National Youth Policy Committee Report: Motion.

I move:

That Seanad Éireann welcomes the Final Report of the National Youth Policy Committee which was laid before the House on 10 October 1984 and calls upon the Government to give full consideration to the findings of the Report which is a major contribution towards the establishment of a national youth policy.

Tá an-áthas orm an rún seo a mholadh anocht mar tá a lán cainte ar siúl leis na blianta i dtaobh ógánaigh na hÉireann agus b'fhéidir go bhfuil an t-am thart anois leis an gcaint agus go mba chóir go mbeadh rud éigin sásúil déanta. Tá sé deacair b'fhéidir réiteach a fháil ar fhadhbanna na n-ógánach ach ní dóigh liom go ndéanfaidh sé maitheas ar bith do éinne bheith ag caint faoi na hógánaigh, daoine ag rá go bhfuil siad go han-mhaith agus daoine eile ag rá go bhfuil siad go dona agus nach bhfuil siad chomh maith ar chor ar bith leis na daoine a bhí ann fadó. Tá ré nua againn anois agus caithfimid dul ar aghaidh sa ré seo atá againn. Tugann na moltaí seo seans do gach éinne, an Rialtas agus na taoisigh ar fud na tíre, rud éigin a dhéanamh agus tá súil agam go mbeidh tairbhe as na moltaí seo i rith na bliana seo.

Being International Youth Year it is very appropriate that we discuss the problems of youth and the report on youth as submitted by the Costello Committee. I was very heartened to see that the opening chapter dealt with a philosophy of youth development. It is way past time that we developed philosophies rather than talking about things off the top of our heads. In general we find that speeches are made about youth being the wealth of Ireland and the greatest natural resource we have but if we do not give them opportunities we are serving no cause by telling them how important they are. We frustrate them. We should have something we can give them that they can follow, that they will be rewarded for their skills, intelligence and their education. A philosophy is very important. When this policy is being drawn up I am quite sure that following on the report we have before us and the contributions that will be made tonight the Minister who is very capable in this line will be able to set up the necessary structure.

There is a question of drawing up a plan dealing with the rights of the young people. We can talk about rights but if we cannot deliver on them we can cause problems for young people. They have given us a set of principles in this report dealing with the needs of the young people and how society must help. In society we are inclined in general to give out about youth. Those of us who have spent a lot of time with youth will have a better understanding than those who just sit, look and criticise. I do not believe they are any worse now than they were years ago, there is a mixture and the mixture was there before. There was not the same publicity on television or the same reporting in the papers. Maybe some of the things that are done at the moment appear to be worse than what used to happen, but as a society we can be too critical of young people. Many of them are excellent, many of them are way ahead of people who went before them and who are very critical of them at this stage.

We should help them. Perhaps we should talk less about them, even get involved in committees or give our time to help them. It is easy enough to get money from people but it is very difficult to get people to come out to support young people. Young people may be anxious to get involved in youth committees, they may be very anxious to have their own organisations, and I know they would be very willing to co-operate. To get adults prepared to give their nights to look after them, to supervise them, is a problem that arises in many places as I know from experience. If somebody does it is great and praise is lavished on him or her, but I think that adults should play a greater role in giving leadership to the younger people who are willing to be led and willing to play their part just as much as ever.

The family role is outlined in this report. The family is our basic structure and it must survive. We could talk about the taxation system where the role of the family is not being supported as much as it should be, where allowances should be made for children. Any help the family gets in a financial way will help the younger people to progress in life.

They also deal with education. One could talk about education for hours. Young people are very educated now. Years ago people had to go to England with only a primary education and they had to live with many difficulties in a very strange environment. We are lucky that at least the younger people today are educated. They should know more than the people who went before them. Their standards are something you can question but that is part of modern youth. They have much more facilities for hearing and seeing things and knowing what is going on. The older people did not have the same facilities. We lived in a sheltered society. With the educational facilities that are there at the moment for young people they have an opportunity to stand on their own feet and make up their own mind. They do not have to be led into promiscuity, crime and so on.

The question can be asked, what are we educating people for? Are we still educating people for office jobs and professions when most of the work will not be in that line? It is not easy to change the educational system. We are inclined to follow what has been there. There have been many attempts made even at primary level. The introduction of PE and the provision of halls and GP rooms were valuable.

Art in primary schools has advanced very much in the last few years, and also nature study. We have gone away from the basic three Rs. Perhaps people leaving the sixth standard ten years ago were able to write better English and Irish but they certainly had not the same all-round education of people leaving school today. Some people will question the drop in standards, but one has to know what the changes are and what other information they have that helps them to develop a proper attitude to life.

The report deals with the question of work, not the easiest of topics in modern times to sort out. It is fine to tell people they have the right to work but the difficulty is in providing work. It is heartening to note that young people are getting more work than we thought. A later report states that the younger people are doing reasonably well. No matter how well they do it will not be well enough, especially if they are well educated. They will not feel happy if they are not at work.

This report will give the Government a chance of drawing up a good plan. It may not be easy to implement all of it and it may not be easy to deal with all the aspects. One part of it lays emphasis on the fact that young people should be given the opportunity of decision making in the running of schools. I would not altogether fall over backwards on that particular aspect. At a certain age there could be maturity but I would not like to have to consult pupils in sixth class whom I teach at the moment about what we should do with the school. I am sure they would have very good suggestions as to what we should do with it, and I would not blame them. One can perhaps ask young people for their views but in the long run it requires years of maturity to weigh up a situation.

