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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 1 Feb 2001

Vol. 529 No. 3

Youth Work Bill, 2000: Second Stage (Resumed).

Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

I welcome this Bill. The definition of the functions of the Minister regarding youth work has long been required. There is a need for clarity in this area, particularly for some groups of young people. The issues dealt with in the Bill are very important. I welcome also the fact that the Bill defines the functions of the vocational education committees in this area. Vocational education committees, including, for example, the vocational education committee in Wicklow, provide extremely good supports for young people particularly those who have lost out on other opportunities. In this regard I would remind the Minister of a campaign which is going on throughout the country for funding for VTOs schemes. The VTOs schemes have been welcome. While it is probably outside the context of this Bill I point out that the allocation of £15,000 for every 20 students going through VTOs has been more or less frozen for a number of years. VTOs is a big issue in my constituency where it provides excellent support for young people. Most Members on all sides would urge that this issue be reviewed.

I also believe the idea of an assessor of youth work and the establishment of a national youth work advisory committee will be welcomed on all sides. As a member of the VEC I welcome the establishment of the youth work committees and look forward to the establishment in County Wicklow of a local youth council. This will help to bring together the young people and people in the community who care for young people.

If the Minister has the opportunity I would like to hear from him on VTOs funding.

I welcome the Bill and I am delighted to see young people in the gallery. No doubt the provisions of this Bill will affect them in some way. I introduced a Private Members' Bill on this subject in the early 1990s. I am pleased to see that many of the provisions outlined in that Bill are contained in this Bill. Also Deputy Allen introduced a Bill in 1997 which, no doubt, helped the whole thought process that led to this Bill.

During the course of the research carried out by the Minister's officials as background to this Bill they would have looked at the Department's records going back to the 1970s when the then spokesperson on youth affairs, Deputy John Bruton, did considerable work in this whole area. When I was researching my Bill I discovered that. He introduced some original thinking at that time to the whole concept of youth work. This was followed by the Costello report which was the bible for a number of years as regards reference by those involved in youth services. The whole process of the Bill has been a long one but I am glad it has arrived. While youth services welcome this Bill, nevertheless there are some questions that must be clarified, the big one being funding.

All young people should be entitled to a youth service as is the case in the rest of Europe. If one looks at the map of youth services, there are some areas where there are not any youth services. I shall refer to that later. In the past, youth services have been targeted at disadvantaged areas and rightly so especially in urban areas. Obviously disadvantage manifests itself more clearly in an urban area. However, there are many problems in rural areas as well but they are not being addressed by any youth service. From the point of view rural regeneration and so on, it is important to encourage young people to respect their community, to look at ways of developing their communities and to form an attachment and an affinity with their communities. Without the presence of a youth service that is difficult to inculcate in young people. While it is the objective of the Bill that there would be youth services throughout the country, no doubt involving the vocational education committees would help, but it should be a right of all young people to have a properly funded youth service because the impact of a youth service is considerable.

A number of speakers referred to the increase in the drugs culture among young people and to other forms of anti-social behaviour. It is obvious that where there are properly funded well-organised, well structured youth services young people have an alternative. Despite all the information on drug abuse, substance abuse and under age drinking these problems are on the increase. Certainly one the main ways of encouraging people to do other things and not engage in anti-social behaviour is to introduce them to youth club activities. As the Costello report pointed out, generic youth work should be available to all young people.

Most youth work in Ireland is driven by volunteers and, in some cases, with the support of paid youth workers. As this is the international year of the volunteer I urge the Government to do something positive to encourage volunteerism. I recall the Taoiseach praising and extolling the work of volunteers recently in some interview. The last two budgets have been anti-volunteerism in the sense that they have penalised those who decide to stay at home. In the case of a partnership, a husband and wife team, if both have to work it means there is less time for one or other of them to work in a local youth club or whatever. Is there any possibility – this is something the Minister's officials might examine – that daily work in youth clubs could be acknowledged as part of a person's work; in other words, a teacher who spends two hours at youth work would be given time out or it might be easier for somebody work ing in a Government Department. In the private sector if it was validated and people were to get time out for youth work, they would be compensated either by their employer or through the tax system. It is worth looking at.

The number of volunteers is on the decrease because of the pressures of life and so on and the fact that people are doing other things. Also, at times, these people are not appreciated and do not get due recognition from the system or, perhaps, from the parents whose children they look after. In many cases all they get is criticism. In this age of litigation there are youth workers who have volunteered to take young people to football matches, sporting events and so who end up in court because of an accident or something else. There are huge obstacles in the way of volunteerism here. While there is still great community effort in that people devote a great deal of time to football clubs, youth clubs and so on there is not the same enthusiasm as in the past.

I understand the national youth work plan is in place and will come into operation shortly. There must be clarification on the budget for youth work. In addition, a budget must be set aside for the implementation of the plan. There are more plans than buildings for youth workers and in the area of sport, recreation and so on. However, there is no commitment in the Bill or elsewhere to provide a realistic budget to ensure that all the proposals and recommendations in the national youth work plan will be properly funded.

As far as I am aware at least five Departments are involved in funding youth work. The Departments of Health and Children, Education and Science, Social, Community and Family Affairs, Justice, Equality and Law Reform and Tourism, Sport and Recreation are all involved. There are probably others, for example, the Department of Foreign Affairs provides funding through its cultural scheme that encourages young people to travel abroad to promote Irish culture. This is very confusing. For example, social work is administered through the health boards and the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform is involved in drugs programmes and other Justice projects. If the health boards had to depend on various Departments for help their work in this area would not be as focused.

The funding aspect should be closely looked at. It would be better for all concerned, especially for those applying, if funding was concentrated in the Minister's Department. In this context the question of benchmarking needs to be reconsidered. I understand the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform may consider allocating £50,000 to a project while the Department of Health and Children may value the project at £70,000 and the Minister's Department may value it at £20,000. There appears to be no uniform benchmarking in terms of evaluating specific projects. In addition there appears to be an absence of proper research and evaluation of projects, where different systems appear to operate within Departments. There also appears to be an absence of co-ordination within Departments. For example, there appears to be no recognised definition of what is meant by youth work, never mind how it should be funded.

In the past professional youth workers have been employed by the various national organisations. They are committed and dedicated people. However, I understand there are no salary scales covering them, they have no pension scheme and there appears to be little security attached to the work. Most people take up such work at a young age and as they get older it may become more difficult for them to continue with it. The necessity to interact with children, etc., means the job becomes more pressurised with age. There is a need to clarify the position regarding the status of youth workers, including their terms and conditions of employment, pension rights and so on.

Youth workers are very good, enthusiastic people. They are targeted by the partnership boards and the Leader programmes. They have available to them a number of alternative forms of employment which were not previously on offer. As a result youth organisations are finding it very difficult to hold on to them. If the job is not secure and there are no incentives to continue with it the youth services will lose very important core workers.

When I was Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Resources I established a committee – the national youth advisory task force – to draw up a policy on rural development. All its recommendations were contained without acknowledgement in the White Paper published by the Minister of State at the Department, Deputy Davern. I pointed this out in the debate on the youth services Bill. A key recommendation in the task force report was the need for rural proofing of all Government policies on rural areas. The same should apply to youth work. This would ensure that young people would not be deprived of this invaluable part of their education and lose out accordingly.

In a press release the National Youth Federation questioned "the futile exercise of tabling the Youth Work Bill, 2000, in Dáil Éireann while the recent Book of Estimates had indicated no additional resources for implementing the Bill." That is a justifiable concern. The chief executive of the federation, Mr. Tony Murphy, stated that despite the unacceptable delay of almost three years in tabling the Bill, the Minister of State at the Department of Education and Science with responsibility for Youth Affairs, Deputy O'Dea, was introducing it merely as a PR exercise, having failed to obtain the additional funding required to deliver on all aspects of the Bill. According to Mr. Murphy, the recently published Book of Estimates had indicated an 8% increase in youth services spending for 2001, which in all probability would not even cover the obligations under the PPF and other cost of living increases. Mr. Murphy went on to state:

At a time when youth organisations are con tributing to a new national youth work development plan and preparing themselves for major changes in the future delivery of youth work in Ireland, the lack of action by the Minister was proving to be a demoralising force for youth services and the tens of thousands of volunteers working with young people in Ireland.

I ask the Minister of State to respond to this because ultimately, the issue will come down to funding.

I welcome the new role for the vocational education committees in youth work. I also welcome the proposal to include youth work under the umbrella of State care. In the past it was very haphazard and depended on the energy and leadership of local people. The Kerry Diocesan Youth Service was exemplary in the sense that this was regarded as the way to do things in the remainder of the country. Kerry was fortunate because other counties did not have the same leadership or impetus.

I welcome the role of the vocational education committees in ensuring the provisions of the Bill will be implemented. The Bill I introduced included the whole issue of the evaluation of youth work. I welcome the role of the assessor, which will be important, because there is a lot of confusion in relation to what is defined as youth work. No doubt the assessor will be able to clarify what is quality youth work and what constitutes youth work and youth services. I presume the playing of billiards, snooker and so on forms part of youth work. Given the large contribution made by the Government to snooker, it might be more acceptable if those involved in youth work received a similar contribution to promote snooker within youth clubs.

There is the whole issue of contracting programmes and services to other agencies, including a provision whereby vocational education committees can contract programmes and services in certain areas. Who will provide the services afterwards, what criteria are set down to ensure those providing them are adequately qualified and so on needs to be clarified. The national youth work advisory committee was the core issue in my 1991 Bill which, unfortunately, was rejected by the Government at the time. I believe that provision should have been put in place. It is very important that that advisory committee is as representative as possible. I am pleased the Department of Tourism, Sport and Recreation is now involved because this was not the case in the past.

I welcome the Bill which is a very positive move. It will help to provide a proper framework for youth services throughout the country. The Minister of State must ensure that it is properly funded and that it will gather its own momentum through the provision of adequate funding.

I am pleased to have an opportunity to speak in support of the Youth Work Bill, 2000. I compliment the Minister of State, Deputy O'Dea, and the Government for introd ucing this very important and enlightened legislation.

I agree with Deputy Deenihan that there is an absolute need to ensure the whole area is rural proofed as well as gender proofed. In her contribution some weeks ago, Deputy Coughlan highlighted the need for rural proofing. Far too often the national media and Members who represent urban areas give the impression that disadvantage is confined to large urban centres. That is not the case because, unfortunately, throughout rural Ireland there are many disadvantaged young people. I hope the Minister, together with his officials in the Department and the various committees, will ensure that there is an adequate and proper spread of facilities.

