Given the experience of my Department in consulting with children and young people, it was represented on the oversight group for the President's Being Young and Irish initiative. The recommendations of the report, where they concern policies related to children and young people, will be taken into account in drafting both the Children and Young People's Policy Framework and the Youth Strategy, both of which are due to be published in 2013.
In the last nine years my Department, and previously the Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, has worked to ensure the establishment or consolidation of the following key structures: Comhairle na nÓg (local youth councils); Dáil na nÓg (national youth parliament); and the children and young people’s participation support team and consultations/dialogues with children and young people.
In March 2009 the Children and Young People’s Participation Support Team was created. The Team is made up of the staff in the Citizen Participation Unit of my Department and three regional Children and Young People’s Participation Officers, from two national youth organisations (Foróige and Youth Work Ireland). The reports of the independent evaluation of the Comhairle na nÓg Development Fund (2008-2009) and (2009-2010) highlight the value of the support, information and training provided by the three regional Participation Officers. They note the marked improvement in the operation of many child and youth councils resulting from the involvement of the Participation Officers. They also note the important role played by these officers in creating a strong link between child and youth councils at local level and my Department at national level.
In addition to their direct work with organisers of the 34 child and youth councils, the DCYA Participation Officers were involved in the planning and management of a wide range of children’s participation initiatives including consultations with children and young people on Reform of the Junior Cycle, the National Children and Young People’s Strategy (2013-2017) and the Forum on Patronage and Pluralism in Primary Schools.
500 teenagers from the 34 Comhairle na nÓg around the country attended the first-ever Comhairle na nÓg National Showcase on Friday, 9 November 2012.
On the day there were four TOPIC ZONES run by key decision-makers where young people could seek advice and support on how to become more effective improving the lives of young people in relation to mental health, sexual health, youth facilities and engaging with Decision Makers.
My Department provides opportunities for children and young people to contribute their views on issues of national and personal importance, and has conducted national consultations/dialogues with children and young people on a range of issues, including: the Taskforce on Active Citizenship (2006); the age of consent for sexual activity (2006); the Irish Youth Justice Strategy (2007);the misuse of alcohol among young people (2007) and Teenage Mental Health: What Helps and What Hurts (2008).
A Thematic Group on the development of a national policy on children and young people’s participation in decision-making was established in 2011, comprising representatives of Government Departments, State Agencies, the research community and other key stakeholders. Its work will feed into the National Children and Young People’s Policy Framework (2013-2017).