Youth Work: Motion

I welcome the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy Fitzgerald, to the House.

I move:

That Seanad Éireann:

acknowledges the important role that youth work has played and continues to play in assisting young people in Ireland, in supporting them to be active citizens and to reach their potential;

welcomes the Assessment of the Economic Value of Youth Work Report (For the National Youth Council of Ireland by Indecon International Economic Consultants, 2012), which shows that for every €1 the State invests in youth work there is a long term benefit and saving of €2.22 to the State;

affirms the important role of the voluntary youth work sector in young people’s lives with the Value of Youth Work Report noting that the sector is significant in scale and reach, with almost 383,000 young people benefiting from a wide range of programmes and services;

notes the important role of youth work in addressing social exclusion and poverty with the Value of Youth Work Report indicating that 53% of participants in youth work activities are from socially and-or economically disadvantaged areas;

welcomes the finding in the Value of Youth Work Report that 26% of young people in Ireland participate in a youth club or some kind of youth organisation, which is the highest level of participation in the European Union;

acknowledges the vital role of over 40,000 volunteers in the youth work sector who give their time and life experience to work with and for young people in their communities;

recognises the important work of 1,400 paid staff who, on a daily basis, provide many of the supports and services for both young people and volunteers;

notes the 10.4% increase in the youth population between the ages of 10-14 from 273,872 in 2006 to 302,491 in 2011;

notes that Ireland, at 18.4% in 2011, has the 4th highest number of young people not ‘‘in education, employment or training’’ (NEETS) in the European Union compared to an EU average of 12.9%;

further notes, that Ireland, at 37% compared to a 27% EU average, has the highest number of children and young people under 18 years of age at risk of poverty and social exclusion;

recognises the need to address the high levels of youth unemployment with over 29% of young people under 25 now unemployed with over a third of young men aged 20-24 out of work;

acknowledges the €56.8m in current expenditure provided by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs to support youth work in 2012, but is concerned at the 20% cut in funding since 2008.

calls on the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs to:

1. acknowledge the role of the voluntary youth work sector in supporting young people who are not in education, training or employment and to work in partnership with the youth sector at local and national level to address social exclusion and youth unemployment;

2. recognise in policy and funding decisions the important role of the voluntary youth sector in reaching and supporting young people from the most socially and-or economically disadvantaged communities in Ireland;

3. take into account the economic benefits and long term savings to the State through investment in youth work as outlined in the Value of Youth Work Report;

4. recognise that continued cuts in funding will undermine the capacity of voluntary youth organisations to meet the needs of young people;

5. note the increasing numbers of young people in the 10-14 year old age cohort who will be seeking supports and services in their communities in the coming five years.".

I welcome the Minister to the House. I also welcome the representatives of the many wonderful youth work organisations and the National Youth Council of Ireland to the Visitors Gallery. Before I begin, it would be remiss of me were I not to congratulate the Minister wholeheartedly on the recent passing of the children's rights referendum. Other issues are ongoing, but they should not take from that success. Many promised; the Minister delivered. I thank her very much.

I have a long list of issues that I would like to be able to discuss with the Minister, but I will limit myself to the value of youth work. I speak as someone who has benefited from experience as a young person in a youth organisation. I was lucky to have some truly inspirational youth leaders. Indeed, I wonder whether I would have the confidence to stand before the Minister today had I not become involved in the girl guides. I can trace many of my skills to my experience in youth work.

I also had the honour of being president of the National Youth Council of Ireland several years ago. Through that experience, I learned the value of providing young people with a choice of youth activities. Just like us adults, one size does not fit all.

I tabled this motion a number of weeks ago in the hope we could have a debate prior to the budget. As such, I thank my colleagues in the Independent Group for allowing me to use our precious time to have this debate now. We know that youth work makes a real difference in the lives of young people and the communities in which they live. The Indecon report, produced on behalf of the National Youth Council of Ireland, regarding the assessment of the economic value of youth work provides hard evidence to the effect that youth work is value for money and makes economic sense.

Like me, the Minister is undoubtedly alarmed by the fact that, in the EU, Ireland has the fourth highest number of young people who are not in education, employment or training, NEETs, at 18.4%. The EU average is 12.9%. In terms of marginalisation, 29% of people under 25 years of age are unemployed and one third of men between the ages of 20 years and 24 years are unemployed. The youth population is growing, with 18.4% of our population aged between ten and 24 years. Alongside this growth, youth work organisations have reported an increased demand for their services. Perhaps this is due to the recession, in that people are searching for value for money activities. It is in light of the increased demand that my Independent colleagues and I have tabled this motion. I also thank the other Senators who added their signatures to the motion.

The report outlines the evidence, but going through it would use up all of my time. I can provide hard economic evidence as well as many case studies. In one example, young teenagers regularly drank in the fields behind the school where a youth work organisation met. Over a period of two years, they were gradually encouraged to get involved in the organisation's activities. Through gentle encouragement, they realised the harmful effects of alcohol and ceased hanging out in the fields because they had found a worthwhile activity.

In another example, an eight year old used to turn up to her youth work meeting half an hour early every week just to chat. It transpired that this young person had no active engagement with an adult from one end of the week to the other except for the youth worker. Her parents instructed her in what to do, but no one simply chatted with her.

Another young person had autism and found any group activity painful and frightening. After two years of coming along to meetings with her sister, she started to smile and progressively became more involved. According to her mother, the social skills that the young person developed were remarkable and directly attributable to her youth work experience.

While on a weekend away with a youth group, a teenager began hitting the other participants and using very sexualised language. After careful handling by the youth worker who talked with the girl and her parents, it transpired that she was being abused by someone known to the family. The abuse needed to be reported to the authorities.

I could continue with my list. I have not taken these examples from a report or research. They are my personal experiences as a youth work leader with the Irish Girl Guides. I have no doubt that any youth worker or, indeed, anyone present in the Gallery could share with the Minister a long list of examples where youth work had made a difference. The economic report also shows that. I call them magic moments. Sometimes, one goes to a meeting and does not have a great night, but situations arise that prove that youth work makes a difference.

When I tabled the motion, I tried to put down an evidence-based, factual account. I was tempted to add lines to the effect that, for example, funding should not be cut, but I decided on a wording that was non-confrontational. When I saw the Government's amendment, it struck me as an attempt to gild the lily. In recent years, most youth work organisations have seen funding cuts amounting to a cumulative 30%. Some, particularly small specialist organisations, will no longer be viable, thereby reducing the selection of organisations that young people can join. Demands on youth work organisations are also increasing because young people do not have resources within their families, which places even greater pressure on local youth work clubs' resources.

I do not wish to divide the House. To be constructive and as a first step, I will ask a number of questions. Perhaps the Minister might help by answering. I will add some of my own commentary so that the record of this debate can stand.

The first point I wish to raise is that of front-line youth work services. There are 382,615 young people participating in and benefiting from youth work, 1,400 full-time employees and more than 40,000 volunteers. My background is in guiding and scouting. For me, when we refer to front-line youth work services, we mean volunteers working on the front line who are being provided with resources and supports by staff. A small group of staff are based in a national office, and they provide and help with programme materials. They do not design those materials. Rather, that is done by the volunteers. Indeed, everything is done by the volunteers, but they need backup. When I hear "front-line youth work services", I wonder whether the true voluntary nature is understood.

In the Minister's discussions with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in the lead-up to the budget, did she discuss the Indecon report on the assessment of youth work and the benefits that it clearly demonstrated? The documents published by the Department of Public Expenditure and reform on budget 2013 showed that the Department of Children and Youth Affairs is proposing a further cut of €3 million in 2014. These cuts are unsustainable. Youth work funding is 14% of the latter Department's overall budget, yet is being allocated 30% of the overall cut to that budget.

There is talk about cutting 30% of funding, which is disproportionate and should be questioned.