The legislation is very enlightened and farseeing. It reflects the Government's commitment to the vital area of youth training and the contribution this makes to the development of our society in general. The youth of today, as in the case of previous generations, will have a very heavy responsibility to bear in the future as they will be the decision makers of tomorrow, those who must ensure the norms of decency and responsible behaviour upon which civilised society is based are consolidated. The legislation is very important because it recognises the important role that has been played, is being played now and will be played long into the future by the voluntary sector.

When introducing the Bill, the Minister referred to the whole idea of volunteerism. Government and statutory agencies can only do so much. Unless there is a willingness to recognise the vital role of the voluntary sector in this area, or indeed in any area associated with educational training, any legislative enactments are destined to remain platitudes. One of the ways the voluntary sector is being recognised is through involvement in day-to-day decision-making and in the formation and implementation of policy. As the previous speaker said, this is not the first legislation to be enacted in connection with youth work. The earlier Act was passed at a time when the establishment of education boards was being considered. Fortunately, this Government in its wisdom, through the Minister of State, Deputy O'Dea, and the then Minister for Education and Science, Deputy Martin, abandoned that legislation which proposed the establishment of regional education boards. The rainbow Government was very foolish to try to establish such structures. This was unfortunate because for more than a year the whole area of local democracy and the important role of the vocational education committees was being undermined by the then Minister for Education's proposals to abolish vocational education committees, establish regional education boards and, in effect, deny public representatives their proper role in the formulation and implementation of education policy at local level.

Unfortunately, in this country, particularly at official level, and to some extent at political level, there has been far too much emphasis on trying to sideline the role of local public representatives in the establishment of different boards at local level. I have stated clearly on many occasions in this House my opposition to particular sections of Bills and particular clauses that would deny public representatives the right to membership of some bodies. It is absolutely wrong that people who go before the electorate can be denied in legislation the right to sit on particular bodies, bodies that are being funded through the Exchequer following the passing of legislation in this House. Far too often throughout the country, particularly in recent years, self-appointed people are put on pedestals in relation to different activities. The time has come when legislation for the future must not build in clauses that will deny people who hold public office through the wishes of the electorate the right to membership of particular bodies. I hope the Minister of State, Deputy O'Dea, who has always worked very well with public representatives and with the voluntary sector, will ensure that will not happen in the future.

Fortunately, the regional education boards that were proposed by the rainbow Government were not established. It also became clear that the original legislation had additional shortcomings. They might have been addressed through a plethora of amendments. Instead this Government, the Minister of State, Deputy O'Dea, and his officials in the Department grasped the nettle and addressed these issues. Rather than allow the provisions of the earlier Act to go by default and lie on the legislative shelf, so to speak, this Government seized the opportunity to draft completely new legislation, which addresses the needs of youth workers in Ireland, to initiate a framework and a set of workable structures within which to operate.

The Bill is comprehensive and well thought out legislation. It aims to provide solutions to many of the concerns and difficulties that those working in this important area have brought to the Government's attention, and indeed to the attention of Governments over many years. Prior to drafting the Bill, the Minister had a long process of consultation with interested parties. This was not a public relations exercise but a worthwhile attempt to learn which added to the Bill's value.

An important element of youth work is that the participation of young people themselves is voluntary. No one, whether parents or former teachers, compels them to take part. There is positive peer pressure to the effect that youth work is not only fun but also useful. Few people who have been involved say that it was a waste of time.

It is important that the role of youth training be seen within the scope of education. We all accept that education should not be confined to the classroom or lecture hall. It is centred on learning and only stops when we are no longer willing or able to learn. Often the most important lessons are learned in informal settings. Youth work teaches people about themselves and helps them decide what they want from life. Sometimes they have not previously had the opportunity or the incentive to ask the right questions.

Youth training should not be seen as an alternative to formal education but as complementary. There many instances of people involved in youth work programmes who decided to return to formal education. The experience, self assurance and self knowledge gained in youth work makes them more successful.

The Government's decision to give a greater role to local voluntary education committees is welcomed. There are many bodies involved in formulating youth work objectives. All of them do valuable work operating on a voluntary, or almost voluntary, basis.

One thing missing is co-ordination. It is regrettable that two or three organisations pursue the same goals, with inadequate resources. This legislation provides for co-ordination through the appointment of a national assessor of youth work, who will advise those working in this area. The national assessor will also act as the spokesperson for the various elements. Fear has been expressed about the withdrawal of departmental recognition without the parties concerned being able to state their case. The assessor will have a role in ensuring that all interests are considered.

The Minister will remain the biggest single source of finance. He will continue to have a constructive role, such as initiating the research which is vital to any policy. He will also ensure that policy pursued in relation to youth work dovetails with other policy objectives, such as improved access to information.

This Government is committed to social inclusion and the removal of impediments that prevent everyone making a meaningful contribution to society. Therefore, there is special provision for youth work schemes in socially or economically disadvantaged areas. These areas are not restricted only to large urban centres.

Already the Government is providing funds for projects and youth clubs in such areas. I want to see the disbursement of funds from the youth section of the Department to a wider area of the country, in particular the Border region and counties Cavan and Monaghan.

The Government is also committed to the provision of a youth information service. Today, information is the best asset. Every area will have an information centre where young people can avail of information on job opportunities, career development and personal entitlements.

The legislation will extend the duties and membership of the National Youth Advisory Committee. Since its creation three years ago, it has provided advice and will continue to advise those wishing to organise youth work properly. Its knowledge will be especially useful to bodies with little experience. The partnership aspects of the Bill are not platitudes as the Committee will draw half its membership from the voluntary sector. The inclusion of a senior official of the Department of Education demonstrates that it is aware of the need for youth work and formal education to develop together.

Responsibility for the implementation of policy rests with the vocational education committees. They have decades of experience in providing technical and adult education throughout their statutory areas. They also have expertise in youth work and their role should be enhanced. The vocational education committees will have their own youth work committees with significant voluntary representation.

Each VEC will draft a three year plan. They are best placed to take into account local conditions. The Minister, as the source of funding, will continue to monitor the spending of money. He may also intervene where two or more neighbouring committees are pursuing projects which may be better tackled jointly.

The provision of youth work programmes always had a strong voluntary involvement, especially at local level. Long may this continue. We all know of various youth committees and Foróige clubs in our own areas and the great enjoyment derived from participation in them. These involve people in projects such as caring for the elderly or raising awareness of the need to protect the environment. Over the years Foróige and other clubs have contributed significantly to the development of young people.

The role of voluntary youth work committees at local level will be recognised and enhanced through this legislation. Many local voluntary youth work committees will be established which will work hand in hand with the local vocational committees in providing youth work programmes. I am glad the Minister has provided in the legislation that the voluntary sector must comprise at least 75% of the membership of each of these committees and also that our youth for whom these services are provided comprise at least a fifth of the membership.

With any legislation we can talk of the structures that are being put in place. The skeleton can be sketched. Behind the structures being established to this legislation there is strong commitment to strengthen and consolidate this valuable sector in our nation's life and to ensure that there is effective co-ordination in the pursuit of its aims.

I congratulate the Minister of State and his officials on bringing forward this very important legislation. It gives a co-ordinated and futuristic outlook to the whole area of youth services and their development, emphasising the need to have services spread throughout the entire country.

The Leas-Cheann Comhairle, Deputy Boylan, Senator Leonard and myself have pursued for some time the need to provide funding towards the development of the major centre at Castle Saunderson in Cavan and Fermanagh. The Minister of State at the Department of Education and Science, Deputy O'Dea, and some of his senior officials met a deputation some months ago from the scouting association of Ireland. The analysis and work undertaken in bringing the project to its present stage could not but have impressed them. I also compliment the Minister of State at the Department of the Environment and Local Government, Deputy Molloy, who visited Castle Saunderson last June or July following a meeting with the scouting association.

We know it will be a very expensive project. It will need substantial public funding. The Irish scouting association have been fortunate in being able to raise substantial funds, particularly in the United States. The location and the old castle are ideally suited to the project. It is one of the few places in Ireland where you could put either Cavan or Fermanagh on the address and it would be delivered by either An Post or the mail system in the North. Castle Saunderson fits the bill for a true cross-Border project. It would provide a facility for children North and South and from abroad for recreational and sporting activity.

Having visited the project some time ago I compliment the work of the project director Mr. Bernard O'Connor from Enniskillen. He enlisted the help of all the local Oireachtas Members and local statutory agencies and has ongoing contact with a number of different Government Departments.

I hope the Minister of State, Deputy O'Dea, and his officials will travel to Cavan and Fermanagh to see the project and its possibilities at first hand. They will be assured of traditional Cavan hospitality. He will see that the Castle Saunderson project meets the criteria for the development of a major national centre for the scouting association and can assure himself of the justification for funding. The centre will be able to host international events and will serve children North and South throughout the year. We intend to pursue funding for this centre that offers so much potential.

I wish to share my time with Deputy Boylan.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

I support the case made for the project by Deputy Smith and Deputy Boylan and hope the funding required will be supplied.

I welcome this Bill. A disadvantage is that we do not know the actual funding the Government will give to the vocational education committees to administer it. We are at a crossroads with the youth of Ireland. Now more than ever we need volunteers to assist them. Never before have we had such temptation in relation to drink and drugs or so few young people involved in sport and activity. That cannot be good for society.

Westport United soccer club, the oldest soccer club in Connacht, had to call off the AGM last week because they could not get officers to take up positions. The situation is alarming. Councillor Gerry Coyle, a man involved in boxing, has found the same problem. It is difficult to get the young involved, difficult to get people to volunteer assistance and those involved feel they have been let down by the State. It seems support is not there for them, particularly in disadvantaged rural areas like Geesala where they have got nothing but some gaeltacht funding for a hall. Yet we wonder why our youth have gone astray.

In a recent report related to drink consumption Ireland was second highest in relation to youth drinking. Something must be done about this.

I welcome this Bill because through the vocational education committees local people will be involved and they will know what is going on in their communities. It is important that funding is made available not for the big projects but for the small clubs that are working for our youth.

A local Westport man, Martin Keane, has been involved with the youth for over 20 years. He takes children out for the day, to the cinema, swimming and tries to get them playing football. At Christmas he had a very successful toy appeal. He does great work but has a major problem because he has no meeting hall. Any meeting or get together he organises must take place in a pub.

I hope now that something will be done as regards facilities. I mention particularly facilities financed by the State. Sporting facilities and halls in schools and vocational education committees should be made available for youth groups. Whatever funding is needed for insurance should be provided by the Government. The safety aspects should be taken into consideration. Public facilities should be available so that it is not necessary to bring young people into pubs, hotels or unsuitable venues.

There are many people doing good work who find it very difficult to recruit extra volunteers. We are at a crossroads. Serious problems exist with drink, drugs and violence. Reported cases are more vicious and violent. We must support people like Martin Keane, Gerry Coyle and others working with young people. They must be shown that there is more to life than drink and drugs.