It is very difficult for young people to decide to stay on at school if they have the opportunity of getting work. The fact that they might get £15 or £20 for working in a shop appeals to them because they have no guarantee of a job if they continue at school to do the leaving certificate. The immediate sight of money in their hands certainly lures them into making a decision and later they may regret they did not stay on in school. It is quite regular to meet people who regret they did not do their leaving certificate. They made rash decisions at the time. I would not like to land young people into a position where they would be making major decisions about schools, but their views would be very important. Perhaps that is what was meant, and the Minister can decide what he will do on that line.

The Government have been genuine in their concern and I hope they will continue to be concerned. They provided £2.8 million for the youth services this year, and that is a big increase. It is not enough to leave it to the Government to provide money. There must be leaders who will help the young people, who will do more than talk, and who will help to have schemes implemented.

Another section of the report deals with the disadvantaged youth. The young people who come from good homes with a good background and certain facilities have not got the real problems of disadvantaged youth. We can see the needs of faraway places, but there is no doubt that when one passes roadside travellers and sees young toddlers and children, sometimes half-naked, going around in the cold it makes one wonder about our philosophy as it concerns human beings. It would be nice if we could come up with a plan to help these young itinerants. There are suggestions to integrate them, to qualify them. In Carlow where the younger people are being trained it does seem to give them a special standing among themselves and even among the community when they can produce goods that can be sold. Very often we regard them as good-for-nothings and we do not consider that they got no great chance in life, that they were born into that situation and unless we help them they will not get anywhere.

Obviously the section on disabled youth is very important, because they need more help than anybody else. Perhaps our youthful Minister would consider where some of the problems of disabled people could be ironed out in the social welfare context. I am thinking in particular of a mentally retarded child who continues to go to school after the age of 16 and who is not given the money he would get if he stayed at home. That type of situation is indefensible in this day and age, and I hope it will be changed very shortly. While we can draw up youth policies for the disabled and provide ramps and so on the actual provision of money for them is very important.

There is a chapter in the report about young offenders which questions why people are young offenders. Again, a lot depends on whether they were disadvantaged from birth, which is often the case. They have never learned about standards, through no fault of their own. I do not like the idea that because people are unemployed or poor that automatically gives them more or less an excuse for committing crime. People were always poor and people were always unemployed but there was a different standard in the years past. While we have to sort out what causes people to commit crime there is a limit. We have to get back to a basic genuine concern for honesty and for a standard that always existed. We brag and feel very confident that we are a very religious nation and, I suppose we would be shocked if someone said that Ireland was not a religious nation and a nation of believers. We are inclined to make all kinds of excuses for the fact that obviously we do not live up to our religious practices. Perhaps a little honest to God honesty coming back into the nation would help, and I am not talking about the youth alone on this. It would save us analysing a lot of problems which we have.

Finally, I would like to compliment the people who published this report. They obviously spent a lot of time on it. It is a very detailed document and one on which one could speak for hours because of all their recommendations and comments. The best compliment we can pay them is to ensure that in this year where youth will get so much publicity we will bring in a youth policy that can be implemented and that will be practical. I have the utmost confidence that the Minister of State has all the skills and qualities, having heard the advice of the people in the Seanad, to do that and I look forward to having a youth policy in 1985.

I wish to second the motion, but I reserve the right to reply after the other side of the House has made a contribution.

I have fairly full notes here and with the permission of the Chair I will circulate them. They are notes rather than a speech and I will be departing quite substantially from them but they may be of assistance to the Senators.

It is a very considerable pleasure, and indeed a considerable source of pride to me as Minister of State with responsibility in the area of youth affairs to be provided with this opportunity of coming in and speaking to this House on the Final Report of the National Youth Policy Committee, a report which was laid before this House on 10 October of last year. Senators will be aware of the fact that the debate has already begun in the other House on the contents of the report and such was the level of interest that that debate stands adjourned and is shortly to be resumed. It is highly appropriate that Members of this House should in turn be provided with an opportunity to comment on what is generally accepted as being a most comprehensive analysis and a most important report.

Perhaps I can begin by taking up Senator Browne's concluding remarks and thanking and expressing my personal appreciation and that of the Government for the commitment shown by the Chairman of the Committee, Mr. Justice Declan Costello of the High Court, the rappoteur, Mr. Tadhg Ó Cearbhaill, a most distinguished public servant, and the other members of the committee who laboured long and hard in their endeavours. I think there will be agreement from all sides that an exceedingly fine job was done and an exceedingly fine report was produced in a very short period. When the committee were established the Government, rather than allow this to be long-fingered and drag on into the distance, invited the members of the committee to do their work within 12 calendar months. They did that to the day and the report was presented, almost uniquely by a committee, in the time limit suggested by the Government.

It is worth going back 12 months to consider the circumstances that motivated and prompted the Government to establish such a committee and in doing so to give them the very wide and comprehensive terms of reference they enjoyed. First, the need for the support and development of our youth service is not an issue of contention. Successive Governments of different political persuasions since the early seventies have contributed to the support of voluntary youth organisations and services which they provide. Having said that, there has not been any substantial attempt to place youth services in context, both as to the established needs of young people and also as to the place of such services in the overall Government provision of services more generally. It was against that background that the National Youth Council of Ireland and a number of other bodies called for an overall national policy within which voluntary youth organisations would be able to find a secure and valued place.

Before taking office we gave a commitment to adopt such a policy. Prior to the election that returned us to office we set out in some detail the procedure which was to be followed. We suggested that the first step in such an exercise would be the publication of a short discussion document which would simply ask questions that would act as a trigger for discussion. We did that when we published "Shaping the Future". We then said that we would establish a high level committee representative first of all of young people themselves and the voluntary organisations to which they give their allegiance, representative too of the Government Departments that serve young people and representative also of a number of other organisations and interest groups that were clearly concerned and had a contribution to make.