The Government amendment to the motion mentions the provision of significant capital funding for the development of youth facilities, which is welcome. Will the Minister clarify the exact funding? In November last year there was an announcement of capital funding of €1.5 million for 2012 and in November 2012 there was announcement of €500,000 funding for 2012 and €1.5 million in capital funding for 2013. Is the total capital funding for 2012 and 2013, €3.5 million or €2 million? Has the Department carried out an assessment to ensure the sustainability of these services? If a facility can be only opened for a few hours per week I would question the expenditure. There is a great disparity in services being provided.

The third point of the Government amendment mentions, "Prioritising the protection of funding for front-line volunteer-led provision". I have already mentioned what I believe is front-line provision but will the Minister clarify if this refers to the €1.035 million funding for local services out of a total youth work funding budget of €56.8 million? When I read the amendment at first I was excited but I must make progress.

Who is being consulted on the national youth work advisory committee? I saw a reply to a parliamentary question put down by Deputy Ó Caoláin but what are the terms of reference? The amendment mentions "reforming and rationalising" and I know the Minister is talking about doing a review. Is that the same review promised in the 2011 comprehensive review of expenditure and when can it be expected? What will be the terms of reference? School facilities are a bugbear of mine. The Government has told youth organisations to rationalise but when will schools be opened in the evenings for utilisation by youth work organisations? Too many schools are locked up, with youth organisations being charged for other facilities in the community.

We have had debates in this House on mental health, youth suicide, social inclusion, youth unemployment, bullying and alcohol-related harm. Central to all of these debates was the valuable role played by youth work organisations, which is why I passionately believe we must support these organisations rather than decimating them.

Both the Minister and I have said before that we are constantly trying to "adultify" young people through television, radio, video, music, comedy, language and other elements of the entertainment world. We rush them into glories of adulthood, with the idea that all things adult mean all things great. We are like fools rushing into adulthood because we consider it a good thing or progress. We forget that people are young and live in a different world, expecting different outcomes. They have different dreams, desires, beliefs, needs, aspirations and worries. They speak, converse and feel in a different and youthful way.

The adult world is not safe and adults are supposed to cope with, know and control that. The world created by youth work is safe, which is one of the sector's greatest and most positive powers. For whatever reason, families across a spectrum of society are not necessarily good places in which to grow up. The street or the corner is not the best place either, so there must always be other roles and models outside the family. We need those now more than ever because the "greats" have let us down, although the Minister has not done so. She has made a distinctive contribution to our society, both politically as a Minister and as a director in the field of children's rights.

The world of youth workers can be the greatest place to look when seeking leaders, guides and routes for hope. In it one can find the answers when we call in education for possibilities, especially where none exist or where young people have nowhere to go, or where there are possibilities but youths have no place to explore them. The world of youth working gives youths attention, activities, language, arts, communication, dialogue and empathy outside what we call mainstream schooling, which provides youths with a new possibility to breathe and become who they really are. The world of youth workers is always the world of possibilities.

Youth work, whether voluntary or paid, is about putting young people where they should be located, in their own world and time with their own language. More importantly, it is with their own peers. The process is not an addendum to a very false rip-off entertainment world or the world of politics, where we believe we should tell people how to think and feel.

I was in Dublin City University for 25 years and loved it. When I arrived, it was deserted, dull, dreary, grey and abandoned. There was a change in the living conditions in Ballymun brought about by a Fine Gael Government and youth workers, with projects, schemes and pilots in all areas of literacy, numeracy, drama, dance and music that came alive. On the university campus, societies had more to say to students, more gifts and education than academic lecturing, although mine was the exception. It was only within the youth world and its workers that real change was seen on the ground. The youth workers of that area became the greatest teachers for the university; they were the route planners in how the university could make a contribution to the world in which it was in the north city. They have become significant partners, as can be seen from the growth of the community and the university, which have done each other proud.

The best youth workers are those who had an opportunity to use the services themselves. There are hundreds of these people around the country and these people should be facilitated and celebrated. We are all clued in, informed and technically adept or plugged in. It is a veneer of communication, which is a false assurance that we have the right kind of language and argument and it will bring about the right result. If somebody tells me something has no economic value, I immediately know it has great human value. The value of youth work is unknown and beyond measurement because it is a silent and managed success, a saviour of the State. When involved in a youth project, whether voluntary or involuntary, that is what makes it great. People give, get and turn up, with unparalleled value. The opportunities can be unmatched.

The report is qualitative. It was produced by an Irish research and consultancy company, Indecon, which does not receive State grants. The report is independent in form, function and judgment. The study is comprehensive. My colleague has stated that 250,000 young people benefit from the youth work area, with 1,400 staff and 40,000 people working in a voluntary capacity. That is real politics at work, and the Government can learn from that and realise that without the world of youth and youth work, it would face costs that could be measured in a very negative and - I am sorry to say - destructive way. I congratulate every youth worker in the country on being political in the best sense of the word and work. I second the motion.

I move amendment No. 1:

To delete all words after ‘‘That’’ and substitute the following:

‘‘Seanad Éireann:

acknowledges the important role that youth work has played and continues to play in assisting young people in Ireland, in supporting them to be active citizens and to reach their potential;

welcomes the Assessment of the Economic Value of Youth Work Report (For the National Youth Council of Ireland by Indecon International Economic Consultants, 2012), which shows that for every €1 the State invests in youth work there is a long term benefit and saving of €2.22 to the State;

affirms the important role of the voluntary youth work sector in young people’s lives with the Value of Youth Work Report noting that the sector is significant in scale and reach, with almost 383,000 young people benefiting from a wide range of programmes and services;

notes the important role of youth work in addressing social exclusion and poverty with the Value of Youth Work Report indicating that 53% of participants in youth work activities are from socially and/or economically disadvantaged areas;

welcomes the finding in the Value of Youth Work Report that 26% of young people in Ireland participate in a youth club or some kind of youth organisation, which is the highest level of participation in the European Union;

acknowledges the vital role of over 40,000 volunteers in the youth work sector who give their time and life experience to work with and for young people in their communities;

recognises the important work of 1,400 paid staff who, on a daily basis, provide many of the supports and services for both young people and volunteers;

notes the 10.4% increase in the youth population between the ages of 10-14 from 273,872 in 2006 to 302,491 in 2011;

notes that Ireland, at 18.4% in 2011, has the 4th highest number of young people not ‘in education, employment or training’ (NEETS) in the European Union compared to an EU average of 12.9%;

further notes, that Ireland, at 37% compared to a 27% EU average, has the highest number of children and young people under 18 years of age at risk of poverty and social exclusion;

recognises the need to address the high levels of youth unemployment with over 29% of young people under 25 now unemployed with over a third of young men aged 20-24 out of work;

acknowledges the €56.8m in current expenditure provided by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs to support youth work in 2012, but is concerned at the 20% cut in funding since 2008.

In particular Seanad Éireann:

1. acknowledges the role of the voluntary youth work sector in supporting young people who are not in education, training or employment and to work in partnership with the youth sector at local and national level to address social exclusion and youth unemployment;

2. recognises in policy and funding decisions the important role of the voluntary youth sector in reaching and supporting young people from the most socially and/or economically disadvantaged communities in Ireland;

3. takes into account the economic benefits and long term savings to the State through investment in youth work as outlined in the Value of Youth Work Report;

4. notes while there is a small overall reduction in the numbers of young people in the 10-24 age group, there is an increasing number of young people in the 10-14 year old age cohort who will be seeking supports and services in their communities in the coming five years.

And supports the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs in:

1. progressing a quality agenda with the youth work sector via the ongoing implementation of the National Quality Standards Framework for youth work and the introduction of National Quality Standards for Volunteer-led Youth Groups as a means to enhancing the quality of youth work programmes and activities for young people;

2. providing significant capital funding for the development of youth facilities, including youth cafés and youth projects, which are providing a range of services for young people and are proving hugely beneficial to local communities in terms of broader engagement with young people;

3. prioritising the protection of funding for front-line volunteer-led provision via the Local Youth Club Grants Scheme which supports over 1,600 volunteer-led youth groups each year;

4. reforming and rationalising funding streams to provide greater flexibility to local youth work providers to manage savings and refocus service provision to respond to local needs;

5. progressing a value-for-money review of youth work funding, to be completed in 2013, to ensure optimal use of future funding provision;

6. proposing an effective and dynamic agenda for Ireland’s Presidency of the EU Council of Youth Ministers, which will seek to highlight and actively support the contribution of youth to improving outcomes for Europe’s young people, in particular in relation to supporting youth employment;

7. developing a Youth Policy Framework which will enhance the development, participation and support of young people.’’.