Disadvantaged areas are discussed at county council meetings, health board meetings and VEC meetings. They never seem to get the support and the funding that is their due. They are not as well organised as the golf clubs, the sailing clubs, or as was evident yesterday, the snooker federation. Golf clubs and the like are well organised and seem to have no difficulty in obtaining funding. Voluntary groups in rural disadvantaged areas should be supported in their applications for funding. The VEC should adopt a hands-on approach to disadvantaged areas, working with them and offering support. This Bill must ensure that funds will be available to projects in these areas.

Last Sunday, Team Longnecks from Ballina played in the basketball national finals. Ballina has two basketball teams. They are both good enough to play in the premier division of the national league but they do not have a suitable venue as required by the championship. The National Lottery has provided money but there is a shortfall of perhaps £350,000. This organisation should be assisted because it helps keep young people in Ballina off the streets.

Ballina is an area of high unemployment and yet the same contribution is expected as from the more well-off in golf clubs. I have nothing against golf – there are a lot of golfers in this House – but the disadvantaged should be favoured before those who can fight for themselves.

Local youth organisations must be helped. The VEC is often regarded as the poor relation in education. I was educated in the vocational sector. Parents today want their children to become professionals such as doctors and solicitors. There is a shortage of carpenters and mechanics. It is now impossible to find a tradesman.

I welcome the Bill and hope it will address the needs of people involved in the voluntary sector. The VEC sector has now been given the powers. I hope it will receive the funding to do a good job.

I support the Bill, which contains proposals I have advocated for many years. A structure must be put in place to help disadvantaged young people. The vocational education committees will be successful once funding is provided. The Bill alone will not be sufficient. Many voluntary organisations working with disadvantaged young people are starved of cash.

People can be out of work for decades if they do not get a start when young. A rising tide does not lift all boats and some young people are excluded from mainstream employment. It is good for people to work, make friends and develop interests. We must target young people from disadvantaged homes. It is a pity to see young able-bodied people standing at street corners in towns and villages during the day rather than attending college or working. Skills in carpentry, bricklaying and horticulture are in short supply. Good training programmes will make people employable.

I have always been a supporter of the vocational education system. It has served the people well. The VEC college in Cavan town has been developed into the College of Further Studies and young people now have access to previously unavailable third level education. I ask the Minister to consider a green-field development for this college. There are over 400 students attending and the buildings are spread around Cavan town. A proper location is important.

The Castle Saunderson project was mentioned by Deputy Brendan Smith and supported by Deputy Michael Ring. This is an excellent project, an example of what can be done by voluntary effort and initiative. It is a castle demesne, an estate of 700 acres. More than 120 acres and the castle ruins are available for development. It is important to say that this demesne was pur chased by the all-Ireland scouting movement, North and South. The previous owners of the demesne are to be thanked for their generosity in selling the grounds for the sum of £300,000, a paltry amount by today's standards. The scouting movement is a cross-Border organisation and this project will become a national campus used by young people from the North and South and others who will become involved when the scouting movement establishes the national campus to which I refer.

The national campus will allow young people from Northern Ireland, the Republic and mainland Europe to interact and get to know each other's views and outlooks. Given that it will be located on the Border, the campus will attract moneys from the peace initiative and funding from those in America who are friends of the scouting movement in Ireland and who have already contributed over £500,000. However, the Department will also be obliged to provide substantial support. In my opinion the development of this entire project will cost in the region of £10 million. That is not a large amount to pay, particularly in light of the current economic climate, for an initiative which will be of benefit to the entire country. I accept that the Border region will benefit immediately, but the scouting movement is a national organisation. This initiative will have a positive impact in the North and in the South and will help to bring about better understanding.

I support Deputy Brendan Smith in respect of this matter. All of those involved in politics in the region support the national campus project. I thank the Minister of State for visiting the site on which it is proposed to build the campus.

I return now to the vocational education system which will be responsible for operating the voluntary committees. I am aware of committees that are trying to work with young people, boys and girls, and have attempted to establish needlework and art classes. However, they are finding it difficult to proceed with their work because of the scarcity of funding.

Secondary school teachers are currently campaigning for wage increases, and rightly so because they are not that well treated. I have heard it said that teachers have a short working day because school finishes at 5 p.m. I know many teachers who work in a voluntary capacity with local organisations that are concerned about young people and want to give them an initiative to become involved in the mainstream of working life. These organisations meet in rooms which are also provided on a voluntary basis. Voluntary help can only be relied on to a certain extent, because it cannot be built upon if financial support is not forthcoming.

With voluntary work there is also the question of who is held responsible if an accident occurs. In that context, insurance is vitally important. Unfortunate accidents have taken place and the people who took responsibility for organising the classes to which I refer were held libel. As a result of the cost of defending libel actions and the awards involved, people are afraid to become involved in voluntary work unless they have insurance cover.

We must not ignore the people who are already involved in voluntary work. We are establishing an entirely new system and we must appreciate the work that has already been done. In addition, we must use the people who have been working in this sector for many years, ensure that they are included in the new schemes and given proper insurance cover and, if necessary, pay their expenses. If this is done, I guarantee that the people to whom I refer will respond positively.

I wish now to refer to the question of night life. Young people can be easily influenced by certain types of television programmes that are being broadcast at present. If parents are not alert their children may become involved with the drink and drugs culture. I accept that it is not easy for some couples because both partners are obliged to work in order to pay their mortgage and that their children return home from school to empty houses and are prey to particular temptations. If there is no one present to monitor their activities, these children can be lured into the wrong company and their lives can be destroyed. This usually happens to young teenagers who have not yet gained the understanding that comes with adulthood.

The Youth Work Bill and those responsible for implementing its provisions can do a great deal of good, particularly in terms of saving the State a great deal of difficulty in dealing with the people to whom I refer who, for lack of proper direction, may not have the opportunity to develop in the way they want to. These people may go astray because they feel nobody cares or understands or is prepared to encourage them.

I support the Bill. I do not doubt that the Minister of State will make a great success of it. I assure him that he will have my support and that of others on this side of the House.

I wish to share time with Deputy John Browne.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

The purpose of this Bill is to provide a legal framework for the provision by the Government of a youth work programme and services in vocational education committees and I commend the Minister of State, Deputy O'Dea, on its introduction.

The principal features of the Bill are the definition of the function of the Government regarding the provision of youth work – this includes the development and co-ordination of youth work programmes and services, research monitoring and the assessment of programmes and services in youth work – and the definition of the functions of vocational education committees regarding youth work – these include the preparation and implementation of youth work development plans for each VEC area, the drafting of annual youth work budgets for each VEC area and the reporting of youth work services in each area to the Minister.

Before discussing the provisions of the Bill in detail, I wish to make a number of comments regarding the Government's policies on developing youth services in Ireland. One of the core aspects of the Government's national development plan for the period 2000 to 2006 relates to the comprehensive development of youth services. The European Commission has approved the elements of the national development plan regarding the promotion of educational opportunities for young people. Lack of educational achievement and self-esteem are key factors leading to unemployment, crime and social deprivation. Low educational achievement means that people lack the skills necessary to access the employment market and the capacity to avail of opportunities for further skills training. This is a particular problem in today's increasingly sophisticated employment market where skill redundancy is accelerating. Inevitable lack of skills leading to economic deprivation has knock-on implications for the community at large in that it can result in addiction, homelessness and criminal behaviour.

To support the personal and social development of young people in order to prevent them drifting into substance abuse, unemployment and crime, £300 million will be spent on the following proposals: funding for the national youth work programme organisation to finance projects designed to develop young people as effective members of their communities; the provision of youth information centres to provide easy access to information on youth services and welfare; the provision of funding for the young person's facilities and services fund to support the development of youth facilities and services in disadvantaged areas experiencing or at risk of experiencing significant drug problems; funding for special projects for disadvantaged youth aimed at facilitating the development and social education of young people at risk of drug abuse, juvenile crime, homelessness, early school leaving and marginalisation; the establishment of early intervention programmes and substances abuse awareness programmes for young people who are at risk of early school leaving or who have low educational achievements and the establishment of a number of projects in urban and rural areas under the Garda youth prevention programme which aims, through intervention and prevention, to divert young people away from criminal activities. These are core elements to the Government's policy platform to develop comprehensive youth services in Ireland. In fact, the Youth Work Bill is part of the overall Government strategy in this regard. I will now analyse some key provisions of the Bill.

Under section 9(2), the Minister, on the advice of the national youth work advisory committee, will draw up guidelines for the vocational education committees. Among the vocational education committees' functions will be the requirement to ensure the provision of youth work programmes and services in their areas. They may do so by providing financial assistance to approved national voluntary youth work organisations, designated local youth work organisations and authorised organisations subject to terms and conditions. There will be a particular focus on the youth work needs of those aged ten to 20 and who are socially and economically disadvantaged. Youth work development plans will also be prepared for each VEC area. If a VEC is of the opinion that a particular youth work service or programme is required but is not being provided, it may advertise to invite proposals from appropriate organisations.

Part III of the Bill concerns the preparation of youth work development plans. Each VEC, in consultation with its youth work committee, will prepare a youth work development plan every three years to be submitted to the Minister for approval. The plan will specify the youth work requirements for the VEC area with particular regard to the needs of disadvantaged youths. Estimates of income and expenditure for each financial year will also be provided. Where required, the Minister may also allow for a supplementary youth work programme to be provided in a VEC area by an approved national voluntary youth work organisation, authorised organisation or designated local voluntary youth work organisation.

The Minister is also empowered to appoint a youth work assessor. The assessor will have two principal functions, namely, the assessment and monitoring, on behalf of the Minister, of youth work programmes and services in receipt of funding under the Bill and a review of functions relating to the Minister of a VEC's administration of various youth work programmes and services. The assessor's duty will include the annual monitoring of youth work programmes and an assessment will take place once every three years.

The national youth work advisory committee will also advise the Minister on the provision and co-ordination of youth work, youth work policies, the co-ordination of youth work with formal education, the co-ordination of youth work with other services for young people, gender balance in the provision of youth work, criteria for the approval or designation of national or local youth work organisations and the provision of guidelines for the voluntary youth council. Membership of the national youth work advisory council will be between 27 and 29 members. The membership of the committee will comprise representatives of the Irish Vocational Education Association, key Departments and other interested parties directly involved in youth affairs.

Under the Bill each VEC will be legally obliged to establish a youth work committee which will make recommendations to the VEC on the exer cise of its youth work functions. Youth work committees will advise vocational education committees and comprise between ten and 20 members. As far as is practicable, a minimum of 75% of the members should be volunteers and where a professional youth worker is elected he or she should work in the VEC area concerned. At least one fifth of the members should be under 25 and regard is to be had to the desirability of representations from Traveller groups.