By appointing a committee of the calibre that we did and by the fact that the Taoiseach lent his personal prestige to the exercise it was open to us to show just how important was the priority that the Government attach to the exercise. Senators should take reassurance from that that now that the report is available to us it will not be treated lightly and that it is not going to be consigned to some dusty shelves in some remote Government Department.

Anyone who had fears in that area would have those fears eased by examining the track record of this Government since taking office. Our first year in office, 1983, was the year of major departure for the youth service. Members will remember the controversy that then existed with regard to the position of development officers. Fifty four officers working with different national youth organisations faced extinction. Contracts were due to expire and there was no indication as to their position. Understandably, organisations such as the National Federation of Youth Clubs and so on who had taken advantage of the existence of the scheme to develop their structures to expand suddenly found their whole existence in question. The Government, of course, responded and made those posts permanent and, at the same time, increased the grant aid in support of each such officer from £5,000 at the installation of the scheme to £7,000.

People will also recall that at that time the provision for the youth service showed an increase of only 1 per cent. That seemed to us to be something that was quite intolerable, and that was immediately redressed. An additional allocation of some £550,000 was provided in order to ensure the development and expansion of various voluntary youth organisations. It has not stopped there, and the subsequent years of our period in Government have continued to show the Government placing an emphasis on the voluntary youth service and honouring a commitment to regard its funding as a priority.

That was very important to us as we set about this exercise, because had we not been able to make that movement, had we not been able to show voluntary organisations that their place and their role was appreciated and that it was not going to be an appreciation which stopped at lip service, then it would be inevitable that they would approach any initiative such as the Costello committee with some scepticism. So it was important that before launching on this exercise we were determined to build on sound and secure foundations, and that is just what we did. The figures speak for themselves. In 1982 £1,400,000 was allocated, two years later £2.2 million was allocated, an increase of just about 50 per cent. This year the Estimates provide for a sum of £2.8 million for the youth service, an increase of 26 per cent, and that against a background of considerable financial restraint.

The committee were launched in the full and certain expectation that the Government would live up to their commitments, and we now have that report. The stage has been set for an honest, substantial and considered response to the report. It is important that we get the timetable right on what we can reasonably expect out of the report. I have heard some suggestions that it might have been desirable not to debate the report at this stage in this House or not to have had a debate in the other House but instead to wait until the Government had considered the report in detail and could come back and say which recommendations were being accepted and were being rejected and over which period any particular recommendation was going to be implemented. It seems to me that would be an entirely unhappy way in which to proceed. It is altogether more satisfactory that both Houses of the Oireachtas are now being given an opportunity to comment on the report at a time when the report is itself under consideration by Government, so that Government in responding to the report will have the benefit of Senators' views. There are a number of issues in the report on which public representatives are in a particularly advantageous position to comment. There are, for example, sections dealing with the evolution of local structures on which public representatives from all around the country will be uniquely well positioned to draw on their background in local politics to comment on what might be the best structures to evolve.

Equally, the members of the committee indicated that they accepted that the report could not and would not be implemented overnight and that any implementation would be on a phased basis. If that is so then clearly there are some areas that have to receive priority. The views of Senators, and indeed from the other House views of Deputies, in identifying the areas of priority will be a very considerable advantage to the Government.

We regard the exercise we are now engaged on as a very important part of our response to International Youth Year. As already commented on, this year, 1985, has been designated by the United Nations as International Youth Year. Ireland is a member of the 24 nation advisory committee which oversees and guides member states in their celebration of the year. Members who have copies of the report before them will see that the logo for International Youth Year and its explanation and relevance to the themes of that year have been reproduced on the cover of the report. We were concerned that this very major exercise should be seen for what it is, a very substantial part of our preparations for International Youth Year, though obviously, that was not the sole extent of our concern or interest.

In regard to International Youth Year, I simply comment in passing that a committee has been established at national level to prepare for the year and organise it. I am very happy to say that a wideranging programme is now coming together. We have a very worth-while programme now at national, regional and, most important of all, at local level.

I made reference to the extra resources that have been made available in this year's Estimates. Of course, the provision to that effect was made in the context of the Government's national plan,Building on Reality. It was there that the Government reiterated their commitment to establish a national youth policy for International Youth Year. Such a youth policy

"will have its own distinct purposes but would interact with other policies and measures."

I quote from page 109 of that document:

The policy will be aimed at assisting all young people to become self-reliant, responsible and active participants in society. It will include:

—a clear philosophy of youth development and a statement of principles to guide Government policies;

—an objective assessment of the factual position of young people in contemporary Ireland;

—a detailed plan for the provision of services to young people generally and disadvantaged young people in particular;

In the context of their consideration of the national plan, and in advance of its publication and of having an opportunity of considering the cost of the report, the Government set aside an additional sum of £1.5 million for the youth services. That allocation allows a degree of flexibility which facilitates planning on a response to the priorities outlined in the plan. On the capital side, Senators will be aware that I have also made provision in the national plan for the reintroduction of capital facilities for youth and community organisations. A further allocation of £3 million in capital support for community and youth facilities is there provided for.