I thank Senator van Turnhout for putting the motion before the House and I am delighted that the Seanad has chosen to have this discussion on youth work at this time. It is a timely debate on the value of youth work and the future of youth work funding. It is interesting to hear Senators' stories about involvement in youth work and the value coming from it. I endorse the comments about the potential of youth work and what it means to individuals around the country.

I welcome the recent publication of the economic assessment of the value of youth work carried out by Indecon on behalf of the National Youth Council of Ireland. I take this opportunity to welcome those in the Visitors Gallery who work in this area and care about the future of youth work in Ireland. The report, from which I quoted recently when we were discussing the Estimates in committee, is very valuable. I made the point that we have had a good deal of research in regard to the early years and we are beginning to see more research now about the value of intervention by youth work. It is very helpful to have a report such as this and I commend the board and its chair, James O'Leary, and the staff led by the director, Mary Cunningham, on their initiative in commissioning this research. This kind of research is important and it is the way of the future in regard to youth work.

The report illustrates the breadth, depth and value of the youth work sector in Ireland and provides an assessment of the value and contribution of youth work to the economy, to young people themselves and to the entire social fabric of our society. It contains many interesting findings which I have brought to the attention of the Departments of Public Expenditure and Reform, Social Protection, and Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation.

As referenced in the motion, I would like to acknowledge the benefits of youth work. For young people, there is no doubt that engagement in quality youth work can equip them with applicable and transferable skills and competences. Many of these skills are core and transferable to life and work and include cognitive and non-cognitive skills, critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration, effective communication, motivation, persistence, creativity, innovation, etc. There is no doubt that young people can gain all of those skills through their involvement in youth work, but it is also about improving outcomes from enhancing social inclusion and civic engagement to maximising resilience and minimising risks, including risks of marginalisation, and improving employability.

It is important to be clear about the kind of skills people can gain from youth work and the way they are applicable in the world today. One consequence of the economic situation facing young people is that they are experiencing what are called elongated transitions between dependence and independence and, unfortunately, they are facing less certain trajectories in terms of occupational engagement and progression. That presents key challenges which are being recognised nationally and at European level but it also presents challenges for youth work itself in terms of where it is going, the way it relates to young people in this new environment, and its focus. It is also challenging for a Department like mine in terms of youth policy and future directions of youth policy. There are particular challenges we must examine. I say that with particular relevance to those young people mentioned by Senator van Turnhout, about whom we have not spoken hugely in Ireland. Other countries have had sharper debates about the needs of young people not in employment, education or training, but we are beginning to do that, despite our very high rate of such young people. This is a group that is coming to the fore in terms of policy discourse and focus.

Senator van Turnhout also referred to the youth sector being significant in terms of scale and reach, with 382,000 young people involved in youth work in Ireland. There are probably 1,400 full-time equivalent workers and more than 40,000 volunteers. I have been struck by the numbers of volunteers we have when travelling around the country, which the Senator acknowledges.

There should be no doubt that the sector is both valued and very valuable. A rich tapestry of people are involved in the voluntary sector, community-based organisations, and services which provide so much to our young people. The sector has great strength and depth, a great deal of organisational diversity, which is welcome, reach and impact.

I have visited many youth services and I am very impressed by the range and quality of the opportunities being given to young people. I have seen services, small and large, doing a variety of programmes and it is very encouraging to see the commitment of the staff, the engagement by the young people and the range of services, work and community involvement by the young people involved in youth work. We have youth cafés which provide very positive, healthy environments where young people can meet. I have seen youth projects working with young offenders and early school leavers, and youth clubs working in various ways to support young people's development as active citizens.

Understandably, one of the focuses in the discussion on youth work is funding. To recap briefly, the current position is that in 2012, the Department funded youth work to the tune of €56 million, and the youth sector also benefited from funding from the Irish Youth Justice Service, which is now co-located in my Department. That was €7.8 million in funding for the running of the very effective Garda diversion projects within the youth sector. The citizen participation unit of my Department has also been provided with funding in the region of €300,000 in 2012 to youth organisations with respect to consultation initiatives with children and young people. That is an important focus. We saw in the recent referendum the discussion about hearing the views of young people. It is important that we do not have that just at constitutional level but that we see it in practice, and this is a way of ensuring that. For example, we had a consultation recently with young people who had been in care and heard their voices. Those types of initiatives are very important.

Through this funding we provide support to 33 national youth work organisations; 181 projects under the special projects for youth scheme; 28 under the youth information centres scheme; 104 mainstream projects under the young people's facilities and services fund; and 178 current projects supported under round 2 of the young people's facilities and services fund. We also fund 21 drugs projects. We have 1,600 youth clubs funded under the local youth club grants scheme. We have the Youth in Action programme; Gaisce - the President's Award, which is doing very good work; and the national programmes in the areas of youth health, youth arts and child protection. It is obvious from that list that a substantial amount of activity is being funded.

There is a great deal of untapped potential in the youth sector when it comes to improving young people's lives. Youth workers have known that for years. However, policymakers have been slow to recognise the potential benefit on offer from quality youth work but we are at that point now. There are not any questions in that regard. We recognise and acknowledge the value of youth work, and it is a question of where to go from here.

I want to give the House an indication of my thinking and that of the Department on the future of youth work and some of the issues we must consider. I would like to support the youth work sector to occupy a more central position in the continuum of services available to young people and to see the youth sector being in a position to respond to some of the major issues currently affecting young people. However, this is not solely about funding. It requires a much sharper focus on quality, outcomes and evidence-based practice. The Indecon report supports this view. The reality of the significantly constrained resources available to youth work makes the need for this sharper focus all the more relevant and critical.

As part of all our efforts to address the financial situation, my Department, like all others, has had to find savings. The comprehensive review of expenditure, CRE, requires savings to be made in my Department's youth work budget. That is the reality. The 2013 allocation for youth work, between current and capital, will be in excess of €53 million. This remains a significant level of funding. I appreciate the constraints organisations are facing but many large youth service providers will receive multi-million euro allocations. For example, Foróige and Youth Work Ireland will each receive in the region of €2 million from the youth service grant scheme alone, and that does not factor in other allocations to local projects run by these providers which in any year will amount to a much greater multiple.

I am acutely aware, however, that the youth work sector has seen its budget reduced significantly in recent years. I wish it were otherwise. I recognise this has not been easy and has not been without some pain. However, I am impressed by the way the sector has responded by restructuring and streamlining provision. In seeking out further savings, I am committed to further reforms to make the best possible use of resources. There are initiatives my Department can take that will make it easier for youth organisations to provide the range of services they have provided in the past and to continue to develop.

The amendment I tabled seeks to reflect the ongoing and proposed programme of reforms, which seeks to achieve this much sharper focus on quality, outcome and evidence-based practice. This must start with reforming and rationalising funding streams and progressing value for money reviews of youth work funding. It is striking that, over the past 20 or 30 years, we have not reviewed these funding streams. It is about time we did and that is what I am doing at present. We must deal with some of the disparate funding streams and examine overlap. There has been much overlap and youth organisations have told me such reform should take place. It will take place next year, which will mean greater flexibility for youth work organisations in how they spend their money and greater flexibility rather than being artificially tied to particular funding streams. That will make a difference and ensure youth organisations can deliver the programmes they choose to prioritise within certain parameters rather than arbitrary and unreformed funding streams. It is an important initiative that will happen next year.