Each VEC will also be empowered to designate a voluntary youth work programme, service or organisation which operates in its area as a designated local voluntary youth work organisation for the purposes of the Bill. The Minister may also make grants available to vocational education committees or the various youth work organisations for the purposes of the Bill. Any VEC or organisation in receipt of funds must keep proper accounts which must be submitted annually.

There has been substantial economic progress in this country in recent years. However, key challenges facing legislators concern the need to ensure that social problems are tackled head on. All young people must be given the same opportunities to enter the education system and those who suffer from lack of educational achievement, low self-esteem, unemployment or who have been engaged in criminal activity must be helped at every turn.

For these reasons I welcome the £300 million allocated under the national development plan for the development of youth services. I also welcome the key provisions of the Youth Work Bill which I and the Opposition support. I commend the Minister of State for introducing this important legislation.

(Wexford): I thank Deputy Collins for sharing time. I welcome this Bill. The Minister of State has shown urgency in the introduction of the Youth Work Bill and it is important that it be implemented as quickly as possible.

The Youth Work Bill, 2000, gives youth work a legislative base for the first time and names the Minister for Education and Science as the Minister with responsibility for this area. This recognition of the educational role of youth work is very valuable.

The Celtic tiger is roaring and the modern Ireland is a country of prosperity which is the envy of Europe. However, many problems remain, particularly among young people. We still have problems regarding early school leavers, drug and alcohol abuse and an alarming suicide rate, particularly among young males. What are the Government and Ministers doing to deal with this problem which is of major concern to all communities?

It is important that the Minister considers rural Ireland as well as our cities. All of the problems I have mentioned are now found throughout rural Ireland. I have no problem with the fact that so much money is being allocated to dealing with drug abuse in major cities as that problem must be dealt with. However, rural Ireland tends to be forgotten and neglected in this regard. Many towns are now experiencing serious drug problems with which the Garda is trying to deal. This is leading to problems within families and violent crime which we have not experienced in the past.

Alcohol abuse in another major problem. As the Celtic tiger continues to roar young people have more money in their pockets which is being spent at weekends and alcohol abuse is becoming a very serious matter. People in small towns such as Enniscorthy in which I live, are concerned about the level of violence at weekends. This is particularly the case late at night when discos close and people congregate at chip shops which remain open until 4 a.m. or 5 a.m. More often than not someone is badly beaten up or there is violence at such locations. This problem was not common in rural Ireland in the past but has emerged in the past few years. There is a need for weekend Garda patrols and community action to deal with this problem. Tonight I will attend a meeting in Enniscorthy organised by the parents of children who have been attacked. Alcohol abuse is a serious problem which needs to be addressed.

I welcome this Bill. It is important to consolidate youth work, youth involvement and all the energies which go into dealing with the problems of young people into one Bill. I welcome the fact the vocational education committees will be involved as their members work on the ground and know the situation regarding young people. They are also the people who will deliver the service. The VEC structure has provided a great service for young people and parents. I hope the Minister of State will give vocational education committees a major role and that there will be little interference from the Department or the Minister's office so vocational education committees will be able to reflect the needs of each county. There is no doubt that each county has its own youth work and involvement needs.

There are many quangos in almost every county including county enterprise boards, area partnerships and Leader groups. Will there be any co-ordination with these groups and FÁS which trains young people? We must avoid over-bureaucracy and I hope these groups will come together to help provide youth services.

I also wish to inquire about national organisations such as those involving GAA, soccer, rugby and the scouts which have provided a tremendous service for many years with very little recognition from the State. I am involved in the GAA and I speak for my own club, which has 18 teams – hurling, football and camogie – ranging from age eight to 18. They deal with approximately 400 young people every year. They take them off the streets, train them and through youth clubs provide them with facilities in the summer and winter. They are involved in matches, learn about discipline and other areas, yet those involved get very little recognition from the State for their input. Ready made volunteers are involved in such organisations working with young people. The Minister of State should take account of the experience gained by such volunteers, mentors and people involved with young people over the years and involve them in their structures, be it at VEC or whatever other advisory levels will be involved.

The volunteer role is very important. Were it not for the number of people who work with young people on a voluntary basis, there would be major difficulties in dealing with young people throughout the country. I wish to refer particularly to the Ferns Diocesan Youth Service. It has served the young people of Wexford for almost 40 years. At its core, it is a voluntary organisation. The paid professional sector has grown in recent years to provide a better service in the modern world, but the voluntary aspect of the Ferns Diocesan Youth Service is very much at the heart of providing that service. Because those involved are dedicated to the principles of the Ferns diocesan youth, a vast army of volunteers, including professional people, put in hours of work that could not be remunerated. They give freely of their time, energy, patience and knowledge to make the lives of young people better and to make Wexford a better place to live. The Ferns Diocesan Youth Service has 36 youth clubs, 253 voluntary leaders and 1,300 members. It members answered approximately 9,000 queries in 1999. The service has 279 people participating in three training projects and it has many other projects around the county. It employs 22 full-time staff and 37 trainee workers. It has many different areas of involvement and it is important that its work continues to be recognised.

The service requires extra funding for drop-in information centres. It has one in Wexford town and it is seeking approval for a drop-in centres in New Ross and Enniscorthy, the proposals for which are currently before the Department. I hope the Minister of State will seriously consider approving those proposals as the centre in Wexford provides an tremendously helpful service to the young people there. It is only right that young people should have access to a similar facility in New Ross, Enniscorthy and Gorey. The centre is running youth projects but it has only one worker per project. When dealing with young people aged seven to 18, it is necessary to have at least two workers to run a proper project.

The centre requires multi-annual funding as opposed to the current position of yearly funding. It has to wait literally until the last minute to get funding approval. The Minister is probably examining this area. The centre requires three year funding to enable it to plan ahead. A number of speakers mentioned the need for three year funding for youth clubs operating in different counties. I ask the Minister of State to seriously consider this matter.

The Ferns Diocesan Youth Service is also setting up after school support groups for seven to nine year olds. It has applied for funding to the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs, Deputy Dermot Ahern, and perhaps the Minister of State could ascertain from his ministerial colleague if funding for such groups can be approved, given that it is a very worthwhile project for disadvantaged children. That project will commence initially in Wexford town and it will be expanded to other towns in the country. In a major town such as Wexford town, which has many disadvantaged areas, and is expanding all the time, it is important that after school support groups should be given adequate funding and that they should be set up as quickly as possible.

I welcome the Bill which, when enacted, will help to improve youth services in every county. Many Bills are passed in this House and then it transpires that securing the necessary funding to implement their provisions is a major problem. It is important that the Minister of State seriously considers ensuring the provision of adequate funding to implement the provisions of this Bill. There is no point in passing this Bill, which is supported by all sides of the House, unless the necessary funding to implement its provisions is passed on to the vocational education committees.

I hope there will not be too much interference with vocational education committees when they get their programmes up and running. I notice that everything has to be approved by the Department. It would be a matter of concern if the length of time taken to approve projects in the past is anything to go by. The Minister for Education and Science visited Wexford last July and announced that a third level facility would be based in the old St. Peter's college, yet eight months later we are still awaiting the appointment of the directorate to provide those services. That is not good enough. I ask the Minister of State to check the position regarding that directorate. I hope there will not be that type of delay when this Bill is passed.

I welcome the opportunity to say a few words on this very important Bill. It has been welcomed by my colleagues and they have dealt with much of the technical detail. This Bill will play a very important role in the social and personal development of our young people. The Minister of State said its aim is to assist all young people to realise their full potential and to become active participants in our democratic society. Youth projects and organisations provide the means by which that development can take place. He also went on to say that the central aspect of the youth work is a young person's voluntary participation in the services and he recognised the role of many adults and young leaders in that regard. This Bill is extremely important. As some of the backbenchers on the Government side said, the importance of the Bill is one matter, but ensuring adequate funding is provided to fund its provisions is another.

Some people find it difficult to realise that constituencies such as Cavan-Monaghan, which the Leas-Cheann Comhairle and I represent, has one of the lowest levels of participation in third level education. There is a major need to provide for further services for young people who leave school early or come from severely disadvantaged backgrounds. Such disadvantaged backgrounds, especially in the Monaghan area, stem from the fact that many people came across the Border to set up home during the Troubles and did not avail of the opportunities that were available. Families split up and there are grave difficulties. One only has to visit some of the major housing schemes in Border towns to realise how great are those difficulties. We are lucky to have some of the necessary services, but there is a need for improvement.

At a time when we have a Celtic tiger economy, it is difficult to explain to those people where the tiger can be found. We are at a serious disadvantage. As other speakers said, there is a good deal of drug abuse in my constituency and this is very serious in disadvantaged areas.

There is also the issue of alcohol abuse. Recent figures that showed we have one of the highest levels of alcohol consumption in Europe; this is not something of which we should be proud. Some of my colleagues questioned why the single biggest event here in recent years – the coming of President Clinton to say farewell to us and to get rightful recognition for what he had done for this island home of ours, North and South – was held in Guinness Brewery. I have nothing against Guinness, and we are proud in Ireland of our drinking tradition, but it sent out the wrong message, particularly as the Taoiseach ended up in a pub with President Clinton after that.

We should look seriously at this. Anything we can do to keep young people away from drug and alcohol abuse is welcome. I know this is a health matter but it is worth stating that there are fewer facilities available to people with alcohol problems today than there were 25 years ago, according to a person in the health sector to whom I spoke recently. Given the amount of money the Exchequer is gathering from taxes on alcohol, that situation should be rectified. If 1% or 2% of people fall by the wayside with alcohol problems that cause difficulties for themselves or their families, we must recognise that and deal with in a compassionate manner. This is a serious illness and it would save health boards money in the long-term if they are given proper treatment.

This Bill is linked to the vocational education committees and I reiterate what other speakers have said: we need to make sure there is absolute co-ordination here. We have many groups looking after different aspects of youth activity. FÁS does a good job with training and there are also Leader groups and other partnerships. It can be frustrating for me to deal with so many groups as a public representative but it must be even more frustrating for the ordinary person to know exactly where they should go for help or advice. We have more organisations than most in the Border region and while that is an advantage in some ways, it can lead to much activity from groups following an agenda of self-preservation. I hope there will be as much co-ordination here as possible.

I have not read the Bill sufficiently to see how some of the provisions work with voluntary groups but recently there was a major confrontation with the Community Games organisation about the Mosney site. That site is less available now than it was and the problem was solved for this year but the involvement of parents and leaders in that organisation must be recognised. Most politicians are aware of that involvement but we must ensure such voluntary work is helped now and in the future. Soccer clubs, swimming clubs, GAA clubs and other groups have all done much voluntary work to ensure our youth is involved in worthwhile activities and that must be linked to this Bill because this is not just a matter of education. If young people are involved in sports and recreational activity rather than the other, less fruitful activities that we in the Border areas were more used to, then this Bill and the organisation it sets up can play a part. We should never forget church based bodies and associated youth clubs as they have played an enormously positive role in teaching young people about the Christian ethos and maintaining a proper structure for those young people.