I say that to assert again and make clear that there is no question of the Government standing still until the wider debate, not just in this House, we are now engaged on is completed. The Government in many instances have anticipated the findings of the report and in other instances are already responding to it. That is evident for example, in the Government's decision in the last two years to make funding available to groups dealing with disadvantaged young people, it is like the HOPE organisation in Dublin dealing with the homeless. It is evident, too, in the funds made available on the capital side anticipating a recommendation that was to emerge from the Costello Report. The Government are already responding to the suggestion that what could be described as its "facelift" grants for the overhaul of dilapidated and perhaps unsafe youth facilities should be made available, and to the suggestion that support should be made available to An Óige organisation in regard to their hostels. Therefore, it is most important that the debate should not be derailed by any belief that because we are having the debate the time for action has been postponed. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Our very first statement in response to the report accepted the recommendation that a national youth policy should be guided by a clear statement of youth development and based on a statement of principles which would govern the detailed implementation of the policy.

In chapter 3 of the report the philosophy and the principles expounded by the National Youth Policy Committee deserve all our consideration. I echo the views of Senator Browne that this is an exercise which perhaps is long overdue. It is entirely desirable and valuable that the committee should have made explicit the philosophy that informs all of their recommendations. Too often we have eschewed ideas which ought to be promoted and have been quite shy about the values that we say we are upholding. The democratic philosophy and vision outlined in the report and the evidence it presents in relation to active participation in society seems to be absolutely cogent and compelling. The report stresses the importance of participation by young people in society and the need for adequate social and political education.

I am concerned that young people should have an adequate opportunity to participate in the whole process of policy review and formulation, so it was with some enthusiasm that I accepted the very final suggestion of the report, which was that a popular version of the report should be published which would be aimed at promoting understanding and discussion among young people. This popular version was itself produced and published in record time when it emerged on 10 December 1984 under the title Looking for Action and was done with the co-operation of the National Youth Council and the Institute of Public Administration. As a result of that, the substance of the work of the committee is now being made available to every second level school in the country and to many youth groups all around the country too. Young people are thus being given a chance to respond to the report and to make their views known on a whole range of issues which affect them. I would like to see the report as a landmark in the development of services to young people and as charting a way towards a national youth service and providing an analysis of the position of young people in society and the trends and prospects that face them over the next decade.

There has been, and this is quite understandable, criticism of the fact that this was just one more report, that we had other reports in the youth service and this just takes place alongside them on the shelf. First of all, I accept that very good work has been done in this area by previous Ministers of State from both sides of the House who have addressed themselves to the needs of young people, but it is just not right to suggest that the Costello report is simply a rediscovery of old truths. The terms of reference and remit of the Costello Committee go far beyond anything which has been attempted before. That is not in any sense to downplay the significance of A Policy for Youth and Sport published by Deputy John Bruton, who is now Minister for Industry, Trade, Commerce and Tourism, or Development of Youth Work Services in Ireland published by Deputy Tunney when he was Minister of State. Both of those were valuable and, indeed, seminal exercises and contributed very substantially to the evolution of the Government's attitude for young people and their needs. Unlike previous reports, this one was not confined in its deliberations to the narrow remit of youth work, important though that area is. Instead it addressed itself, to the wider issues relevant to young people and their needs.

There are one or two aspects of the report to which I might usefully address myself at this stage. I do not want to prolong my contribution because I am anxious to hear the views of as many Members of the House as possible. Members will be aware that the National Youth Policy Committee commissioned an extensive and nationwide survey — a public opinion poll — on the attitudes and behaviour of young people in Ireland. In its own right, that survey is the most important contribution to youth research.The Irish Press, for example, on 13 December 1984 in an editorial referred to aspects of this survey as it was published in Looking for Action, the popular version of the report to which I have already referred. The editorial concluded, and I quote:

This report should now be put on the top of each Minister's desk and studied with the care and consideration that our young generation deserve.

I want to assure the House that, in keeping with the commitment we brought into Government with us to introduce a comprehensive youth survey, the report of the policy committee and the survey of the attitudes and behaviour of the young people of Ireland have been the concern of relevant Ministers in the past few months, as the Government move on towards their goal of introducing that comprehensive youth policy in International Youth Year. However, it is not just a report addressed to Government Ministers. It is a report which is and should be of interest to all of the social partners, to teachers, politicians and the churches, for example. It must be a cause of concern to the churches that only reuniting Ireland by violence ranks lower than religion among young people's priorities. When young people were asked to list their priorities on the basis of a number of possible areas of concern, only the possibility of reunification by violence was identified by them as being less important than religion. It is only right that I should say that there was a substantial gap between the lowest and the second lowest. I do not want to make too much of that comparison, but I think it is of some note and must cause some concern. If the churches have any reason to be concerned by that report then I must say that we all have more reason to be concerned, because there is less joy for politicians and political parties in the report than for almost anybody else. Politicians, the House will note, rank lowest behind trade union officials and public officials as the group in society perceived by young people as being least prepared to listen and least capable of understanding their views. That must be of concern to us. We ignore that perception at our peril, a perception now scientifically and statistically documented, a perception that is further reinforced by the level of apathy surrounding young people's political attitudes. Members are aware that I have already taken some steps to attempt to turn that tide. I indicated that I was prepared to consider applications from political parties represented in Dáil Éireann for grant assistance towards the employment of an education officer the specific remit of whom would be the area of political education, the intention being that such officers would be responsible for training programmes for young people within the youth movement's political parties and that they would be expected to demonstrate over a period tangible results in the form of increased participation at local level by young people in community affairs. All four eligible parties have indicated that they are interested in the proposal, and I expect that formal appointments are likely to be made shortly.

I do not want to overstate the benefits that are likely to accrue from that initiative. I accept that, for the most part, political and social education will have to be undertaken in the schools and that that must come through a reformed curriculum. I accept that that must be supplemented by informal education which, for the most part, will be gained through participation in youth organisations. That said, I am quite convinced of the need to strengthen our democratic political life through preparing and educating skilled and motivated young people to be involved at all levels.

