth services to young people throughout the country. It comprises €250,000 for play and recreation initiatives and €500,000 for staff-led youth projects under the various schemes funded by the youth affairs unit of the Department. Details of the youth projects capital scheme, including the application process, are being finalised at present. Pobal will assist the Department with the application and appraisal process. Detailed information and guidelines for applying for the funding will be available in the second quarter of 2014.
It is also worth mentioning that the Government reinstated the sports capital programme last year under the guidance and direction of the Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Ring. Last year there was in the order of €30 million available for dispersal to sports groups across the country. This year the figure will be close to €40 million. A significant amount of the scoring attributed to applications under that programme will be directed towards facilities that serve young people, particularly disadvantaged young people in their own areas.
Senator John Whelan: I am very grateful to the Minister of State for that very thorough and comprehensive response. It does set out a clear roadmap for qualification under the various headings. The Government is to be commended on ring-fencing the funding in this sector. I am a little surprised that the Monasterevin application did not meet the required standard for the appraisal criteria because I am certain that the people behind the project are excellent and the need is well defined. There is no question but that Monasterevin is crying out for these facilities and amenities. The amenities and facilities for young people are worse now than when I was growing up over 30 or 40 years ago, hard as that is to believe, given the expansion of the town.
  The young people and those involved in the Monastrevin Youth Action Group in the town need to face up to the challenge of renewing their application this year, ensuring it meets the criteria and that they tick all the boxes for the appraisal and succeed in getting a dedicated space, a youth café and facility. This would provide a base from which this disadvantaged area could move forward. It would be money well spent. Mol an óige agus tiocfaidh sí. I know the Minister of State agrees with that sentiment. We must assist them in going forward so that they are not bewildered and bored in their teenage years which can only lead to other problems and social difficulties later in life.
Deputy Ciarán Cannon: I commend the Senator's pro-active engagement with the young people of Monasterevin and community activists who are working to provide necessary services for those young people. I wish them every success in their endeavours this year in securing what they require.

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