Regarding disadvantage, many rural areas have one remedial teacher covering three or four schools. I learned of a case recently where a remedial teacher was given a new and more specialised role dealing with younger children but that meant the group aged between 7 and 9 years were left out. The Minister of State has responsibility for that area and we must ensure that every possible help is given to those who need it at the earliest possible date. A remedial teacher covering a large number of schools can spend only a short period of time in each. In the example I have given from Scotshouse, there is no remedial education for individual children who need it because they fall into the wrong age group. That is wrong and must be rectified. I have written to the Department about this and I intend following it up. I do not speak negatively as this human issue should be dealt with in a non-political way.

We have an outreach centre in my constituency organised by the VEC which deals with a lot of training and sports activities but the centre has not yet been recognised by the Department for funding. It is in areas like this that the Department has an opportunity to play a positive role and I ask the Minister of State to deal with this issue urgently. Another example of positive youth work in my constituency is the proposal to establish an all-Ireland scout centre at Castle Saunderson. The three Irish scouting bodies have come together and bought the site, which is a historic old castle with forests and water based activities right on the Border. The area was used by subversive organisations in the recent past so it is tremendous to see such a place being used positively: for example, it could get worldwide recognition for scout jamborees. I accept it will take a lot of money but we must recognise that for the first time ever the scouting bodies have come together across religious and political divides and have put a plan to unite both organisations in the South while working with the organisation in the North; the names of those involved have already been put on the record. Approximately 55,000 scouts are involved and when one adds in leaders and other staff this figure is increased to 70,000. This project can be of tremendous benefit for those people but, more importantly, with some imagination this centre could be used for all sorts of activities for the youth of this island. It can be made into a self-financing centre that could become a centre of excellence for both our youth and the youth of the world and might even replace Mosney for the Community Games.

Insurance is still a worrying issue for many voluntary bodies and we should examine this problem. There is a mentality where people will take any opportunity to make a claim. People take the opportunity to make claims and, as a result of that claim mentality, Monaghan Urban District Council had to close the swimming pool in Monaghan because a piece of the roof fell off. It had a right to close the pool and I support its decision. However, it is an example of the problems that exist at present.

Deputy Browne from Wexford mentioned the issue of young people on the streets who are involved in various activities. This is why there is a need for Youthreach and proper accommodation for youth. These enable young people to get involved in positive activities. Cootehill Town Commissioners, in conjunction with a group there, brought together all the Oireachtas Members for the area and outlined the activities in which some groups are involved not only at night, but also in broad daylight. They outlined the damage done to people's property and many other issues. It is almost impossible for the Garda to keep control of these groups.

Another problem involves young people disturbing elderly people in urban areas by going to late night chippers after they leave discos. Any action that would minimise that type of activity by encouraging young people to get involved in positive activities should be taken. This should involve the support of parents, voluntary leaders and others. This should be done and I would support the spending of whatever money is required in that regard. It would be a positive development and would save money and hardship in the long run. I have been contacted by people in towns such as Ballybay and Castleblaney about this matter. Recently the Garda in Castleblaney had to deal with serious trouble. In Clones, gardaí were recently beaten up late at night by youths.

Parents can be blamed for not having more control over their children, but maintaining such control is not as practical now as it was 30 or 40 years ago because opportunities exist for young people. I welcome the Bill, but we must ensure that vocational education committees and others have sufficient funds to put into action the plans suggested by the Minister. I thank the Minister for introducing the legislation.

I wish to share my time with Deputy Daly.

I welcome this debate on the Youth Work Bill, 2000, and many of its provisions. For the first time, youth work has been formally recognised by the Department of Education and Science. This work is most important and complementary to a young person's formal education and training and it is primarily done by voluntary youth work organisations. Undoubtedly, such voluntary groups have contributed to the complete development of young people throughout the country for many generations. It is timely that this work is recognised and funded adequately to enhance and improve the facilities available at such centres of youth work.

The Minister, in his innovative Bill, recommends that youth work should be co-ordinated nationally to include education programmes and that these joint ventures should be resourced. I concur with the comments of Deputy Browne from Wexford that while the passage of legislation is welcome, it is vital that resources and adequate funding are put in place. The Minister suggested that, to date, little research has been done on youth programmes and the services that are provided. In this respect, he recommends research and monitoring and assessment of youth programmes. Such information should be taken into account by the national youth work committee, which has special responsibility for adopting change and improving the current voluntary organisations and programmes that are available. The Minister stressed that disadvantaged children must be given priority and that gender balance in relation to allowing access to youth work must be fair.

Researchers and people involved with adolescents know the benefits that arise when disadvantaged children become involved in youth work. It aids their social and psychological development to an enormous extent. In recent years a number of innovative groups set up programmes to aid disadvantaged children and these proved most successful. Many of these programmes are of a sporting nature and the benefit to the children involved is remarkable. It is time such groups were recognised in a more meaningful way and that resources were allocated to enhance their work for the undoubted betterment of society. Many of these groups have struggled on with low budgets. They will now receive proper funding and monitoring and the possibility of expanding such programmes will be investigated. New programmes will be designed in accordance with the rules set out. These new organisations will be co-ordinated and set up in locations that are in need and they will bring enormous benefits to local communities.

The Bill proposes to work with vocational education committees. The Minister, in collaboration with the national youth work advisory committee, will draw up guidelines for vocational education committees to enable them fund youth work programmes in their areas. The local VEC will co-ordinate youth work services with the education services in the area. Each VEC will prepare a youth work development plan and it envisaged that the VEC will invite submissions or proposals from appropriate organisations to expand and improve the number and diversity of youth work in their areas. The Minister will be empowered to appoint an assessor of youth work. This person will assess and monitor the programmes and the VEC administration of various youth work projects and services.

The new youth work advisory committee will have between 27 and 29 members from diverse backgrounds. The chairperson will have youth work experience and expertise and will be appointed by the Minister. Two officials of the Department of Education and Science will also be appointed. The national body for vocational education committees will nominate two members and Ministers from several relevant Departments will nominate a member. FÁS will nominate a member and the prescribed national youth work representative organisations will also nominate members. These people, who will be from diverse but relevant backgrounds, will form the basis of a board which will have expertise and progress important areas.

Youth work committees will be appointed in each VEC area. This group will have between 12 and 20 members, which will include nominees from the VEC, FÁS, the health board, the Garda Síochána, the formal education sector and local government. This committee, made up of relevant people from the community, will lead to a practical enhancement of youth work in the VEC area concerned.

It must be noted that this is the first time the Department of Education and Science has made a formal effort to co-ordinate with youth workers towards a common goal. Teachers and the education sector rely on this area and are aware of how such work helps the development and contentment of school children and adolescents. There is no doubt that students are in a much better frame of mind to receive a better education and develop in a more positive manner. The ultimate goal of education is to develop students in a progressive and articulate manner so they can cope with work and fit into society. The Bill goes a long way towards fulfilling that aim.

It must also be noted that young people who are disadvantaged are the most in need in communities. These young people are most common among school leavers and they consequently end up on the long-term unemployed list because they are unable or not inclined to work. Many of them do not see the relevance of working. They are born into inner city or rural poverty traps and they find it difficult to fit into society. Many become involved in crime and drug abuse. As legislators, we must educate and develop young people to ensure they avoid such activities. We must find alternatives for these young people and ensure they value themselves. They must have an alternative to hanging around street corners, looking for trouble.

Children who are bored get into trouble. The Bill advocates the establishment of youth groups for the enjoyment and development of young people so they can relate better to society and fit in. If that happens, it will be a good move. It will aid the work of the teacher in the classroom and the gardaí on the street. Above all, it will help the development of young people so they can make a vibrant contribution to society and in their lives. The Bill will not be put into place before vital research on the issue is examined.

Let me examine some research on educational disadvantage and show how this Bill will be used in conjunction with the formal schooling to address this problem. Educational disadvantage is a complex phenomenon intrinsically linked to the economic, social and cultural practice which cannot be viewed in isolation from social exclusion, poverty and the inadequate experience of many communities in society. The process of becoming educationally disadvantaged is critical in that the education system can reproduce disadvantage, poverty and social exclusion. This occurs in a number of ways, through high participation costs, the over-dominance of middle class values, lack of resources and support structures, omission in streamlining policies and the making of decisions from on high with lack of consultation. Three out of four poor households are headed by persons with no qualification and a further 19% are headed by people with only junior cycle qualifications. In a recent report by the Traveller review body it was estimated that virtually all Travellers are illiterate, highlighting the failure of successive Governments in their approach to Traveller education. A number of reports have highlighted patterns of stereotyping in subject choices with low take-up by females in non-traditional subjects, resulting in constraints on later occupational choices, career paths and earnings.

Let us not get carried away by the undoubtedly changing market environment which is resulting in increased demands for a more highly qualified labour force. Increased skill levels are serving to polarise those who are unqualified or who have inadequate qualifications. There is no place in society for young people who have not developed sufficiently or who are not educated enough to participate. This is where the role of the youth worker, in conjunction with the education system, must come into play. They must address this outstanding need and they must be encouraged and funded by those in power in order that the problem of young people being unemployable is addressed urgently.

The Combat Poverty Agency in recent reports reflects on the plight of the disadvantaged child. It recommends that one of the top three ways of addressing educational disadvantage is to develop partnerships and co-ordinate Government ser vices. This is exactly what the Bill recommends and it is a good step forward for future generations of young people.

The National Economic and Social Forum highlights the development of partnerships between parents, particularly stressing those from disadvantaged backgrounds, schools, youth organisations and other educational training agencies. It recommends collaboration between interdepartmental working groups with representatives from the Departments of Education and Science, Social, Community and Family Affairs and Enterprise, Trade and Employment and from FÁS. It recommends that young people will best be helped by ongoing co-ordination between all these people involved in their development.

As I stated already, there are many beneficial youth groups working in the unrecorded centres throughout the country and this Bill sets out to help such centres. One such successful centre is Cashel and Emily Youth Services which endeavours to provide a safe environment in which young people are facilitated in responding to the diversity of developing needs through youth work programmes and events. This service works for mainstream and disadvantaged young people alike in an array of different settings but with a shared ethos throughout. The key to its success is that it involves many groups from the community, including the South Eastern Health Board, the social services, a local vocational school, Youthreach and many local youth services. Some of the benefits of it are that young people are being encouraged to stay on in education, having the experience of working in groups and of team-building, participating in programme design, increasing in self-confidence and developing skills. It also focuses on encouraging young people to reflect on life decisions and choices and on increasing social skills and ability to relate to peers and adults by improving communication skills.