These reforms will be aligned with identified policy imperatives. The objectives will be clear and outcome-focused. That will be a help to the sector. We also have a value for money review and we will have a report by mid-2013. It is part of an overall Government approach to examining various programmes in respect of value for money and ongoing reform. That will also inform us. It will take account of the voluntary input to youth work sector.

We must also examine quality provision in youth work. It is very important that we examine a quality standards initiative. It is something the youth work sector has welcomed. We should look at what the youth work sector is providing, how it is doing so and ask questions about quality and outcomes. We should base our decisions on the answers to those points.

Since becoming Minister, I have been clear on how youth work in Ireland is regarded internationally. It is very well regarded and it is great to see the input Irish youth work has on the international scene. We are leading the way in delivering quality focused youth work. My Department has been involved in a number of initiatives, such as the appointment of VEC youth officers to coordinate and support local youth provision, a national assessor of youth work in my Department, the new national quality standards framework for youth work and the national quality standards for volunteer led youth groups, which will be launched in January. We have set up a new group, the quality standards training and resource development task group, to harness the training and quality resources within the youth work sector to support implementation of the standards. The focus on quality and standards is extremely important in terms of the future of youth work. That is not to cast any doubt on what has happened to date but this is the correct direction in which to move.

We had a major international conference in Dublin Castle earlier this year to examine these issues. Senator van Turnhout raised a number of questions but I may not get to all of them. I will certainly correspond with the Senator in respect of the points she raised. We have provided €1.7 million for the development of new youth cafés. I recently announced that a further €2 million in capital funding would be made available to youth cafés and youth projects. To the end of 2012, some €500,000 has been provided for the development of a number of youth cafés that had applied for previous youth café funding schemes. Some €1.5 million will be provided in 2013 for youth cafés and youth projects. I will announce details of this early in the new year. We now have between 75 and 100 youth café facilities across the State and they are extremely beneficial to local communities and to young people in providing safe places to meet. It is important we continue to develop these initiatives. The Senator asked about the volunteer led local youth provision, which is one of the bedrocks of the youth sector. It has a significant range and reach and is effective in reaching out to people. I said there would be a reduction in the scheme to which the Senator referred. It is a small but important scheme.

I refer to our Presidency of the European Council of Ministers with responsibility for youth. We will have the opportunity to focus on youth work and quality youth work provision in our Presidency. The themes chosen by Ireland relate to social inclusion and it will particularly examine the links between youth work and achieving the goals of Europe 2020. Given the situation outlined in respect of young people neither in employment, education nor training, it is important to have this focus during Presidency. We recently had a new EU strategy announced last week and we will be working to implement and focus on the area.

The timing of this debate is important given the ongoing discussions regarding the next round of the European social funding. I hope we can avail of this funding to support and fund targeted Irish youth initiatives over the coming years. It is important to say that youth work must be part of the continuum funded by the European Social Fund. The work it does is very relevant to the goals of the fund and the whole Europe 2020 agenda. These key issues will be advanced during our Presidency and will be put forward to the Council of Ministers meeting in May. We have structured dialogue and the engagement of young people throughout Europe, which will culminate in a conference in Ireland in March. Some 200 people from around Europe will inform us of their engagement in the structured dialogue, which involves consulting and getting the views of young people. It is an important date in our diary for March in respect of young people and youth work sector in Ireland. I want to ensure the youth work sector in Ireland is very involved in the work we do during the Presidency. This includes the March conference and a roundtable discussion in June, which examines unemployment issues concerning young people. It is a high level, expert group. The debate is timely in the sense that we can consider some of the youth work issues that will emerge to inform the agenda during Presidency. We can make sure the suggestions that emerge will inform the work I will be doing during Presidency.

The Department is in the process of developing a children and youth strategy framework and we have consulted with 67,000 children and young people. We also had an online consultation with the stakeholders in the various sectors working with young people and children. Subsequent to the finalisation and publication of the strategy, work will commence on a discrete youth policy framework in 2013. We will certainly invite the youth work sector to contribute to that policy development. It will be very important. A number of guiding principles have been identified and the framework must be responsive, relevant and realistic. It must put the needs of children and young people at the centre of Government policy. As I have elaborated, it must focus on quality and outcomes. I look forward to further discussion on the framework as it emerges over the course of the year.

I would prefer if savings did not have to be made but I hope my contribution to the debate has shown clearly that my Department and I are matching savings with reforms in seeking to enhance quality and deliver efficiencies in Irish youth work provision against the backdrop of ongoing fiscal constraint. This is about ensuring value while improving outcomes for young people.

This is challenging and tough for the sector but I believe the sector wants to see the kind of reforms outlined. As we get economic growth, we can support the sector further. I hope I have been clear in acknowledging the centrality of youth work and the importance of youth work to our young people, particularly those in more marginalised and disadvantaged situations. Youth work has major relevance given the economic challenges and the situation facing so many young people. It is a challenging agenda but I ask Senators for their continuing support in developing and delivering the kind of services we have on the ground and in ensuring this item remains on the agenda.

I join my colleagues in welcoming the Minister to the House and I commend Senator van Turnhout on bringing this motion before the House.

I say "Well done" to the Minister on having the referendum passed. If it were held next week, however, I do not think the Government would succeed in getting it through. People are deeply concerned. Why can the Government not reconsider the question of the respite grant, which is very valuable to the people involved? It would not be much of a climb down. I would not call it that. The same is true of the reduction in the children's allowance. If those decisions had been known to the public before the referendum I do not think the Government would have succeeded in getting it through.

It does not augur well for the Government if it proceeds with the abolition of this democratic House. In fact, it augurs very badly indeed.

Senator O'Donnell need not be worried or excited. I am going back to the motion.

I am not worried. I was just trying to keep Senator Leyden on track. We are talking about youth work and the world of youth.

Senator Leyden has the floor.

He may have the floor but he is not being relevant.

I will show Senator O'Donnell how relevant I am.

Taking €10 per month from a child is not much of a start in life. Let us be relevant. Every €10 taken from a child affects its future. That is a lot of money every month. We will have more problems with young people in the future if they do not have care at home. That is the relevance, as far as I am concerned.

The report itself is well prepared. I commend Senator van Turnhout on bringing it to the House so early. It was published very recently. Reports like this are normally left on shelves and do not get an airing, as this one is getting here. That is why it is important that the Minister is here.

Senator van Turnhout was chief commissioner of the Irish Girl Guides and I am sure she has continued that work. I was elected chairman of Macra na Tuaithe in the vocational school in Roscommon. It was my first election. I was very pleased with myself to get the job of chairman and it probably led to a political career. Youth work and youth organisations are very important. The National Youth Council of Ireland, NYCI, is a very important organisation and I concur with the views expressed in the foreword to the report by Ms Mary Cunningham, director of the NYCI.

The report has been prepared by an Irish consultancy organisation, Indecon. It was printed and designed in Ireland. The report, itself, provided work in this country. Indecon has done a great service by providing the report.

I commend the NYCI on commissioning a report of this nature. It is an independent report, which is why it has strength. It is the first national report on youth work. I concur with the point made by Ms Cunningham and I commend Mr. Alan W. Gray and Mr. William H. Batt, of Indecon, who prepared the report on behalf of the NYCI.

I also welcome representatives of the organisations who are here to hear this matter discussed in the House.

The National Youth Council of Ireland is a representative body of over 50 national voluntary youth organisations. Its members include Foróige, Youth Work Ireland, Scouting Ireland, Macra na Tuaithe, Irish Girl Guides and many more, including Ógra Fianna Fáil, Young Fine Gael and other political organisations. These organisations have a combined staff of 1,400 and 40,000 volunteers.

Were you a member of any of those organisations, Senator?

I may still be a member.

That is an enormous number of volunteers. They serve 383,000 young people in every community in Ireland. That is a great record for the council. That is why the report is so timely.

The report appraises youth work's value for money and recommends that investment in it by the State makes economic sense as well as being good for young people and the communities they live in. That is absolutely true. The more services that are provided for young people the fewer difficulties there will be for the State in the future. Youth organisations do extraordinarily good work. I know the Minister recognises that and will do her utmost to support the NYCI. Every euro spent by the State on youth organisations returns €2.20. That is a good investment with a good return. It has been proven in the report. This is why it is important that we maintain these services. Ireland has the fourth highest number of young people not in education, employment or training in the European Union.