A second area to which I wish to address myself is the relationship of a youth policy and disadvantaged young people. The committee devoted section 4 of their report to this most important area of social concern. The committee identified many forms of disadvantage and made recommendations which are challenging and which have to be seriously considered if we are to make real progress towards a comprehensive youth service for all our young people.

I can only refer again to the initial Government statement which stated that, as a matter of social justice, the Government believe that the needs and rights of disadvantaged young people require special measures in order to produce equality of opportunity. For that reason, it is very encouraging to see the report devote a whole section to the specific needs of the disadvantaged covering topics such as school attendance, neighbourhood youth projects, youth encounter projects, the issue of homeless young people, the question of substance abuse, youth offenders and so on. It is also only right to say that the Government have not in any sense been inactive in dealing with this area. The House will be aware that a number of those areas have been the subject of separate Government response. I will cite, for example, the problem of substance and drug abuse and the plight of young travellers. At this stage we can safely say that the horrific problems of drug abuse and all the attendant evils need no elaboration in this House. The Government established a ministerial task force which resulted in September 1983 in a comprehensive Government statement covering law enforcement, treatment facilities, community education, youth development, research and resources. Subsequently the National Youth Policy Committee met with the task force in February 1984 to convey their views on substance abuse. Senators will be aware that the Misuse of Drugs Act, 1984 amended the Misuse of Drugs Act, 1977 in a number of significant respects in order to aid the drive against the criminals who push drugs. The Costello Report makes the point, which I endorse without equivocation, that properly developed youth services can play an important part in prevention. The September 1983 Government statement has clearly recognised this. Senators will also be aware that, in accordance with Government policy, a National Co-ordinating Committee on Drug Abuse was established on 2 January 1985. The committee are representative of Government Departments, voluntary bodies and other agencies concerned with drug abuse and will advise the Government on general issues relating to drug abuse.

In respect of policy in relation to young travellers, Senators will be aware of the Government statement issued in July 1984 setting out a comprehensive programme to provide accommodation and other services for travellers. The statement was issued consequent to a review body report, and a task force of Ministers considered policy in relation to travellers generally. Obviously the concern the Costello Report has indicated for young travellers must now be considered, especially the case that is made very eloquently for access to youth and community services.

There are other forms of disadvantage which have not, perhaps, received as much attention from either legislators or the media. One most distressing area that has occupied the attention of this House in recent months and very recently occupied the attention of the national media is the problem of the homeless young people. This problem I hope to meet head-on, and to do so in consultation and co-operation with a number of my ministerial colleagues.

Central to the report are chapters 10, 11 and 12, which describe the present range of services to young people, define the new youth service proposed, assess youth service needs and outline how a possible structure for the youth service might be built. When we speak of a comprehensive youth service, what is meant? The committee recommend that youth work service — that is out-of-school education provided in the main by voluntary organisations — together with special services to youth, such as information and advice centres, youth encounter projects, work with detached or disadvantaged young people, should both be encompassed by a new national youth service. This new service, which would be provided by local youth service committees representative of voluntary and statutory agencies, would be comprehensive in two ways. It would be available to all young people throughout the State, and it would comprehend a whole range of services as required by young people from time to time or place to place.

It would be quite wrong of me to conclude without taking the opportunity of paying tribute to the tens of thousands of volunteers who shoulder so ably the burden of the youth service at present. The Costello Report acknowledged their tremendous contribution to the development and welfare of our young people, and went so far as to design its recommendations for a comprehensive youth service around the very real and substantial achievements of voluntary youth organisations.

As I indicated earlier, the report concludes with an acknowledgment that those recommendations which are accepted will fall to be implemented in stages. I believe that a planned, phased, approach will also be necessary, both because resources are limited, and because we need to keep learning. As we go we put ourselves in a position to review our progress, to identify our strengths and, having identified them build on them, and to eliminate the weaknesses that will emerge. It follows from that logic that any rigid approach, any blanket prescription for the whole country could prove quite disastrous. I do not expect on reflection that any Member of the Seanad or any of the groups interested would argue for such a course of action. What we all desire at this stage is steady, constructive advice based on a clear picture of where we want to go.

I look forward very much to hearing the views of Senators. I simply want to reiterate that there will be no shelving of this report, no attempt to talk away a commitment that the report is receiving the most urgent attention. It is against that background of urgent attention that the views of Senators are now so timely.

I welcome this wide-ranging and comprehensive report and feel that the best tribute that the Minister and the Government can pay to the hardworking members of the committee, the rapporteur and the secretary would be to take those recommendations which the Government find acceptable and implement them as quickly as possible. I am glad to hear the Minister's assurance that the report will receive the most speedy consideration and implementation. I welcome also the Minister providing the opportunity for Members of the Oireachtas to make their contributions. I do not think that that will materially affect the speed with which the recommendations can be implemented.

Before action is taken on the report a short exercise is necessary. A flow chart should be drawn up tracing the relationships between all existing voluntary organisations, and there is a very wide range of them. Secondly, an assessment should be made in order to ascertain how effectively existing resources are being employed. Clearly the purpose of this exercise I am suggesting would be to establish whether there is adequate co-ordination among the plethora of youth bodies that we now have, and secondly to ensure that value is received for the resources employed. For that exercise I suggest that the youth section of the Department of Labour is well placed and could carry out the exercise quickly. Following this exercise I would like to make the comment that the primary focus should be on strengthening voluntary organisations rather than on the establishment of new bodies. Wherever possible the Government should promote and foster self-reliance and local initiatives rather than taking on additional responsibilities.