While this may seem aspirational, it is being achieved. This is not the only programme of its kind in Ireland. There are many such successful programmes but they can be improved by the provision of resources and by co-ordination as well as by further research. People working in such groups have given a great deal to young people in their areas and it is time they were helped and encouraged. This is the aim of the Bill.

I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the debate and I recommend the Bill to the House.

I thank Deputy Moynihan for giving me the opportunity to say a few words about the Bill.

I compliment the Minister of State, Deputy O'Dea, on bringing forward this legislation and on the initiatives he has taken since he took up this office. He has introduced a number of innovative initiatives in this area which were long over due. He is setting down the foundations for the best framework for the development of youth services and facilities we have seen in Ireland for a long time. An amount of detailed discussion has gone into preparing this legislation and I compliment the Minister of State, his staff and the people who have been working on it for their detailed preparatory work. In the long-term, the Bill will put in place a framework on which we can build sound youth organisational management to develop the area.

The Bill extends the remit of the vocational education committees and gives them the priority framework on which to build this new policy. This is an innovative way of doing this. In using the vocational committees, the Minister is using a well established framework mechanism to organise this new service. It is a very detailed service, which deals with issues such as the preparation of plans in local areas and the preparation of budgets, the provision of an overall scheme and co-ordination between the various organisations.

I pay tribute to some of the voluntary organisations which have been doing tremendous work in the area of youth services for some time. I single out for special mention Fr. Seán Sexton who, under the diocesan youth council of Clare, has done great work on a shoestring in this area over recent years. He has improved youth services in Ennis and west Clare in my constituency. With Fr. Pascal Hanrahan, he has done sterling work at a time when there was a gap in the State service provided. I would like to see recognition of their work. I am not sure what way this work is being done in other dioceses, but certainly the Clare diocesan youth personnel such as Fr. Seán Sexton have excelled not only in ensuring the facilities and framework in which these services can be provided but also in co-ordinating the work done to date, albeit in a haphazard way, by other voluntary organisations.

This legislation will offer the opportunity to develop the services in a planned and meaningful way. The Minister of State, Deputy O'Dea, has not only set down in the legislation the framework for the development plan and advisory committee but has provided for substantial funding to deal with this area, which is very important. One of the main priorities in the future for the development of services will be the maintenance and continuation of the funding so necessary to underpin the work of the organisations which will be so vital to ensure this policy works in future years.

I want to mention the rural organisations and the difficulties they encounter in isolated areas in the provision of services for young people. Again I compliment the work done by Macra na Feirme in recent years. Macra na Feirme has tended to look more at the economic aspects of development rather than what they initially set out to do when it was founded as a farming related educational organisation.

Many of us were involved in Macra na Feirme question time sessions, in its public debates and in the various activities in which it got involved. Nevertheless, there are many serious problems in rural areas as well as in the cities.

Substantial funding made available in recent grant allocations is going to the disadvantaged in cities and in built-up areas. There are, however, problems in many of the rural areas as well. Many people are aware of the fact that, in many thriving provincial towns, there are problems of vandalism, of unprovoked attacks on people and problems similar to those witnessed in Dublin for the past ten or 15 years. These are beginning to be repeated and copied in some provincial towns, especially the most successful towns.

Some say it is due to the lack of leisure and recreational youth facilities in this area. I am not sure it is. It is related to other matters and in some respects the difficulties were, at one time, associated with poverty, deprivation and the lack of opportunity. In some respects it is now not a poverty problem but a surplus of finances that is the cause of some of the problems, in many provincial towns anyway.

It is, therefore, important and timely that this legislation goes before the House to afford us the opportunity to underline, for the Minister, the necessity to put this framework in place and to monitor it carefully, as he is proposing in the legislation.

Though I emphasise that we badly need this legislation and that it is timely, I do not want a massive bureaucracy established which will devour the finances needed to provide the services, amenities and facilities. Care should be taken that, when we put a framework in place, we do not build in too much organisation, expense and bureaucracy which would have less finances available for the work that needs to be done. That is part of the difficulty with this legislation.

The committee is too big. How will the Minister get any decision from a 29 or 27 member advisory committee? It might be necessary to refine that to 15 or 12 people if he wants to get some quick decisions.

I am pleased to contribute to this Bill and I welcome it as important, timely and good. I congratulate the Minister for introducing it and his officials and anyone involved with it for working on it.

This is the International Year of the Volunteer and the volunteer is mentioned quite a number of times in this Bill. Sadly, however, people are now so busy working and so forth that it is getting harder and harder to attract volunteers, at every level, into voluntary organisations. Initially, therefore, I suggest to the Minister for State at the Department of Finance, Deputy Cullen, that we should have some way of recognising volunteers and the work they do in society. It is an idea we could discuss in this House, perhaps not now but at a later stage, even through this Bill. I do not know how we might to it but it is something worth discussing.

Volunteers work at all levels in sporting, youth and social organisations helping younger, older and needy people and so on. I call on the Government to do something to recognise the volunteer this year.

We have many awards systems, though I do not know if another award system is the way to proceed. I would like to see something that would encourage people to become volunteers. Perhaps there is some way to tease that out on this committee or in another forum. The Minister might establish a committee on volunteers and examine this area where we could encourage volunteers.

There is, for instance, the Gaisce award, which encourages young people to get involved and they get an award from the President at the end, the President's Award. That is excellent. I recognise the work volunteers are doing at all levels of our society, in all organisations, and as individuals as well.

I welcome this Bill but I am concerned, however, that in many areas young people are finding it difficult to socialise together outside school. The only place many young people can socialise is in the local hostelry, the public house. This is leading to an alcohol dominated culture among young people. If we are not careful we will build major problems for ourselves in years to come, problems associated with alcoholism, lack of physical fitness and the health problems that go with that.

There are also issues to do with building relationships at a young age and the public house is not the place to do it. Very often, the opportunity does not arise in school to do it either, even though many laudable attempts are made. Youth services, youth clubs and youth work provide this opportunity for young people to socialise and to get to know each other in a healthy, possibly supervised, atmosphere. This could also be a freer, looser atmosphere than is found in schools.

This is important. Youth organisations such as Foróige, for instance, formerly Macra na Tuaithe, have, through the years, done great work in that area. These youth organisations and youth clubs need places where young people can go to do youth work and to socialise. This is something that has to be addressed.

Youthwork is as important as the formal education area in schools and we should treat it with the same importance with which we treat formal education, as this is informal education. In the same way schools are provided for formal education, youth centres should be provided for this informal education. Perhaps many of our schools could double in function as many schools are closed from 3 p.m. or 4 p.m. I welcome the VEC involvement and we should incorporate some way that the facilities the schools have at the moment would be made available to the youth services in the evening and at night, as this is often when youth work is carried out.

There may be issues to do with insurance, pro tection of property in schools or the way classrooms are laid out and with school equipment, as schools are formal places and youthwork is informal. However, if a youngster has a choice between going into an old, draughty hall with poor furniture, no music and second-hand facilities and going into a lounge bar where there is music and entertainment it is easy to see which choice they will make and why, very often. Youth clubs and the youth service should be financed, resourced and assisted to provide youth centres in towns and cities.

Many speakers have spoken about the need for and importance of providing youth work for those who are deprived. That is important and it is vital that it is done. It is as important that youth work be provided for young people who are not deprived. Very often, we find that youngsters in towns and in the countryside who are relatively well off also have nowhere to go in the evening and at night to socialise and to learn informally from their colleagues. This should be an all-encompassing approach by the Department and by the people involved in setting up a proper youth service in Ireland. Not only those who are deprived but also those who are well off need youth work and youth services.

I welcome that the vocational education committees are involved because they have a great deal to offer. However, vocational education committees vary in size, from large to small. Some of them cover small towns whereas some, like the one in my county of Cork, cover a large area. It is a marvellous VEC but it covers a huge county. Perhaps we should examine the option of dividing up larger areas such as Cork because youth work is local as well as national.

I welcome the manner in which the Minister has structured this. Voluntary youth councils feed into youth work committees and there are also assessors and the Minister. However, like my colleague, Deputy Daly, I am concerned about too much bureaucracy and committees that are too large. Although it is important to involve as many people as possible, I urge caution. Committees that are too large are unwieldy and it can be difficult to get decisions made.

The voluntary youth councils are interesting and they will involve people at local level. The youth work committees are important and they mirror the ideas put forward by the home-school-community liaison programme whereby there would be an area network. This is a similar idea concerning youth work and it is already happening in many ways under the home-school-community liaison programme, so we must be careful to avoid duplication and having people do the same work under different headings.

Co-ordination is mentioned in the Bill and this must be co-ordinated across the board. I am aware the Garda, health boards and local public health nurses will be involved and will have an input and that is very important. I also note that young people will be involved and it is vital that they be involved in decision making as well.

The structure of youth organisations must be properly financed and we have the resources to do that now. I am sure we all agree that there is nothing more important in which to invest money. We must ensure the new structures are properly financed from day one. It is something we will watch carefully to ensure it is done and we will encourage that the money be provided at all levels.

In my area the Cloyne Youth Federation does excellent work. I recognise the work of volunteers. I welcome the Bill and look forward to the debate on Committee and Report Stages and to seeing the aspirations of the Bill being put into practice. As soon as the Bill is passed, I would like to see action and activity. I would like to see young people at all levels throughout the country becoming involved in informal education and development and socialising, learning and doing things together to provide them with an alternative to the pub culture which, sadly, is becoming dominant.

Although there is an overlap, I would like to see co-ordination between sporting organisations and the youth service. That is important because sporting organisations often link in with young people and do terrific work. I did not notice in the Bill that sporting organisations would have some link whereby they could make a contribution.

I welcome the inclusion of the link between formal education and the youth services which will be set up. That is a welcome development. I encourage a home-school-community liaison officer being appointed to all schools. If not, one should be shared between a cluster of schools. That person could provide the link between the youth work service and the school at both primary and secondary levels.

Another area on which we should focus and which is related to this area of youth work is Youthreach. It caters for youngsters who find the mainstream education system has failed them. They go to Youthreach and the outcome is often successful. I encourage the linking up of the youth service structure being established under the Bill and Youthreach. Youthreach must also be properly resourced and I am not convinced that is the case at present. I encourage the Government to ensure it is properly resourced and that the teachers, instructors and trainers in the scheme are catered for properly. My information is that they are often part-time and temporary.

Above all else in Youthreach, and the same applies to the youth services, we should ensure those working within it are properly qualified because youth work is a professional service. It is as important as teaching. One must have skills and a certain amount of experience and training to work with young people at this level. I know some people have a natural ability but in this area and this era when volunteers find it increasingly difficult to give up their time, we need professional youth workers in the major centres. We have professional teachers in schools and we should have professional workers driving this forward. These youth workers must be properly paid, trained and catered for with a career structure in place for them. I did not see that mentioned in the Bill. Perhaps I missed it, but I am sure it is implicit in the intention of the Bill.