I ask the Minister to postpone the introduction of cutbacks. I am sure the Minister will confirm, in her closing remarks, that she and her officials will meet youth organisations as soon as possible. That is my request, arising from the report. I hope the Minister will discuss the report with representatives of the NYCI. I am confident she will do that. In my own experience, I was always delighted to meet any organisation that had commissioned and prepared an independent report. I am sure the Minister will meet the NYCI as soon as possible to discuss every aspect of its work.

Senator Jim D'Arcy rose to propose the amendment. Am I officially seconding the amendment?

The Government amendment does not need to be seconded.

Thank you for that clarification, a Chathaoirligh.

If no one objects, I will clarify something for my colleague, Senator O'Brien, which is not something that happens very often. Fine Gael has never been in government on its own. It has only ever been in government with the Labour Party.

Is Senator Hayden referring to me?

The name is O'Donnell. Just think of the high kings.

My humble apologies. Senator O'Donnell knows that I know who she is.

The Government was led by Fine Gael.

It was a coalition Government. It was Deputies Proinsias De Rossa and Róisín Shortall who took a particular interest in the establishment of Ballymun Regeneration Limited. However, I could not let that small matter slip.

It was the John Bruton Government that led that.

I thank the proposers of the motion on this very important matter. I welcome the Minister and also the visitors in the Gallery. I also take this opportunity to recognise the work of the National Youth Council of Ireland, Youth Work Ireland, Foróige and all the other umbrella groups that keep youth issues in front of us all the time. These umbrella organisations are very effective. That should be noted.

The recently published Indecon report brings into stark relief the work done in the youth work sector in Ireland. The sector is volunteer based. The figures speak for themselves. The report states there are 40,000 volunteers and fewer than 1,400 persons in paid employment. I found the term "paid employment" quite amusing. When something is done for nothing we tend not to put a monetary value on it. I am conscious, for example, of the role of women in the home and the difficulties many women now face because they cannot get adequate pensions. There is often no recognition of volunteer roles. I am delighted to see the report put a monetary value on the work done in the youth sector and that this value is not disputed by the Government in its amendment. There is no argument, therefore, about the monetary importance of the work done in the youth sector.

More than half of those who benefit from youth work programmes come from economically or socially deprived backgrounds.

The former governor of Mountjoy Prison, John Lonergan, has frequently pointed out that the correlation between poverty and social and economic deprivation is incredibly stark in our prisons. It is crucial to recognise the importance of youth work, particularly in economically and socially deprived communities.

The Minister referred to the role of youth work for young people in NEETs. We are in the midst of a serious unemployment crisis, which is severe for young people, in particular. Young men are faring worse than young women. I came across the NEETs categorisation first in the UK. In former coal and steel mining areas in south Wales, there is a significant difficulty with households in which nobody has ever had a job. The cost to the British Treasury of pumping money into this and similar regions in the UK in an effort to address deprivation is extreme. We need to be aware that this is not the way that we want to go and that there is an important role for youth work, particularly among young people who are in crisis in terms of the opportunities available to them.

I welcome the Minister's announcement that she intends to make youth work and supporting youth unemployment Ireland's priority during our EU Presidency in 2013 as she chairs the EU Council of youth Ministers. That is an important strategic decision which I welcome. Youth work does not only provide critical outreach to young people but it also engages them in activities that provide them with invaluable experience in teamwork and leadership, boost motivation and develop skillsets. We need to be able to see that in the context of the funding we make available for education and training. If additional funding must be found to support youth work, we need to look beyond the Department for it.

The amendment intends to go further than the motion and I ask Senator van Turnhout to take it on board in that context. The Minister mentioned a number of initiatives, including the provision of an additional €1.5 million for youth cafés and capital projects, which is welcome. It is important to ensure value for money, no unnecessary duplication of services and a reward for bodies that deliver on their strategic objectives. Across the board cuts benefit nobody and we have to be conscious of performance. The Minister has retained the funding for local volunteer schemes, which is also important. During the 1980s, I had the opportunity to work in Darndale and I witnessed the devastation wrought on community services there at the time. Small sums can make a substantial difference to what happens in the community and I ask the Minister to protect such funding in its entirety.

I welcome the Minister. I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the debate and I commend Senator van Turnhout on taking the initiative with a well drafted motion. I join other Senators in unreservedly acknowledging the value of youth work and the contribution youth workers make to society. A well supported youth sector is one of the elements society needs to have in place to protect its most vulnerable and to ensure societal cohesion, especially when one considers that 37% of young people aged under 18 are at risk of poverty and social exclusion and almost one in five young people is not in education, employment or training. As Senator Hayden said, Indecon found that youths in NEETs cost the State €4 billion last year alone and this needs to be addressed.

Week in, week out I engage with groups involved in youth work and helping young people with mental health or LGBT issues. Other Members have addressed the economic value of youth work as highlighted in the Indecon report. It is indisputable that youth work is often for those who fall between the cracks and the non-formal education sector is becoming more important in this regard, as youth work plays an irreplaceable role. I am delighted to salute youth workers and to let them know their contribution is more than recognised; it is valued. Moreover, the social good that flows from youth work is entirely unique and positive. Variety is the great strength of youth work and a great mix and balance of youth organisations operate in the sector and provide an excellent service. I am loth to mention groups in case I forget one or I am seen to be adding to the competition for scarce resources to support the sector but we should channel all our energies to stand up for the entire sector and for young people. I do not want us to fall into accepting cutbacks as inevitable or facts of life. They should be challenged, especially with reports such as that conducted by Indecon, which highlight the economic value of this work.

I refer to the role the EU Presidency will play in this area next year. In a briefing I received from the Department, the Minister referred to the Irish Presidency of the EU Council of youth Ministers and the theme of social inclusion. Ireland's approach to social inclusion is to emphasise that inclusion involves all young people, in addition to those with fewer opportunities, to enhance their competences and capacities. The Minister's goal for the Presidency is to promote the value of quality standards in youth work as a means to achieving positive outcomes for young people who engage in youth work opportunities. It is good to focus on the contribution of such work to the development and well-being of young people. Given 37% of young people aged under 18 are at risk of poverty and social exclusion and the youth sector is supporting many of these marginalised young people, the continual cutting of funding for the youth sector will mean the capacity of the sector to support them will be undermined. Does the Minister not think the cuts in this area announced in the budget last week run counter to the priorities during the EU Presidency? As other Members said, the youth sector has experienced a cut of 30% to its funding since 2008.

She mentioned the high level round table event in June 2013, which will explore youth work's contribution to achieving the goals of Europe 2020, including issues relating to youth unemployment. Senator van Turnhout asked what dialogue the Minister had with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in advance of the budget about Indecon's economic assessment. The Minister said in her contribution that she highlighted the report to that Department and the Departments of Social Protection, and Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation. What was the response of the Departments? What type of working relationship has she with them in the context of the report? The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform repeatedly talks about efficiencies and savings. It is important that he knows that every euro invested in the youth sector now will equate to saving €2.22 for every euro in the future.

Much of the correspondence from youth work organisations focuses on the need for greater consultation with them in co-operation with the Department. Will the Minister commit to meeting their representatives to discuss the budget? She said there will be a value for money review next year. Will she meet the relevant youth groups, organisations and agencies in advance of, or during, that process? She referred to some of the priorities of the review that she will highlight regarding the value of youth work.

Will the Minister meet those groups in order that they can highlight that issue because the value of first hand experience for the review cannot be underestimated? I strongly encourage the Minister and the value for money review to meet these groups. I thank Senator Jillian van Turnhout and others for tabling the motion, which I support. The youth sector will be valuable especially given the youth unemployment crisis, the social and economic consequences of which cannot be put on the back burner until the economic situation improves.

