Adjournment Matter. - Tullamore Youth Initiative.

I thank the Cathaoirleach for the opportunity to raise this matter. I raise it out of a sense of frustration. I will declare my interest because I have been involved in youth work for a number of years, on a paid basis before my entry to the Oireachtas and on a voluntary basis ever since. I am a member of the Tullamore Youth Initiative which seeks to co-ordinate the work of existing organisations providing for young people in the town, to identify gaps in service provision in consultation with the young people and to try to propose responses to those gaps.

The Tullamore Youth Initiative evolved from an effort by the parish to meet in a more effective fashion the social needs of the area and it has undertaken useful work in the town and surrounding areas.

Approximately two years ago the Tullamore Youth Initiative, in co-operation with the Midland Health Board and the local ADM supported community group entitled Tullamore Wider Operations, undertook a comprehensive survey of the needs of young people in Tullamore town and its environs. The survey was conducted in a professional manner with a trained researcher experienced in youth work and the co-operation of youth and community organisations and residents groups. The survey identified a wide range of needs for the area.

Tullamore Youth Initiative forwarded proposals to various statutory and voluntary agencies since the publication of that survey in order to get a response. The Midland Health Board has been supportive in the area of education against drugs and measures to combat the increasing use of drugs. Unfortunately, drug abuse is a problem in my area as in every area in the State. The Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Garda Síochána have been supportive as have the Midland Regional Youth Council and the National Youth Federation. Last year, as part of the range of measures identified by Tullamore Youth Initiative the organisation applied to the youth affairs section of the Department of Education and Science. That section is located in Tullamore town. The organisation sought approval for funding so that it could set up a community youth project for disadvantaged young people. A well thought out proposal was put together in the format required by the Department. The organisation met the staff from the section and we were all led to believe that progress would be made in responding to it. As in all such applications we have sought the assistance of the relevant Minister of State at the Department of Education and Science, Deputy O'Dea, and our local Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Cowen.

Tullamore Youth Initiative is disappointed that while the health board, the Garda and voluntary agencies have responded positively at this stage, the youth affairs section of the Department of Education and Science still has not given its approval. It is important that we receive such approval soon because Tullamore Youth Initiative has advertised the community youth project, placed advertisements for youth workers and is in the process of recruiting staff to undertake the project. The support of the youth affairs section is vital in this regard. It seems anomalous that agencies which do not play a direct role in this regard, such as the health board and the Garda, have responded faster than the Department's section that has statutory responsibility for youth affairs. It will be a poor day if we find that the Department's youth affairs section, which is located in Tullamore, cannot respond positively to a good proposal.

I thank the Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Deputy Tom Kitt, for responding here tonight on behalf of the Minister for Education and Science, Deputy Martin, and his Minister of State, Deputy O'Dea. I hope he will tell me that the application from Tullamore will be approved without any further delay.

I thank Senator Gallagher for raising this matter.

The Minister of State at the Department of Education and Science is responsible for the support of youth work programmes and services. The grant scheme for special projects to assist disadvantaged youth is one of the key interventions initiated by the Department to tackle the problems associated with young people who are from disadvantaged communities and on the margins of society.

There are over 150 projects funded under this scheme. Projects seek to facilitate the personal and social development of participants and to equip them with the knowledge and skills necessary for their appropriate integration into society. Activities are designed to be relatively informal and attractive, for example, recreational sport, environmental work and the creative arts.

Under the scheme in 1999 an application was submitted to the Department the National Youth Federation on behalf of the Tullamore Youth Initiative. The Minister is conscious of the fact that there is currently no such special youth work provision in Tullamore. Accordingly, his Department has given detailed consideration to this proposal. Departmental officials have met representatives of the Tullamore Youth Initiative to discuss the project. Discussions have also taken place with the Midland Regional Youth Services and the Midland Health Board who have agreed to provide part funding for the project's operations. The Minister will shortly be finalising the allocation of the youth budget for 1999, on completion of which he will inform the National Youth Federation of his decision in relation to the Tullamore Youth Initiative proposal.

The Seanad adjourned at 10. 55 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Thursday, 1 July 1999.