The report correctly draws attention to the role of parents and the family in any new policy. The family is central to personality development and is vital in providing an environment in which young people can develop in a balanced way. This inevitably means that parents have a special responsibility for the development of children. I speak as the father of five young children. The survey conducted for the committee found that nine out of ten young people looked to their parents for attention and understanding. This points to the great influence parents have as perceived by young people. It underlines that young people are willing and eager to experience that type of parental influence. It also raises the question as to whether parents themselves realise that they have this degree of influence. The findings of the survey should encourage and stimulate parents to provide more guidance and emotional support to the members of their families. Many of them are not so doing in the mistaken belief that such guidance and support might not be welcome.

The report points out that parents can be particularly helpful to their children in relation to drink and drugs. The Minister has pointed out the various initiatives taken by the various Governments, including his own, to help in this respect. There is no shortage of interest in the drug problem on the part of parents, but parents have a duty and responsibility to become informed about drugs. Prevention is always better than cure, as the old adage has it. We have a drug problem of crisis proportions. There is evidence that it is levelling off rather than increasing, but it is still of very serious proportions. The drug problem is here to stay, therefore the onus is all the greater on parents and on communities to take action to try to prevent the drug problem. The State can and does help in a variety of ways but, well-intentioned and substantial as the State efforts are in that regard, they can only help to solve part of the problem and a minor part at that. The best way to reduce the demand for drugs is by informing parents of the problem and by spelling out to young people the dire consequences of drug taking. Therefore, information and education followed by appropriate preventive action constitutes by far the best means of tackling drug abuse. Facilities for youth including clubs, opportunities for sport and so on have an important role to play in preventing drug abuse. They provide alternative activities to young people and help to keep them out of trouble.

I have stressed the importance of information and advice in connection with the drug problem. I am glad, therefore, to pay tribute to the director of the drug awareness programme, Father Paul Lavelle, and to his voluntary associates who are doing tremendous work in the field of arousing awareness and conveying information and advice to parents and young people and other interested groups. The drug awareness programme was established by the Archdiocese of Dublin. It is only the second such programme to be established after one in New York City. Father Lavelle is director of the programme and is now working full-time in that position. I say "Full marks to the Archdiocese of Dublin for the investment and vision they have shown in this respect." The Catholic Church also makes a considerable contribution by placing all the resources it has to tackle the drug problem, such as the availability of halls for parental meetings and so on.

Unemployment is an issue that is discussed in the House at very regular intervals, and the same applies in the Dáil. It is the top economic and social issue facing this country today. The scale of unemployed among young people is underlined in the report. Unemployment in the under 25 category has trebled from 20,654 in 1980 to 67,162 in 1984. These are grim statistics. I remain firm in the belief, and I have spelled it out here before now, that the main obstacle to job creation, including jobs for young people is the penal taxation system. We need a change of policy in relation to taxation. We need reform urgently so that a climate will be created where investment and effort will be rewarded, not penalised. Given the sheer scale of the unemployment problem the Government must examine a range of other issues in addition to the taxation system.

The concept of alternance outlined in the report under which a young person's move from school to work would be a gradual process is deserving of attention by the Government. This concept could provide an opportunity for the late teen-ager part student, part worker, to gain valuable experience in preparation for full-time work later on. If the Minister has an opportunity to reply later, perhaps he would indicate whether this concept of alternance will be considered by his Department. We might also consider what other attempts at job-sharing are being considered by the Department.

It is evident from the report that unfulfilled employment expectations have shocked young people. They have shown considerable resilience, which can be expected from youth, in coping with this setback. We cannot expect indefinite patience from our young people. Therefore it behoves us, particularly as politicians, to be alert to this. Our rating, as the Minister has indicated in his opening address, is already very low. If we are not more successful in helping to solve the unemployment problem for young people we will be in dire straits.

Young people want to be assured that everything possible is being done to provide them with job opportunities, as outlined in the report. They believe that they are entitled to such opportunities in Ireland. This places a serious obligation on all of us, particularly as Members of the Oireachtas and on the Minister and the Government to create the conditions in which jobs for our young people will be created and maintained.

Education has a role to play in youth. The perceptions of Irish youth of education, as indicated in the survey report, are certainly worthy of serious consideration. Thankfully, the majority of those surveyed agreed that the education system broadens their outlook and helps them to communicate. However, the responses were far less favourable in respect of the education system's contribution to explaining what working life is like, or helping them to understand Government and politics, an issue in which we have a particular interest — the curriculum is deficient in this regard — and also in providing sex education.

The Curriculum and Examinations Board, which is now in session, will provide a very valuable opportunity to closely examine schools curricula. I should like to think that the Minister of State, who is also Minister of State at the Department of Education, would use his influence in this regard. I hope that courses to aid the transition from school to work will be explored, and even more broadly, I hope that education for life will receive consideration. A life-skill programme, perhaps starting at primary level, covering for example, health education, the clarification of values in our society, decision making, in other words, helping young children to learn how to say no to their pals — something quite simple but very important — should be considered by the Curriculum and Examinations Board.

Finally, I should like to raise a technical matter relating to the definition of "youth". The Youth Employment Agency defines youth as anybody under 25 years. The Age of Majority Bill, which is just now being considered in the House, defines it as 18 years. The report before us considers youth as being in the age range of 12 years to 21 years. I submit that it is high time we standardised an age for youth. I welcome the report and if the opportunity presents itself I look forward to the Minister's reply.

First of all, I welcome the Costello Report. I agree with the Minister that it is a major and historic report. It is one of the most progressive reports that has been produced since the setting-up of the State. This idea and concept should be pursued. There are many things in the Communist countries which we do not like. I have been to the USSR, Bulgaria and Hungary and I liked what I saw in the area of youth policy.