I welcome the Minister to the House. I welcome the motion and commend the Independent Senators who tabled it and acknowledge the work done by Senator Jillian van Turnhout in the area of youth work. I congratulate the Minister on the success of the children's referendum. It was a great day not only for the children of Ireland but the people of Ireland when the referendum was passed. We are in a new situation as regards the rights of children in the State.

Like Senator van Turnhout I have benefited greatly from youth work and youth organisations. I am grateful to Haggardstown youth club which made me who I am for better or worse and keeping me on the right path. My enjoyment of it was somewhat circumscribed by the fact that it was run by my older brother. I note the presence of many people from Louth with Senator Terry Brennan, two of whom are young men who also benefited from youth work in their time. It is true that youth work plays a significant role in supporting young people to be active citizens. Any investment in youth work has important long-term benefits.

I acknowledge also the vital role played by 1,400 youth workers in that sector, plus the 40,000 volunteers. It is said that the age of volunteerism is over, I do not agree with that as there are more than 40,000 volunteers involved in youth work.

I draw to the Minister's attention, as part of the European year of active aging 2012, an inter-generational volunteering project launched in Louth today. I wish to speak also to the youth workers here today because this project was organised by Louth volunteer centre under Mr. John Cottrell, its development manager. It involved pairing 68 younger people, that is, students from the local schools and colleges with 62 active older volunteers who volunteer in local charitable organisations. To shadow them, one of their shift covered during the inter-generational volunteering week in October 2012. The post survey results show an increase in the number of students with a more positive perception of the older people making a significant contribution in the local community, compared with 14% before the project. Some 73% of respondents rated their experience during the project as very beneficial and 100% of students said they would consider volunteering in future. That is significant because youth work can be a two-way project. If we have young people working with older people the outcomes are significant.

I am aware of a 20% reduction in funding since 2008 which we all regret. We would all like if there was more money but as part of the effort to address Ireland's deficit the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, the same as all other Departments, has had to find savings. We have an unsustainable budgetary deficit as regards public spending. This would have had to be tackled regardless of the banking crisis. I do not wish to be over-critical but previous Governments threw money around like snuff at a wake, based on unsustainable income from such sources as stamp duty. It is the solemn task of the Government to restore the public finances to good order for our young people.

I invite the Senator to conclude.

Nóiméad amhain. I welcome the motion and congratulate those who tabled it. I hope that Senator van Turnhout and the Independent Senators can accept the amendment proposed because it enhances the motion in that it gives us the opportunity to support the Minister in her vital work in safeguarding, protecting and nurturing the youth and ensuring that all our children, regardless of their circumstances, can look forward to a bright and fulfilling future.

I welcome the motion. The words that struck me most in the motion were "active citizenship" in regard to youth work, an issue I addressed previously in respect of the education system when the Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy Ruairí Quinn, was in the House. If we sent our children to school for 14 or 15 years but did not teach them Irish it would be foolhardy to expect them to speak Irish. We do not teach them how to be active citizens yet we are surprised and perplexed as to why we do not have active citizens. While we have civic, social and political education, CSPE, and other modules - this is the point I made to the Minister for Education and Skills in respect of the proposed changes to the junior certificate cycle - the leaving certificate does not care about CSPE because we do not measure it by giving points for active citizenship. Teachers do no teach it, and students do not study it and, therefore, we do not have as many active citizens as we might at the end of the education system.

Pádraic Pearse described the education system, 100 years ago, as the murder machine because it churns out economic units of production. Individuals are taught how to make a living but we do not teach them how to live, in a country where we have a pandemic of suicide, depression, mental health issues and the tragedy of young girls taking their lives by cyperbullying and all manner of reasons. Part of the reason for the failure is that in school they are not taught how to deal with the most basic elements outside the school. They will be working eight hour days, 40 hour weeks. For the rest of the week and during the day they are dealing with issues of alcohol, relationships, mental health, drugs and drugs awareness and yet in the school system they are not taught how to be active citizens, why they should vote and why they should volunteer; the reason being the system does not measure it.

The proposal I made to the Minister for Education and Skills was that active citizenship should be a leaving certificate subject. It should be an optional extra subject whereby one would be granted a maximum of 50 points.

It would be the only subject a student could do for the leaving certificate as a seventh subject that would give extra points. For good or bad the leaving certificate is all about points. Unless we make active citizenship part of the leaving certificate machine, teachers will not teach it, students will not study it and the country will be worse off. We need to teach children to understand the democratic process, why they should vote, why they should be involved in public life, and why they should look after their mental health and that of their neighbours. The only way to do that is through the educational system because we cannot rely on all parents-----

On a point of order. We were talking about youth and youth work outside the mainstream of education, much of which happens with voluntary workers. It all happens outside mainstream education. That was the core of the argument.

Relevancy is a matter for the Chair to determine. Senator Daly is entitled to outline his opinion.

I take on board the Senator's point. I understand the argument she is making. The failing of all governments since the foundation of the State has been that we do not teach our children to be active citizens - all the voluntary organisations do. We know that the parents who bring their children to the scouts and events are already active citizens. Most of us are products of parents who are active citizens - we were taught to be active citizens more or less. It is the same parents who bring their children to the GAA, soccer or youth clubs and other voluntary organisations.

We need to be concerned about the 75% of parents who do not teach their children to be active citizens. They are the parents who do not get up on a Saturday morning and bring their children to a GAA club. So the State must take up that role. The governor of Mountjoy Prison has seen many failed citizens come through the door. I quoted this earlier. We teach our children how to make a living but do not teach them how to live. That is the essence of active citizenship. There is a great opportunity. The Minister has been an excellent Minister in her portfolio to engage with the Department of Education and Skills and say we must stop producing economic units of production and instead start creating active citizens. The only way to do that is to use the education system against itself. We must allocate points for a subject of active citizenship that students will do because it will give them extra points and get them into college. It will teach them all why they should engage in public life and their society and not simply go through the entire - as Pádraic Pearse described it - murder machine and come out as an economic unit of production.

I take on board the Senator's point but I did not want to regurgitate the entire motion again. My point is that these organisations do great work but I am concerned about people who do not have parents who are active citizens as examples, unlike those of us who had such a benefit.

There is a Visitors Gallery of models and examples behind the Senator.

They are the models and examples. I wanted to ensure all those who did not have the models and examples such as those in the Visitors Gallery and who go through the education system are encouraged to become active citizens.

I welcome the Minister back to the House. I welcome all those in the Visitors Gallery, including the youth workers, volunteers and representatives of the youth groups. I acknowledge with deep gratitude the essential service they provide to the youth of the country. I had a speech written, but I do not want to regurgitate what has been brought up and I commend Senator van Turnhout on tabling the motion. I cannot start into what I wanted to say before addressing some of the remarks made by my colleague on the other side of the House.

As a former teacher and somebody who has been involved with young people for the past 27 years, I ask the Senator to reconsider what he said. The implication of what he said is that there are parents who do not teach their children how to behave or it is not being taught in school. In my experience the vast majority of children are innately good people given the opportunity. Transition year is the ideal year to allow our children to develop as people and to become good citizens. I could name countless children from first year to sixth year, many of whom have had no parental support in what they do or in how they are brought up, but they are the first people I would have relied on in school. They are the people who are the most considerate to people with disabilities, who seem to instinctively understand what other people are going through. It is inappropriate to stand up and say that because they have not got the parental support they do not end up as good people. Some of the best people in this country have come up through that.

We are having a debate and I just wanted-----

I take the Senator's point. I would like to use my six minutes to speak.

I am saying the system is not-----

Senator Moran without interruption.

The system is not ideal and-----

No system is ideal.

----- we have the lowest voter participation in Europe.

The motion is about youth work.

I call for order in the debate. Senator Moran without interruption.

I am only quoting the governor of Mountjoy Prison who knows more about prison systems than anybody else.

I ask the Senator to speak on the amendment.

