Tuesday, 10 December 2019

Questions (57)

Anne Rabbitte


57. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if she has considered reviewing the system through which youth groups and services access public funding. [51523/19]

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Oral answers (8 contributions) (Question to Children)

Has the Minister considered reviewing the system through which youth groups and services can access public funding?

My Department administers a range of funding schemes to support the provision of youth services to young people throughout the country including those from disadvantaged communities.

Both the targeted and universal youth funding allocations for 2020 for organisations and services are currently being finalised in my Department.

These schemes have been subject to very significant review and reform.

I am currently working closely with officials in my Department to complete the final phase of preparation of the new targeted youth funding scheme, which will be launched before Christmas.  I believe the new scheme will be highly beneficial to the most vulnerable groups in society.

This scheme is designed to support young people who are marginalised, disadvantaged or vulnerable and aims to provide services which support young people to develop the personal and social skills required to improve their life chances.

The design of this scheme has been the subject of considerable collaboration with the youth sector.

The experience gained in reforming targeted youth funding schemes will also assist us in reviewing the funding scheme for universal services. In this regard my Department plans to commence a review of the youth services grant scheme next year.

This scheme makes funding available on an annual basis to 30 national and major regional youth organisations.

In 2019, I provided an additional 2.5% in funding to this scheme, bringing the total allocation to over €11 million.

The review of this scheme will aim to enhance accountability, transparency and outcome measurement.  It will also seek to ensure that the scheme responds as effectively as possible to the ever evolving needs of young people.  My Department is committed to consultation with the youth sector in this review.

We have a professional, constructive working relationship with the national youth organisations, which my Department works hard to maintain, and most recently I met with the national youth organisations on 2 December last.

The reason I tabled this question was to understand the sequence of when funding would be released. I welcome the Minister's commentary on the targeted youth funding scheme. How can one apply for it? Must one be a member of the major groups? What are the 30 other national groups? I am trying to understand this because there appear to be many groups and this follows up on where Deputy Boyd Barrett concluded. Who works with the Department? Is it the education and training board, the city and county childcare committees or the county councils? Who is submitting some of these funding applications and how can one get advance notice that one can access this funding so one might not be left behind? That might have been the case in Deputy Boyd Barrett's area. I am asking on behalf of Tuam and Ballinasloe. We are trying to get a bus that can be part of the Irish youth justice system. I see the Minister smiling at that-----

No, I think it is great.

-----but it would bring things together for vulnerable young people so they could have the same opportunities to engage throughout the county.

I am laughing at the Deputy's passion about one application, although I am sure it is for many. The targeted youth scheme was reviewed a couple of years ago. There were four types of schemes and different groups could apply to them to get grants and funding. The review recommended bringing it into one scheme as that would be more efficient and effective. Three years of consultation took place with the youth sector in many different ways. That is not to say that there was not some criticism and concern as to whether the groups currently getting funding would continue to get it. It is built into the scheme that they will be given time to reach the criteria for the scheme so they can continue to get funding, while new groups can also access it.

It will be administered through the ETB. I will launch it at the end of this year and the information will go out in the new year. If there are new groups that have not accessed funds, I expect that the information will be made known and available. If it is not, I ask the Deputy to refer back to me in that regard.

My understanding is that the funding applications will be made available in the new year and that the Minister will communicate that through the Department. Is that the full allocation of €11 million for the year? Will people know that is the pot of money and how to make an application to access the funding? What recommendations does the Minister think she will give to some of the groups? Some of them might never have applied previously. They might think they are too small or they might not be managed under a particular heading. Will it be driven through the ETBs, the county councils or other youth work organisations? I am trying to flag in advance for all the youth groups that there is funding coming and that this will be the main mechanism for accessing it for 2020.

Absolutely, they need to know. I anticipate that most youth organisations and services that are currently getting funding will continue to get it, but through a new vehicle. The Deputy's question about awareness raising and communications is a good one. To be straight, I am not sure if it is my Department that will do it or the ETB, but I will raise that question. As to whether the €11 million that is available is for the targeted youth scheme, we have moneys for the targeted youth scheme, which I am describing now, and for the national youth organisations. I do not have the figures with me regarding how much is for one and how much is for the other.

As I indicated, there has been an increase of an additional €8.5 million, or some 16%, for the targeted scheme since 2016, when I took over the Ministry, and a 10% increase for the universal scheme.