The instructors, teachers and trainers must also be catered for and have a career structure and proper training. It is not good enough, although understandable, that one of these instructors, on obtaining a permanent job, leaves Youthreach to take up that position. Where does that leave the people they train in the scheme? It leaves them having to learn how to get on with a new instructor or trainer. Therefore, continuity is necessary and vital for both the youth services and Youthreach. If it is broken and lost because of movement of instructors and trainers, especially during the year, that is not the best position in which to find ourselves.

I welcome the fact that there will a national youth work advisory committee and that various Departments, such as Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Social, Community and Family Affairs, and so on, will be involved with it and will have an input to it. I am excited about this Bill because it is very good and has been well put together. It has brought together all the organisations, prescribed national youth organisations, voluntary groups, statutory agencies and so on, at different levels. Whoever put this together is to be commended.

Obviously, no matter what Bill is brought forward or who brings it forward, one side or the other will find that improvements can be made. This is such an important area, it will merit careful consideration on Committee Stage. I see that a great deal of work has already been done on the Bill. The Minister is putting a structure in place to ring-fence moneys for youth work by providing for a youth work budget, in respect of which, given the vital need for accountability, he is putting accounting procedures in place. There is, however, a lack of detail as to what the budget will cover. In this context, it is vital that provision is made for youth centres, the actual structures in which young people can congregate together. Will the youth work budget stretch to their provision? While there are youth centres in many cities, towns and villages, many are in need of massive funds and upgrading to make them attractive, comfortable and conducive to the work that needs to be done. What kind of programmes will the various committees put in place for young people? I assume they will also be funded from the youth work budget. It will be interesting to see what kind of programmes are put in place.

The inclusion of parents, whom I have not heard being mentioned, in the proposed structure should be looked at. It is possible that they have a role to play. Perhaps a way should be found to encourage them to become involved as volun teers in the youth service at local level. It is a criticism that they use sports and youth clubs as a babysitting service while they go off to the pub. I am sure we have all done this from time to time, but it would be useful if the incorporation of their views was provided for. It seems all other groups have been included in the proposed structure. I hope there is a role for parents to play.

I welcome the Bill and wish it a speedy passage through both Houses. I look forward to its implementation and seeing it in action. It is badly needed and should be properly funded.

I propose to share my time with Deputy Haughey.

Every Member will welcome the Bill as it marks the first real attempt at consolidation for the various youth groups throughout the country. This is necessary in the times in which we live. We are all aware of the problems facing young people. It does not matter whether they are ten, 12, 14, 16, 18 or 20 years of age, they all face the same problems. They include peer pressure and social pressures of all descriptions, including drink and drugs.

To my horror in this city yesterday I watched as a courier on a bicycle picked up drugs at a street corner, not one half mile from Leinster House, in broad daylight at 3.30 p.m. He then took off with mobile phone in hand. This frightened me. These are the individuals who are causing young people enormous problems. Our teenage children will tell us that they are very careful not to be in the company of certain individuals. They will never say why, but it is obvious that they have their reasons for telling us.

In looking at youth work, one also has to look at the question of funding. Every Member will want to ensure adequate funds are provided for this project when it gets under way in earnest. There are between 20 and 30 registered voluntary groups, each of which is scratching for money. We have a duty and the resources to fund them properly. Under legislation a certain percentage of national lottery funds should be directed towards youth work and the provision of youth services. We will have to do this if we want to tackle the problems confronting us.

There is a lack of facilities in urban and rural areas. I agree with Deputy Stanton that the local hostelry or pub has become the local meeting place. Twenty-five years ago it was the country hall, with a paraffin heater in the corner. Today, people have different expectations. They expect the same comforts that they enjoy at home. They do not want to end up in the corner of a windy hall frozen to bits.

There are several levels to the disco scene. One has discos for 11 to 13 year olds and the school disco for 14 to 17 year olds. One also has the ordinary adult disco, most of which have a sign stat ing, "Over 21s only". I often wonder how they judge age or ID. This indicates that there is categorisation of young people, which results in peer pressure.

We owe a great debt of gratitude to the various voluntary organisations, including Foróige, Macra na Feirme and the Catholic Youth Council, for their efforts during the years. They are doing tremendous work with little or no resources. If we want to make this a better society for young people, we will have to ensure they have confidence in the individuals with whom they are dealing. In this context, given the horror stories we have heard during the years of young people being molested – such stories cause them to be frightened – there is a need for all voluntary groups to register their officers and membership and a need to maintain a register of all those who have been involved in the mistreatment of people, young or old. Such information should be made available on a confidential basis to the Garda authorities which, in turn, should make it available to the various bodies concerned to ensure the protection of young people, as much as anything else. I hope this will be taken into consideration.

We have to express our confidence in young people who are much more confident than our generation. They have the necessary confidence from their early teens to deal with people on a one to one basis. We were well past our teens before we had such confidence.

There is a need to ensure youth groups have sufficient funds. Otherwise, they will become just another failed entity. The word "accountability" has been mentioned. In this context, there is a need to look at the percentage of funds which can be spent on administration in such organisations. In many cases it has been found – one could take health boards as an example – that there has been an increase in the number of management and clerical staff to the detriment of the end user. I would not like that to happen in the case of the groups involved in youth work.

There is a need for people to become aware of their responsibilities as citizens. While services will, in the main, be delivered through the vocational education committees, there is a need for people to become involved in youth work through the education system. If a number of our social problems had been dealt with at an early stage, people would not experience them. Examples are, joyriding and wandering horses in Dublin. The latter has been turned on its head by the action that was taken to educate young people on how to treat and care for animals. That is good youth work.

The problems young people have in obtaining motor insurance is a major problem in rural Ireland. If they were properly educated in how to drive, be courteous on the roads and address driving related problems there would be a greater reduction in the number of accidents. The net result would be that insurance costs would fall and come within the capacity of young people many of whom cannot afford or obtain insurance at the moment. Something must be done to facilitate their needs.

The Minister of State should make sure he secures adequate funding to deliver the service. He should fight for a percentage of national lottery funding to be allocated to this area and seek to have that funding matched by the Department of Education and Science. This is education at its best as people will be educated to be good citizens. We want them to become involved in various community groups and clubs to learn what it is like to be involved and working for themselves and their communities at an early stage.

According to the Minister of State the principal purposes of the Bill are to define what youth work means in a clear and concise manner; to detail the policy, budget, research, monitoring and assessment functions of the Minister regarding youth work; to define the functions of the vocational education committees regarding youth work, particularly the procedures for planning, prioritising, funding and reporting on the provision of youth work programmes and services; to establish a special youth work committee in each VEC area; to provide for the continuation of the national youth work advisory committee and to expand the voluntary committee to reflect to a greater degree the current composition of the youth work community; to formalise the allocation of grants for youth work; to establish voluntary youth councils to represent the needs and demands of the voluntary sector at local level and to permit the appointment of a national assessor of youth to ensure the best use of Government moneys in the provision of youth work programmes and services.

These are worthy objectives and taken together provide a statutory framework for the provision of youth work programmes and services. I have no doubt such a framework is needed. However, I hope the Minster of State can give assurances that it will encourage flexibility, spontaneity and initiative at local level. The last thing we want is an over-bureaucratic structure discouraging new ideas and projects on the ground. Initiative must be encouraged under this structure.

I welcome the emphasis on volunteerism in the legislation. Youth work is largely based on adult and youth leaders giving of their time and efforts freely and long may that continue. This year is the UN Year of the Volunteer and it is timely that we should reflect on the role of the volunteer in our society, that we celebrate him or her and that we ensure volunteers continue to come forward. Our colleague, Deputy Flood, at the invitation of the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs chairs a committee which deals with this matter. I wish him every success in his deliberations.

There are signs that volunteer numbers are declining and this is regrettable. There are many reasons for this and other Members have already put forward suggestions. Unprecedented economic growth means that everybody, young or old, male or female, is encouraged to work in the marketplace and, thus, there is less time available for voluntary work. More money means more disposable income for entertainment and so on. Volunteer numbers as a result are declining. Nevertheless we should do everything possible at Government level to halt this decline.

I pay tribute to Comhairle Le Leas Oige, the youth service board in Dublin city. It is an effective and efficient organisation and is very active in promoting youth activity. The board spends its budget wisely, in a manner which ensures its money benefits youth activity in the community. It is not a bureaucratic organisation and nobody wants such organisations in this field.

For example, there is a large number of youth organisations and services in my constituency of Dublin North Central such as the Harmonstown youthreach service, the anchor youth centre in Artane, the Donneycarney youth project, St. Paul's youth club in Artane, St. Monica's youth club in Edenmore and St. Luke's youth club in Kilmore West together with a large number of scouting clubs and summer projects. They provide an invaluable service to young people and the community as a whole.

Many of these groups and organisations are based in disadvantaged areas where young people are particularly vulnerable and in these circumstances their role becomes even more important. I highlight also how important the local drugs task forces and the young people's facilities and services fund are in directing substantial funds to these areas with the aim of tackling social exclusion. The money has been well spent and such spending should be continued.

There are tremendous pressures on young people in the modern world, particularly in regard to drugs and alcohol. It is important that alternatives are made available and youth services are one alternative. I agree that while there are facilities on the ground, more are needed and they must be improved. A structure will be put in place following the enactment of this legislation and the time has come to move forward to provide improved facilities, particularly in disadvantaged areas.

I received a submission on the Bill from the Donneycarney youth project. The administrators of the project have three concerns. Their first is that it does not mention community youth work or the community dimension of youth work and they would like that to be rectified. Second, they point out that the Bill establishes the national youth work advisory committee but nomination of the representatives from the voluntary and community sectors will be in the hands of one prescribed representative body, the National Youth Council of Ireland. They suggest the NYCI does not represent local, independent management committees which manage significant resources and staff in the provision of youth work in Dublin city and they ask that separate rep resentation be provided for the 60 independent community management committee-youth workers on the national youth work advisory committee by way of amendment.

Their third concern relates to the introduction of new programmes or services in a local area. In particular, it highlights section 11(1)(a) which will require the VEC to publish a notice in at least two newspapers inviting organisations to submit a proposal for the provision. They suggest this will mean that the local community will compete with voluntary organisations for funding to deliver and manage local products and services. This procedure could prove to be to the advantage of larger organisations and runs a real risk of undermining the current practice in the city where communities manage their own projects and youth services with the support of the City of Dublin Youth Services Board. In that regard, they have proposed an amendment which has been submitted to the Minister.