There is a body of evidence to back up the belief that youth work and non-formal education make a significant contribution to society and we are all agreed on that. In a number of key areas youth work is filling the gaps left by the formal education sector. In the present economic situation youth work is more vital than ever - reference was made to youth unemployment. I welcome that the European youth guarantee is making great strides and I look forward to that next year.

Like my fellow Senator from County Louth, besides being the age-friendly county and the best county, between the two of us we do not need a gathering in County Louth next year to promote everything that happens in County Louth. An unforeseen effect of the banking crisis and consequent recession has been the rise in the participation in voluntary youth work. County Louth VEC has noticed that interest in and the establishment of new youth groups and youth initiatives are gaining momentum as adults are turning to volunteering as a way to practically and actively make use of the extra time they have available. Recently 46 groups from County Louth received funding grants from the VEC. This is very positive and shows that the Celtic tiger did not turn everybody into money-grabbing self-centred jet-setting socialites as is often portrayed in the media.

Everybody has talked about the value of youth work and I want to make reference to two projects in Dundalk with which I am acquainted and which the Minister has visited recently. One of them is "The House", which started from nothing and this year celebrated its 21st anniversary. I know the Minister was in attendance that day. It has gone to great lengths, as have other youth groups in the country, to help many young people who otherwise would have gone down the wrong road. As a former teacher I am constantly amazed at how beneficial they are. Sometimes it is down to the youth club, youth service or person who is there.

It is the feeling of care, of knowing that somebody is concerned, of helping them and of volunteering. I must go back to the point that it is not something that one can teach. It is something innate in us as a people.

I also want to make reference to the valuable work that Louth Comhairle has done, particularly last year in developing the mental health app. As somebody who has an interest in suicide awareness, the Minister will be conscious that the mental health app they produced last year was a testament to what young people can do when left to their own resources. In everything that they did, they came up with their own ideas. There is also the Youth Café in Dundalk which the Minister established.

I would like to make a brief------

Senator Moran must be brief because her time is up.

I will. I want to pay a brief tribute to Sr. Pearl Deery, whom I knew, who worked there, who was there when the Minister visited last year and who, unfortunately, passed away during the year. This was another example of the youth, in the tributes they paid to that lady at her funeral and the amount of young people who turned up to pay tribute. That merely shows the respect that young people have for their elders.

I ask Senator Moran to conclude.

Briefly, because I was interrupted,-----

No. Senator Moran was allowed a brief comment the last time.

-----I want to mention the excellent work done by BeLonG To for the youth LGBT. The Minister will be well aware of its work.

Senator Moran is well over her time.

They are the most vulnerable of all young people for being bullied. Statistics show the level of attempted suicide and self-harm. Full support needs to be provided to BeLonG To to build its level of service up to that for adults.

I really must ask Senator Moran to conclude.

I welcome the Minister. I commend the youth workers who put a great deal of time into working with young people and thank them for their work and the contribution that they have made to date and will continue to make in the future.

I came into politics directly as a result of being involved in a youth organisation and serving on its national executive when I was only 18 when all of the other members on the national executive were adults. I remember being in this House aged 18 or 19 looking for funding for youth organisations in order to retain staff. That was not today or yesterday. It was a significant learning curve from my point of view and it was one of the reasons I found that I was better involved in politics in trying to achieve change rather than being outside trying to effect change.

One of the first lessons I learned from my involvement in youth organisations was that there were four characters at every meeting in Ireland: Blaming Ben, Preaching Paddy, Peaceful Pete and Fearful Fred. Every time Senator Leyden stands up, I immediately think of Blaming Ben. It is amazing when one comes into this House every morning to look for those four characters in the House and assign the names and it is interesting how some mornings it changes. It shows, in the case of young people in youth organisations, that in the education system one size does not fit all.

I was involved in youth organisations and then went on to run a centre in a project that was funded by FÁS where there were 50 young people who otherwise would have dropped out of school who had problems with literacy and numeracy. Most of these young people were referred to us by the Garda because they had dropped out of the main system of education. When we conducted a survey of those young people five years after they had left the centre, over 70% of them were in full-time employment. It proves the point that one size does not fit all. That is why it is so important to have youth organisations and to support youth clubs and the many volunteers who give so much of their time for many years. Many start off thinking that they will contribute for one year and when one comes back ten years later the same ones are still making that valuable contribution.

It is an interesting report. It shows youth work has a significant impact. Young people found that it helped them gain practical skills. Over 70% of them felt their involvement in youth clubs assisted them in that way. It is important that we recognise that contribution.

The other figure that stands out relates to how youth work helps to reduce the costs associated with crime and anti-social behaviour. Some 45% felt it had a significant impact. As someone who has practised in the courts, I note that 85% of young people who end up before the courts are not involved in a youth club, youth organisation or sports club. That, in itself, answers all the questions about the importance of youth involvement in sport.

I suppose the big difference between sport and youth organisations is that all the sporting organisations have a source of revenue which the youth clubs and youth organisations do not have. That is why the youth clubs and youth organisations need that vital support from the national level and it is extremely important that this would continue.

Support for youth organisations has come a long way over the past 20 years. While it is a difficult time, it is important that we ensure we get value for money and continue to protect current funding for the next few years and at the same time try to improve the quality and development of the services because they play an important role.

I will mention one issue at which we should look. The JobBridge programme has been used effectively in getting the unemployed back to work. We must recognise that there are over 400,000 people unemployed. Many of them, unfortunately, are unlikely to find suitable employment in the long term. Would the Minister consider creating a pilot project which, initially, would train up to 1,000 unemployed people in the skills required to be involved in youth clubs and youth organisations? If there were 1,000 people engaged under the same procedure as the JobBridge programme involving the payment of an additional allowance, they would provide a vital support at local level where many others would benefit. Perhaps we could develop it to the point where there would be 5,000 unemployed people in that programme. It is something that we should seriously look at in the context of getting more people to give the helping hand that is so badly needed by so many young people in this country, and to the many youth organisations and youth clubs that work so hard. I would ask that such a pilot project would be considered.

I compliment Senator van Turnhout and those who have supported her motion. The Senator has played a significant role in the Seanad on behalf of young people. We all have different specialties but I can see that where the Senator is concerned. As a result, we are getting opportunities to speak on issues which might not arise in the Seanad.

I welcome the Minister. I also listened to her reply on the financial side, and we all understand that as well. It is important for us to realise why we must enable young people to play an active role in society, not only training them. Obviously, training and educating them is an important aspect, but I refer to the idea of allowing them take on leadership roles. I am always impressed, for instance, when I look at young people being interviewed on television programmes and see their absolute confidence and the manner in which they can articulate whatever are their particular points. That does not come from school. It is not taken from education in any way. Often it comes from the role and the opportunities which they have had in youth organisations. It is also particularly true when in comes to the farming community that, whether it be Macra na Feirme, Foróige or any of those organisations, some of us are old enough when they were not articulating their own point of view and their particularly industry suffered severely as a result.

Now we can see leadership and I am sure that the same is true of public life.

Many people who have entered public life came from youth organisations where they became aware of important issues. They became aware of how they should have a vision but to try to come up with policies and make recommendations and suggestions. When eventually they decide to put themselves forward for a local council, or even the Oireachtas, they are exceptionally well prepared for the role.

We must take all of these aspects into account when we think of the dreadful phrase "value for money". In this case value for money is very difficult to quantify. We can examine the report and see that for every euro spent now we will save two later. That is true. What would happen if the youth organisations did not exist? I am not saying that all young people would go a certain route. However, we know that the environment in which they grow up is very important. What happens if their environment is more negative than positive? If it is more destructive than constructive? Let us be fair, why could not young people find themselves in such a position? Let us think of the loss and the damage that would follow. It would cost us millions of euro if they are not given the opportunity to appreciate their potential. Self appreciation is their starting point. They must appreciate who they are and of what they are capable. Second, they must use whatever opportunities come their way. There is no shortage of opportunities if young people are given them. We have always had and always will have a generation gap up to a certain point. There is one thing that I am certain of. When young leaders comes to the fore they will have a better chance of influencing their peer groups because they will use the same language and communicate in the same way.