I do not intend to go over the ground covered in the report. It is clear, decisive, it has made its recommendations and we are now at a decisive stage. The Government are now confronted with a challenge. They must be instrumental in forging the necessary mechanism to co-ordinate all youth policy influences, including the family. I support what Senator Hillery has said in relation to participation by youth and the family. The co-ordination of all youth influences is a vital ingredient to the success of any Government action.

I do not want the Government to have a monoply position in this exercise. In this 1985 International Youth Year they must be able to have sufficient executive powers to parcel out all the activities through the various voluntary organisations referred to by Senator Hillery. The decisive stage which we are at is that the Government must now produce quick and effective action through the announcement of a youth policy at which people can look, especially youth, discuss and participate. This youth policy will be useless without the participation of youth. We must always remember that even in the distressing times which we live in, it is to youth we must look for the continuation of the life of this society in this Irish State inside the democratic concept, otherwise some other concept might take over. We already have evidence of misguided youth in their efforts to try to resolve what is called the Anglo-Irish problem. This is not the way, and we all know that. Enough has been said about this.

I commend the Taoiseach when he said that the committee should not be seen as just another committee set up to talk away a commitment. I believe he meant what he said, and I accept the assurance given by the Minister that that is exactly what the Government mean. This is a most progressive document. It is historic and it will navigate and plan the course for the future, as Ireland must depend on youth. There is no other way even, as I have already stated, in the distressing circumstances in which they find themselves and we find ourselves, almost totally incapable of resolving the unemployment problem and all that goes with it.

I commend the Minister for his forthrightness, honesty and assurances. The task is urgent. A youth policy should command all the energies of all the people, adult and youth throughout the country. Those who are sufficiently concerned are awaiting the announcement of a new youth policy. As I have already stated participation by youth is a necessary ingredient. It will not work unless youth are given the opportunity to participate fully inside the new youth policy.

One of the principal recommendations in the whole series of recommendations in the report is that the Government should indicate a timetable for implementation. That is the key. They must indicate — they can do that fairly quickly, as distinct from the youth policy — a timetable inside the whole periphery, inside all the recommendations made by the youth policy committee. I quote from the second of the two final recommendations in their call for an announced timetable:

This would clearly give a new sense of purpose to those working for young people and it would in a practical manner at least help some young people to become self-reliant, responsible and active participants in society.

At the risk of reiteration — the Minister has already said that — that must be repeated. The timetable must be produced in the coming months in this 1985 International Youth Year. I am pleased that the Minister has said that he has actually set up a committee to organise some kind of international functions during 1985. He is to be commended for that also. It is to be hoped that the challenge will be faced with the will to succeed in an area vital to intelligent, constructive action and would, to my mind, represent a needed injection to the democratic concept in our country.

I, like the other speakers, would like to welcome the introduction of this discussion on the National Youth Policy Committee report. It is appropriate that at the beginning of the International Youth Year we should be discussing youth in the first session of the Seanad. I sincerely hope that it will not be too long before we will have an opportunity to discuss the actual policies which the Government will bring forward as a result of this final report.

Mention has been made already as to what is youth. This is something we must address ourselves to. We must address ourselves to the fact that the youth of today, whether we consider them to be 21 years or under or 25 years or under, are living in a society which is evolving at a faster rate than society has evolved, in any century or decade up to now.

The traditional morals of life are changing fast also. We have to look at what is a family. In the old days a family consisted of a mother, father and children living together in a home. Then there was the interaction between school and that family and then the progression to the work situation and the evolving of a new family situation which took in the mother, father and the children.

Society is changing so fast that families now cannot be considered to be only the family in which the mother and father are living at home. There is an ever-growing number of single parent families, which are not officially considered to be families according to the State, where children are living in stable relationships with their parents or with a parent and another person in the house. There are families which have evolved because of the possible divorce of one member of that particular home, or of the separation of one or other of the parents. Nevertheless, in a lot of cases there is a stable relationship and children are being reared but the family in that instance is not the type of family that would have been considered to be a family situation ten years ago.

There is an ever growing situation, thankfully, where unmarried mothers are keeping their children and are bringing them up in a single parent situation. We must address ourselves as to whether the needs of the youth, who come from the background of a single parent family or, indeed, from a family which is not recognised by the State, are different from those who have been brought up in the traditional style of the father and mother married situation.

At present, in the family situation, there is an instability in families which is brought about because of some of the things brought out strongly by the attitudes of youth towards the Church and towards politicians or the political establishment. No longer can we say that the Church has a major influence on young people, nor can it be said that political parties or the political establishment have a great direct involvement with young people. During the sermon at Mass last Sunday it was brought out quite specifically that within the Catholic Church in the Ossory diocese a survey showed that less than 4 per cent of the young people in the diocese felt they were getting anything out of their religion or, indeed, were they getting anything out of attendance at Mass on Sundays. They went because it was a social expectation. Only 4 per cent feel from their attendance at Church that they had a feeling of being at one with a higher being. This must mean that the Church is failing in its attempt to get to young people.

Mention has been made of the lack of understanding that young people have towards the political establishment. Is it any wonder that at this stage they can feel alienated from the political process when they see that what was set up for them, supposedly, by the political process, the education system is failing them and that the provision of jobs is not being helped by Government policy? It was never meant to be that the Government should provide all the jobs. It should be left to the private individual in some cases and State involvement in other cases. In actual fact, there is a dreadful lack of feeling amongst young people that the Government are doing anything but hinder them in their attempt to get jobs, not alone in their seeming failure to produce the jobs but in the manner in which, when they get jobs, such a large proportion of what they earn is taken away from them, whether it be in direct taxation, indirect taxation or levies of one kind or another.