Reference was made earlier to joyriding which is still a major problem in certain areas of Dublin and in other areas of the country. From time to time it receives media attention but more often than not it does not. The problem is still there, however, and it is confined to certain areas. I welcome the fact that the Garda Síochána continually monitors trends in the theft of vehicles with a view to identifying persistent offenders and targeting areas prone to such activities. For example, Operation Steeringwheel is in place in the Coolock area to tackle the problem of joyriding there. That operation is ongoing and comprises uniformed Garda foot and mobile patrols targeting specific locations on a nightly basis. Other initiatives have also been launched by the Garda, including a special resource unit comprising one sergeant and eight gardaí to target instances of joyriding in west Tallaght. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform informed me recently that each Garda division has a traffic unit which targets joyriding incidents outside peak hours. I have also been informed by the Minister that the Garda Síochána is actively involved in a number of diversion programmes and projects which the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform funds with a view to diverting juveniles away from this type of crime. Such Garda initiatives must be encouraged because the joyriding problem is still there.

As regards the problem of wandering horses, pony clubs and other equine projects must be promoted in certain areas to encourage young people to take up such pursuits. In that way, young people can be trained to deal with horses. It is a worthwhile interest which should be promoted by the authorities.

I thank all Deputies who contributed to this debate and I have carefully noted their comments. Their views have been helpful and I will undertake to keep an open mind on alternative views and comments as we proceed through the various stages of the legislative process. Our objective is to get the legislation best suited to the needs of the youth work community.

I will address briefly some of the points raised by Deputies and others in the wider community in response to the Bill. Several speakers referred to the level of funding available to the youth work service. Apart from structural considerations, I am very concerned with the funding made available for youth work. Deputies have rightly pointed out that many schemes and programmes are operated by a number of Departments and agencies. In many instances, youth work organisations avail themselves of funding from a number of sources. Through the increased co-operation and co-ordination envisaged in the Bill, it will be possible to achieve a more strategic approach to the funding of youth work services.

Since taking office I have managed to have funding to the youth work service increased from a baseline of £13.3 million in 1997 to £18.2 million in 2001. This represents an increase of no less than 37%. Apart from this significant additional funding for youth work and the Youth Work Bill itself, the national youth work advisory committee is at present preparing a national youth work development plan which will provide a blueprint for the development of youth work over the next five years or so.

I appreciate the references made by Deputies to the unique position of volunteers in the Irish youth work movement. I have outlined the high regard and esteem in which I hold the many volunteers who contribute so magnificently to youth work and, indeed, those who contribute in other fields, such as adult literacy. I hope this tradition will continue to grow and prosper as it is a vital component of community services.

This is the United Nations International Year of the Volunteer and my Department will be playing a full role in an appropriate fashion to celebrate this event, which includes representation on the national committee on volunteering, set up recently by the Department of Social, Community and Family Affairs. I am aware that the committee also includes a significant number of volunteers. This is very appropriate in view of the long and staunch contribution made to Irish society by volunteers, particularly in the area of youth work.

Concern has been expressed that undue emphasis may be placed on the needs of disadvantaged youth at the expense of the wider youth community. It is of paramount importance that the youth work service should address the question of social inclusion, but not without the realisation that all young people are entitled to the benefits of an informal process of personal and social development. I assure the House that through the good offices of the national youth work advisory committee, the voluntary youth work sector, together with the statutory agencies, will have every opportunity to guide the Minister, the vocational education committees and the Department in the application of funding schemes.

Deputy Upton referred to the need to ensure that where there is a Gaeltacht in a VEC area, the Irish language youth organisations of that area should have guaranteed representation on the local voluntary youth council. I agree it is most important that we safeguard our heritage and promote Irish for youth as a living language. In many instances, the voluntary youth councils will have a role to play in this matter. However, on reflection, the best way to secure adequate representation for these youth work organisations is through the preparation of the guidelines under which the voluntary youth councils will operate, rather than directly through legislation. I am confident that the national youth work advisory committee will have full regard to this necessity in advising me on the matter.

Deputy Upton also referred to the fact that there is particular regard to be had to the youth work requirements of young people aged between ten and 21 who are socially or economically disadvantaged. The Deputy sought to have the issues of age and disadvantage separated. I appreciate what she has said and I will give this matter further consideration.

The issues of accreditation and training are of concern to the youth work sector and are currently being examined in the preparation of the national youth work development plan. I expect that it will contain a number of interesting recommendations in this regard. As Deputy Dennehy pointed out, professional services are provided not only by paid full-time youth workers, but also by those acting in a voluntary capacity. We must address the requirements of full-time workers and those volunteers who wish to commit themselves at the highest level to our youth work needs.

The question of specific guidelines for those working with young people, adapted from the national guidelines for the protection and welfare of children, is being addressed by the National Youth Work Advisory Committee. Guidelines have been drafted and a sub-committee of the advisory committee has been formed to prepare a comprehensive training implementation plan. I anticipate that the committee will report to me soon in this regard.

Deputy Bradford noted that it might be desirable for the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Rural Development to have representation on the advisory committee. I assure him that the matter was examined when the Bill was being prepared. It was agreed between my Department and the Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development that youth work development matters should be addressed locally within the youth work committees of the vocational education committees and local voluntary youth councils.

Deputies Sargent and Ring made the point that we should be creating recreational facilities for our young people. I agree fully with these sentiments and the process is already under way. The young people's facilities and services fund has, inter alia, earmarked over £37.5 million over the first three years of its life for the capital costs of recreational and sports facilities and current services for young people in local drugs task force areas and six designated urban areas. This money will support 87 projects. Beneficiaries will include such worthwhile endeavours as the Mulhuddart community centre, the Knocknaheeny community resource centre and the sports and community centre at Pearse Park in Crumlin. So concerned is the Government to ensure the success of the scheme and the capital projects it supports that it recently made available an additional £2.6 million in respect of 44 of the projects. The young people's facilities and services fund is a major investment in the welfare of disadvantaged young people and young people at risk.

In the final four years of the national development plan, it is intended that funds will continue to be available for capital and current projects.

The Bill envisages that local and national youth work organisations have slightly different means of designation. It is being said that to grant national status to organisations which operate in as few as two vocational areas is somewhat nonsensical. I remind the House that the system of grant-in-aid for national youth work organisations, which has been in place for almost 20 years, operates on a similar basis. The youth services grant scheme provides national lottery funds to support the administration of national and major regional youth work organisations. The use of the term "national" in the Bill is for convenience sake. To restrict national designation to groups which have a comprehensive national service area would do a disservice to a great many voluntary bodies. Indeed, only a handful of the organisations in the youth services grant scheme have a presence in the majority of VEC areas. The principle which currently governs grant-in-aid has proved entirely satisfactory and has the support of the voluntary sector. Accordingly, I do not propose to take any action to change the criteria as outlined in the Bill. Indeed, the national youth work advisory committee will, in due course, advise me of further criteria to be applied in the cases.

The membership of the national youth work advisory committee has been enhanced beyond the provisions made in the Youth Work Act, 1997. I am very pleased to include so many bodies with an interest in youth work services. While it has been possible to detail the exact statutory sector representation on the committee, the same cannot be said for the voluntary sector. It would not be right for the Minister to decide whom from among the extended national youth work community should represent that community. Instead, there will be a single nominating body for the voluntary sector which is of the voluntary sector. I remain convinced that nominations to the advisory committee should come from a single rep resentative organisation to encourage co-operation and cohesion within the youth work community.

The National Youth Work Council of Ireland has a long and distinguished record of service to the voluntary youth sector. My Department was very conscious of its likely role in the new scheme throughout the drafting process and felt that the creation of the prescribed national youth work representative organisation as a nominating body to the national youth work advisory committee is fundamental to this Bill. It had been suggested that the National Youth Council of Ireland should be named in the legislation as the nominating body and I will address this matter further on Committee Stage.

One of the key provisions of the Bill lies in section 16 and allows for the appointment of a national youth work assessor. As some of the Deputies may be aware, the process of appointing an assessor is already under way. Sanction has been received from the Minister for Finance for the appointment and the relevant officials are making preparations for an open recruitment process that will have as its aim the appointment of the best candidate for the position. It is expected that the initial appointment will, subject to satisfactory performance, be for a period of five years. It is essential for the effective implementation of this Bill that this post is filled by a person with a broad range of skills and an in-depth knowledge of youth work. It is my intention that a great deal of effort should be taken to ensure that this process succeeds. There will be a very heavy workload involved in the execution of the assessor's functions and, accordingly, further consideration will be given to the support needs of the assessor.

It has been highlighted that there is unease among the voluntary youth work sector regarding the functions of the national youth work assessor in relation to decisions vocational education committees and the Minister to reduce funding to organisations. The view has been expressed that the assessor's role in hearing and commenting on the representations of an organisation in such a position may be contrary to natural justice. Advice has been given that the procedures outlined in sections 8, 10 and 35, giving the assessor the power to act as an intermediary on behalf of youth work organisations, are consistent with good practice and entirely within the scope of natural justice. This is not an appeal process. It is a clarification procedure and, as such, the provision for organisations to supplement their cases and make further submissions prior to any decision which might adversely affect them is most important and I think has been widely welcomed.

The national youth work development plan currently being prepared will address many of the issues raised by Deputy Deenihan. The national youth work advisory committee has representation from the various Departments which will also financially support youth work. The commit tee will co-ordinate youth work being done by other Departments. Deputy Ring made a case for funding for local clubs and organisations. For this very purpose, I initiated a scheme for local youth club grants in 2000 and allocated £1.13 million through the vocational education committees for this scheme. The scheme will enable local clubs to draw down funds for the very purpose about which Deputy Ring spoke.

The Castle Saunderson project was mentioned by a number of Deputies. The Minister for Finance was approached by me, as I promised, and explained in a recent parliamentary reply that proposals for funding of a permanent jamboree campsite at the Castle Saunderson Estate in County Cavan for Scouting Ireland have been received and are currently being considered in the context of developing and promoting North-South relations. He said this consideration will explore the opportunities for funding the project under either of the two new EU supported programmes for cross-Border co-operation, namely the INTERREG III programme and the Programme for Peace and Co-operation 2000-2004. The Minister for Finance understands that the authorities in Northern Ireland have not been approached with a similar request for funding.

The Youth Work Bill is the result of extensive consultation with all interested parties and a great deal of consideration and contemplation. It is also the best expression of the wishes of and replies to the needs of youth workers, youth work organisations, local and national Government and, most of all, young people. I am confident that the majority of the voluntary youth work sector welcomes the Bill and will be pleased to see its terms implemented in the months ahead. I again thank the Members who contributed to this discussion and I look forward to a further constructive debate on this matter as it proceeds through the other Stages. I commend the Bill to the House.

Question put and agreed to.