I do not suggest that all of this will change due to a cut in the grants. I believe that people will respond and that is part of what we have been talking about. If the Minister finds a bit of extra money at some point down the road she should remember that young people have made an effort and will make an effort. I do not think she will find much moaning from them because they are not disposed to that. Young people have a huge energy, overcome each problem and handle each challenge. It is important that at times, because they may be short of finance, we take it for granted that they will readapt or whatever. We may do a certain damage to the infrastructure that is in place. I presume that, leading up to the budget, the Minister has consulted all of the youth groups, or with as many as possible, and is aware of where they stand. Senator van Turnhout said at the beginning of the debate that she had hoped that the motion might be debated here before the budget. It might have been helpful but it may not have changed anything. More importantly, we could have made a stronger case if it has not already been done so.

Having looked at the number of organisations and their diversity we should not always say that there are too many organisations. I do not believe there are because youth work is such a big agenda that it must break down into specialties. Whatever about merging other bodies of a different nature, the idea of a merger of youth groups is not necessarily the same as the merger of other bodies. Youth groups already have a particular focus and a merger would create a degree of confusion which I do not think we want to happen.

We should use every opportunity we can to recognise the work done that has been done by youth organisations. We should acknowledge, not reward them. We should award them in public life and we should not take them for granted. They are working in the community where they should be and there is no doubt that of all the groups in the country it is the youth section that has suffered most from unemployment. We must think of the thousands of young people who live far away from Ireland who never wanted to leave. It was never part of their view or dream or that of their parents. We must stem the emigration in whatever way that we can. The Minister should get the message that we will approach the issue in a co-operative way and not by confrontation. I have known the Minister for a long time and we trained her in the Seanad so I know that her heart is in the right place. However, we must keep avenues and lines of communication open, in whatever way that we can, to offset the difficulties that may arise from the reductions in funding.

I call Senator Cáit Keane who has six minutes.

I welcome the Minister to the House. The full title of her office is the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, which is no accident. It was designed, as she was designed, to fit the Department. If one examines her background in social work and where she came from then one will know that there is no better person, in any Department, than Deputy Fitzgerald. She has done a lot of youth work and she has brought great empathy to her job.

Many people have spoken about the work done by various Senators on youth work. If one carried out a survey of all of the Deputies and Senators one would find that a lot of them have a background in youth work and social issues. I have a similar background because I taught Montessori and did youth work. Later I studied for a diploma in community development and also one on social deprivation. Senator Hayden mentioned the importance of examining social deprivation and its link to youth work. Some Senators pointed out that it was important to focus money on social deprivation as all of society is not equal. Society consists of different people. There are rich people who cannot be bothered to volunteer but that is the other side of the spectrum.

I welcome the motion that was tabled by the Independent Senators and others. Youth work plays a most important part in Ireland today. It inculcates active citizenship and participative democracy in citizens in Ireland and starts with the young. From my background I can state that its importance is recognised. For example, a poem of William Wordsworth in the 1800s uses the words, "The Child is father of the man" which is sexist as it refers to just men. I shall also quote Dr. Maria Montessori who said, "No man exists who was not made by the child he once was". Her work spanned the late 1800s to the mid-1900s. For young people she set up the Erdkinder because she recognised the importance of youth work. If one examines past society one can see further examples. Thankfully, we have a Minister who knows, is listening and will work.

The Indecon report was spoken about earlier. In 2009 a report was commissioned by the City of Dublin Youth Services to Catholic Youth Care, Foróige, Youth Work Ireland, financially supported by the Irish Youth Foundation and entitled The Purpose and Outcomes of Youth Work. The Benefits of Youth Work: Young Peoples' and Youth Workers' Perspective was researched by Maurice Devlin, deposited in NUI and has been published. It was prompted by a concern in 2009, when the boom was going to bust, that there was a significant change in the social and economic policy context. I ask Members to realise that there was a concern in 2009. I do not think that the Minister has let anything slip, particularly in the context of what was started in 2009. It is now more important than ever to articulate the distinctive nature of youth work and the benefits are not just for young people, but for adults as well. The benefits of youth work carry on for more than youth, but for adults and for society as a whole.

Much has been said about volunteerism and its benefits. I have written a page on the subject but I shall not say anything more about it because its benefit and value has been recognised. As Senator O'Donnell has said, one cannot put a monetary value on volunteerism.

Youth work is vital for the development of active, engaged and participative citizens.

We know that habits we often have as adults are formed as children. Therefore, early learning and development are pivotal in shaping society's future adults. I am not surprised by the findings of the assessment of the economic value of the youth work project, as published by Indecon. About 25 years ago, a report by Reichardt in America showed the monetary value of youth work. Apart from the value to society, investment in youth work and child care is saving money.

The new Child and Family Support Agency that the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald, has established recognises this fact. It demonstrates the value of family support and youth work. While we would like to be able to provide more support, we must also cut our cloth according to our measure, that is, according to the funds that are available. The Minister has therefore assessed and evaluated where the money goes.

One Senator mentioned €10 being cut from the children's allowance, but it is a question of how that sum is spent. The Minister referred to studies on where the money is going. In addition, Senator Jim D'Arcy mentioned throwing money about like snuff at a wake, which is not the way to do it. The key is getting value for money based on how and where it is spent. One can get no better value than from youth groups, including the scouts movement.

Youth unemployment is being tackled by the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Richard Bruton. He has listed the initiatives being taken in his Department to get young people back to work.

I thank the Minister for her input and for having attended the full debate. I also wish to thank each of my colleagues who contributed to the discussion, in particular, the Independent Group's Members who contributed without hesitation. Senator O'Donnell seconded the motion and explained superbly how our group feels about this issue. At the group meeting, Senators Zappone, Mary Ann O'Brien, Mac Conghail, McAleese and others all had stories to tell about the value of youth work and its importance in all our lives.

As regards cuts, I listened carefully to what the Minister had to say about a "sharper focus on quality, outcome and evidence-based practice". Part of me says that just means cuts, but I take the spirit of what the Minister means. Equally, however, I read in the Indecon report's summary that "public funding provided by the State for youth work services represents value for money". It does not say that it will represent value for money, but that it does so now.

In considering the review of funding streams - which is something that youth groups have been seeking for years - it does not suit anybody to crudely cut organisations by the same percentage every year, whether or not they improve. I welcome the review but how will it happen, what are its terms of reference and will it be transparent? Many organisations are wondering about those questions.

I do not want to divide the House, but will the Minister give a commitment to meet the National Youth Council of Ireland to discuss the funding streams?

I thank the Minister for giving that commitment to meet with the council's representatives.

This is a two-way matter because the State also has a responsibility to review the resources at its disposal, including public buildings and schools. What resources does the State have, other than cash transfers, in order to support youth work? How can it stretch itself to deliver more in this regard?

The Minister mentioned challenges and opportunities, including the youth policy framework and the EU Presidency. While none of us envies the many decisions the Minister will have to make in the future, Senators can also see themselves as resources for the State. During the forthcoming EU Presidency, if we can assist the development of the youth policy framework and the decisions that have to be made in that respect, we will do so. That was evidenced in today's debate.

Everybody knows that we are in the most horrible times and difficult decisions need to be made. We need to know, however, where we are going with those decisions. We may say "Yes" to reform, but what comes afterwards? Do we all recognise the pathway ahead? We must all work together in building the youth policy framework. The process is very important so the relevant organisations need to buy into it as much as the State does. We must work together to ensure that the next time Indecon and the National Youth Council of Ireland contribute a report, perhaps they will have an increased value. I think, however, that €2.20 for every €1 is a pretty good return on investment. If any bank gave me that rate at the moment I would take it. It is a pretty good investment so the more we can do to work together, the better.

I thank the Minister for having given a commitment to meet with the National Youth Council of Ireland on this issue. Hopefully, we can work together on this matter in the future.

Amendment put and declared carried.
Motion, as amended, agreed to.

When is it proposed to sit again?

Tomorrow at 10.30 a.m.