I am delighted to see that young people's perception of themselves, is different from the perception that is stated in paragraph 3.16 in which it says:

Given our aspiration for a more democratic and participatory society the marked apathy, disinterest and lack of involvement amongst young people, the not insignificant minority who favour a violent solution to the political problems in the island, point to an area of priority concern.

I felt this was one particular statement that was not in keeping with the rest of the report. When one goes to the perception of the young people themselves, there is no way they show that they have an apathetic approach or that they are disinterested and that they have a lack of involvement in the society in which they are living. There is no doubt that adult perception or media perception of young people has been biased towards saying that young people are no good, that they are disinterested and that they are apathetic.

The facts are totally different. No matter where you go throughout Ireland you will find a large proportion of young people participating in the society in which they live. Ninety per cent of them need to become involved and they become involved as much as possible. There is no doubt that we do not provide the back-up services and the range of services which they need in order to give them social and economic happiness.

It is significant in the report that the perception people have of young people becoming more and more involved in crime is not a factual perception particularly when one reads that the conviction rate for young people has dropped considerable during the past ten years whereas the overall crime rate has increased. This must mean that the crime rate among young people is not growing at the same rate as the crime rate among the not so young.

The involvement of young people in the educational system is questioned by many of them because they see that the educational system is not giving them the self advancement they need in social or economic terms. We have the attitude in too many schools and colleges that the points are what you must go for. The primary schools are sending children into a secondary school situation where points for third level education are all important. This leads to a narrowing in the educational system, and a narrowing in the educational process for these young children. In fact 90 per cent of them will not get to third level education.

When one reads through the report one sees that very few people from the lower socio-economic groups get into third level education. There will have to be a change in the educational system which will give people who are not going into third level education a better chance to participate fully in life.

There is an enormous lack of social education in this country. With this drive towards third level education there is a narrowness coming back into education which was there in the thirties and forties, which disappeared for a short time in the fifties and sixties, but is back in a big way now. If one studied the education system in Ireland before 1900 one would find that social education was as important a feature as the three Rs in primary schools. One would find that even in the hedge schools, which lacked all the facilities, social education was deemed to be as important as formal education for the day-to-day needs of these young people. When one reads of young children of eight, nine and ten years learning Greek and French as part of their normal daily educational system in hedge schools in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries one can see how narrow the educational system we have at present has become.

The attitude of young people towards education is changing. The system of education will have to change to take in these attitudes. We will have to take into account that people will have to be educated so that they can live their lives fully, even though for quite a proportion of these young people this might not lead to full time jobs. During the time when they may not be in full time employment they will be capable of doing something which will be of benefit to themselves and to society in general.

Speakers are confined to 15 minutes in this debate and this seems an extremely short time to debate something which is so important in today's society. Since we are congratulating the Minister for initiating this particular discussion at the beginning of the International Youth Year I hope we will be able to have a full discussion before the year is finished on the policy document that will emerge as a result of this very fine report. I thank the Minister for ensuring that it was brought to both Houses in a speedy manner. Anybody who reads it will see the problems we have in society. It gives an indication how some of these problems can be resolved but that is only if the political will is there and if we see a policy document emerging as a result of this.

It is my privilege formally to second the motion proposed by Senator Browne. I would like to add to the congratulations to the members of the committee who so promptly brought forward their final report on this matter. It is, as most Senators have said, very apt that we should be discussing it in this year which has been designated as International Youth Year.

Very often, with a degree of scepticism founded on the past but certainly not in this case, the idea of a report meant that it was an effort by the Government of the day to sidestep an issue. The Taoiseach's comment is an example. He said that this is not to be a sidekick away from tackling this problem in this particular year. I congratulate the Minister of State for his work since he has taken office in the Department of Labour, with responsibility for youth, to co-ordinate the efforts within Government. He said earlier that it was important for every Minister to have a copy of this report on his desk. Placing copies of this report, like the copies of all the other reports that lie on Ministers' desks, is not the attitude I would adopt to it but rather that an all-embracing responsibility would be placed within one Ministry.

While it is often said that many of the things done towards placating the intolerance of youth at present are only gestures I hope it will be seen in this particular year that this country, with 50 per cent of our population under 25 years of age, would recognise the importance of youth by elevating the Minister of State's position to a full Ministry even if it means the abolition of some Ministries less relevant in the current circumstances. I am sure some people will treat that comment as being sceptical in so far as I see it as another job for another boy. I say this, not because of the youthful image of the Minister of State but because of the need for some action to be taken and for power to be given to the person who has to initiate that action. It is in that context I make that suggestion. Hopefully it will fall on receptive ears along the line if there is need during the year for the amount of work that has to be done in this case. In the International Youth Year it is a special responsibility for the people of Ireland because of our population structure.

This Government have given meaningful response to the youth of the nation to date. When people refer to the youth as being an asset — politicians do it when it is appropriate at election time; clergy do it on occasions when they say that the faith is to be carried on through the youth of the country — we recognise and fully accept that. Employers on certain occasions say that the hope for the future depends on the initiative and inventiveness of youth and lies in the enthusiasm of young people. All of this falls on deaf ears most of the time. Elections come and go and the youth are forgotten when the votes are cast. That has been the case in the past. I am delighted that the Minister has put an end to that rot and has changed that scene. Even though we hear certain sections of youth protesting violently and militantly at times we can confidently say that youth, by and large are a responsible body and have shown responsibility down the years.

Debate adjourned.