Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Ceisteanna (57)

Bernard Durkan


57. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the extent to which she or bodies under her aegis remain in contact with various youth groups nationally in the context of meeting their needs for various forms of funding; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30028/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí ó Béal (8 píosaí cainte) (Ceist ar Children)

This question seeks to ascertain the degree to which the Minister's Department or bodies under its aegis continue to have a dialogue with various youth organisations throughout the country - I will have a separate question covering County Kildare, as one does - in order that she and her organisation might be better able to respond to needs as determined by those working on a one-to-one basis with the youth on the ground.

The Deputy is bang on time.

My Department maintains close contact with the 30 national youth organisations that we fund. Officials from my Department and I meet these organisations formally twice per year to share knowledge and information on developments in the youth sector. Most recently, I met the national youth organisations on 11 April. An additional meeting was held on that day with the national organisations in receipt of targeted youth funding to keep them updated on the ongoing reform of that funding. My Department has also committed to convening formal meetings twice yearly with the five largest grantees from 2018 onwards. This commitment follows an internal audit report, published in 2017, that recommended more engagement on a periodic basis with youth service grant scheme grantees. In May, my officials met Youth Work Ireland, Scouting Ireland, the National Youth Council of Ireland, Crosscare and Foróige in that regard.

Youth officers of the education and training boards, ETBs, provide an important support role to my Department in the co-ordination and administration of youth services at a local level across the country. My officials hold scheduled meetings with the youth officers and youth liaison officers to maintain an open dialogue. The most recent meeting took place on 20 June with a specific focus on the transition to the new targeted funding scheme. My Department has set up a working group with five youth officers that is focused on strategic planning for future capital funding for the youth sector. There is ongoing active engagement between my Department and the youth constituency of the Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures advisory council. A small number of national youth organisation representatives are members of the council. Officials from my Department also meet youth organisations on an individual basis when the need arises. We have a professional and constructive working relationship with the national youth organisations, which my Department consistently works hard to maintain.

I thank the Minister for her reply and its quality. To what degree has it been possible to identify, including as part of the dialogue, any shortcoming in the system that can be, or is being, addressed? I congratulate the Minister on the extent of that dialogue, given that it is a fundamental part of the services. How successful have the interactions between the Department and the various youth groups been? Changes will be put into effect arising from the meetings. To what extent will they benefit youth services?

I appreciate the Deputy's questions. In my initial reply, I tried to outline the various structures and conversation paths that have been established in terms of a better, deeper and more frequent dialogue between the sector and my Department at national and community or local levels. That is an improvement, and significant changes have occurred in recent years in that regard. I am, therefore, confident that this will bear the fruit for which we are hoping. The communication channels are operating in different ways and at different levels.

As to what has been requested or is being considered, we undertook a major reform of targeted youth funding. That has created many concerns and there has been much dialogue in that regard. We are moving towards full implementation of the reform. The need for an ongoing dialogue at different levels is especially critical now.

Will the organisations be in a position to expand their services and increase the degree to which they interact with their respective communities to ensure youth receives sufficient support, protection and recognition at a time many challenges are appearing on a regular basis?

I hope so. We received an additional €1.5 million for youth funding in 2019. Funding is allocated and offered to the youth sector in different ways, but it totals €60.4 million. Organisations argue that, due to the years of austerity, it is still not at the level it should be, but there has been a further €1.5 million increase this year. We have targeted youth funding, the 2019 allocation for which is approximately €35 million. Youth service grant schemes will receive €11 million; youth information centres, €1.377 million; local youth club grant scheme, €2 million; and revised youth funding schemes, €3.3 million. That is an outline of the details. The national youth organisations are putting a case for increased investment, but I told them at our most recent meeting to develop the detail of that. I am open to receiving same and they are working on it now.

I thank the Minister.