Home > Dail Eireann debate. Priority question 7. Youth services funding [22178/17].

[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann debate. Priority question 7. Youth services funding [22178/17]. (11 May 2017)

External website: https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/debates/debate/dail/2...

7. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs her views on whether it is acceptable that the current level of funding for the young people's facilities and services fund only finances existing projects and programmes and does not provide for the addition of new projects; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22178/17]


Deputy John Curran: As the Minister is aware, the young people's facilities and services fund was established to assist in the development of preventative strategies and programmes through the development of youth facilities and services in disadvantaged areas where a significant drug problem exists or has the potential to exist. The funding in recent years has diminished. I am not in any way blaming the Minister for that. However, it has resulted in new entrants not being able to gain access to a range of these programmes. What plans does the Minister have to expand the programme over the coming years?


Deputy Katherine Zappone: I am pleased to say that we are now funding a number of new projects as well as existing ones. This past year, since I became Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, is the first in over a decade in which new projects are being funded. Funding for youth services had decreased, as the Deputy indicated, by €10.4 million between 2011 and 2015. In recent weeks, I approved €500,000 in funding for the establishment of new youth projects and €300,000 for the augmentation of a small number of existing youth services to meet new challenges arising from population increases. This additional investment will be provided in regions where there is a pressing need for services to meet the needs of young people. I hope to announce details of the new and augmented projects in the coming months.


During 2016 and again in 2017, my Department provided funding for the commencement of five new youth projects in south east Cavan, west Wicklow, Drogheda, County Louth, Cahir and in the Fethard-Killenaule area of County Tipperary. In 2017, I secured funding of €57.4 million for various youth schemes, representing an increase of €5.5 million on the funding available in 2016. The additional funding is being used for programmes that target disadvantaged young people and to assist national youth organisations in their work to support local voluntary youth services.


As the Deputy is probably aware, a review in 2014 made a number of recommendations for the future operation of the youth schemes and their development in the years ahead. Work on the development of a new funding scheme has been prioritised by my Department. Consultations with youth services are ongoing in order that we can introduce the new youth funding programme over the next two to three years in line with the review. As part of this process, the 16 education and training boards assisted with the mapping of youth service provision across the State. This mapping exercise is helping us to build up a detailed social demographic profile in terms of both population numbers and deprivation levels, with existing youth services mapped onto the data. It is really important that services match need.


Deputy John Curran: I thank the Minister for her reply and I welcome the fact that the number of projects and programmes is being extended. While I welcome it, I also wish to voice a note of caution. My particular area of concern in this question - I am not diminishing the importance of other areas of youth affairs - relates, in particular, to preventative programmes. The Minister and I both represent areas of significant disadvantage. We know that young people in those areas are at greater risk of drug addiction and associated problems. The point I am making is that we need to channel significant resources into those areas in order to afford opportunities to those people. Perhaps there are not many votes in it - it is not a very popular matter and there is not a loud lobby in respect of it - but the Minister and I know that it is the right thing to do. My hope is that a disproportionate amount of the funding that becomes available will be used in a targeted way.


I acknowledge the reports that were compiled in the context of value for money and assessing the value of the projects. I do not want to see projects just being funded; I want projects that are delivering results on the ground and benefiting communities and that can be stood over to be funded. However, I believe that we have a significant catch-up from the previous number of years, during which, unfortunately, there was no additional funding and no additional projects.


Deputy Katherine Zappone: I agree with everything the Deputy has identified. To emphasise a couple of matters, the mapping exercise is critical in terms of ensuring that we are able to meet the needs of young people throughout the country in an equitable way because there are gaps. The exercise has highlighted areas throughout Ireland - particularly rural areas - with little or no youth service provision. It is my intention that any additional funding received will be used, in part, to address those service shortfalls. I do not envisage funding being diverted from projects to addressing children's needs that are currently in receipt of targeted funding for this purpose.

On the second issue the Deputy raised, that is absolutely the case. When I speak about services needing to match need, that mapping exercise is taking account not only of the population in the areas in question but also of the socio-demographic issues that exist there.


Deputy John Curran: The matter I am asking the Minister about is somewhat specific and I accept that it is only one element of her Department. The programme for Government contains a commitment to giving vulnerable young people a better chance in life. The Minister spoke about the preventative programmes and so forth. The other morning I asked the Taoiseach about drug task force funding, which has not been increased in four years. He made reference to the fact that not all programmes might be as good as each other. Again, I wish to make quite clear that I do not want to see programmes being funded for the sake of it but rather for the outcomes to which they give rise. There is a responsibility in terms of monitoring. That does not fall within the Minister's remit but she does sit at Cabinet. Whether it is the young people's facilities and services fund, other youth funding or drug task force funding that is used for preventative projects, they all aim to have the same outcomes. As the next round of the budgetary process is entered into, I urge the Minister to ensure that an overview of the various streams of funding which provide preventative funding, particularly, although not exclusively, for at-risk young people in disadvantaged areas, will receive a level of priority.


Deputy Katherine Zappone: I accept those points and I will reflect on them. As requested, I will bring them into my own deliberations and debate at Cabinet and across Departments. I am absolutely committed to funding only those services that have indicated and identified their effectiveness in the provision they offer and where there is an outcome focus. We look at various ways to determine and define outcomes. These concern not only the outcomes for the individual children and young people but also the way in which the services build the community and enable parents and families to engage. I accept and understand that, whether it is in the context of drugs task forces, preventative strategies in terms of early years or youth funding for disadvantaged youth, it all needs to be considered as a whole in order to ensure, with an outcome focus, that we get better results for our children and young people.

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