1.3 National youth strategy
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Ireland has both a national policy framework and a national strategy related to young people.
Ireland first (and most recent) national policy framework for children and young people was Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures: The National Policy Framework for Children and Young People 2014-2020. It is an overarching framework which addresses both children and young people (those aged 0-24 years). Three whole-of-Government strategies were developed under this framework:
- National Youth Strategy 2015-2020
- National Strategy on Children and Young People’s Participation in Decision-Making (2015)
- First 5: A Whole-of-Government Strategy for Babies, Young Children and their Families 2019-2028
Ireland's most recent National Youth Strategy was published in 2015, to cover the years 2015-2020. The Strategy targets 10- to 24-year-olds. The Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (DCEDIY), in their Statement of Strategy (2021-2023), stated their intention to develop and launch a new youth strategy. The next policy framework for children and young people is currently being developed. It is expected to run from 2023 to 2028. This successor Strategy is discussed further in section 1.9 on on-going debates and reforms.
The National Youth Strategy took a cross-government, cross-sectoral, whole-of-society approach to youth policy. It sets out the Government’s objectives for 10- to 24-year-olds. The main elements of the National Youth Strategy are:
- The socio-economic context of young people in Ireland
- Youth as a period of development
- The youth policy environment
- The National Youth Strategy Consultation
- The aim, objectives, and priority actions of the strategy
- The implementation framework of the strategy
- Enabling actions across the five national outcomes areas for children and young people.
The National Youth Strategy is based on Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures: The National Policy Framework for Children and Young People 2014-2020. It aims to achieve the goals and outcomes set out in the national policy framework for children and young people. The Framework is is rooted in Ireland's commitments under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Key political objectives in the youth field
The National Youth Strategy’s aim is to enable all young people to realise their maximum potential, by respecting their rights and hearing their voices, while protecting and supporting them as they transition from childhood to adulthood. These line up with the five national outcomes outlined in Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures: The National Policy Framework for children and young people (2014-2020)
- Outcome 1: Active and healthy, physical, and mental wellbeing
- Outcome 2: Achieving full potential in learning and development
- Outcome 3: Safe and protected from harm
- Outcome 4: Economic security and opportunity
- Outcome 5: Connected, respected, and contributing to their world.
Specific target groups - marginalised / disadvantaged young people
While the National Youth Strategy is a universal strategy for all young people in Ireland, marginalised or disadvantaged young people are identified as a specific target group within the strategy. It defines marginalised / disadvantaged young people as including (but not limited to):
- Young people marginalised by location, geography or socioeconomic reasons
- Young travelers, Roma, young people from ethnic or religious minorities
- Migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers
- Young people with disabilities or mental health issues
- Lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBTQ+) young people
- Young carers
- Young people in conflict with the law
- Young people who are in employment, education, or training (NEETs)
- Young parents
- Young people in care
- Young people in direct provision
- Lone parents under the age of 25 years.
Specific target groups - LGBTI+ young people
There is also a separate Youth Strategy which specifically targets young Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Intersex (LGBTI+) people. The LGBTI+ National Youth Strategy 2018-2020 was published in June 2018 and was the world’s first LGBTI+ National Youth Strategy. This three-year action-oriented strategy recognises that LGBTI+ can flourish when they have consistently positive interactions with those around them and supportive experiences in the services with which they most engage.
Consultation with young people and their representatives
Consultations on the development of the National Youth Strategy took place between December 2014 and March 2015 with over 4,600 people. 4,000 of those consulted were young people under the age of 25. The main consultation method was online surveys. One survey was aimed at young people and another survey was aimed at those working with young people.
The results of the online surveys helped in the development of specific questions that were used in three consultation events. One of the events was aimed at young people aged under 18 years. Two other events were aimed at other stakeholders; including those working directly with young people and young people aged 18 and over. The results of the consultation events and survey helped to inform key priority areas in relation to the development of the National Youth Strategy.
In 2017 a review of the National Youth Strategy was conducted in terms of progress, development, and implementation as part of a Mid-term review of Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures.
The Implementation Team in the DCEDIY held a focus group with young people from the EU Structured Dialogue (known as ‘Young Voices’ in Ireland) as part of the review.
The DCEDIY was the government department responsible for the implementation of the National Youth Strategy at a national level and for ensuring that national policy is connected to local implementation.
The DCEDIY established a National Youth Strategy Led Team to coordinate, progress and monitor the implementation of the strategy. Two sub-groups of the National Youth Strategy Lead Team were also established:
- One group to engage with the Advisory Council
- One group to oversee the implementation of the Value for Money Policy Review of Youth Programmes.
The Youth Affairs Unit within the DCEDIY is responsible for the development of youth policies and strategies. The role of the Youth Affairs Unit is to support the alignment of youth policies and services with other Departmental policies and services and the broader policy and services field.
One of the principals within the national policy framework was "Clear implementation, monitoring and accountability mechanisms and lines of responsibility for delivery are in place to drive timely and effective policy implementation" (page 21).The framework established new cross-government structures to support the implementation and monitoring of the Framework. Within the Framework, a small number of key indicators were identified. Some indicators are measured annually, but many are reported upon every 3-4 years. A an annual report was published for each year of its lifecycle, a Mid-term Review of Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures was published in 2018 and An Indicator Set for Better Outcomes Brighter Future was published in 2022.
The National Children’s Strategy: Our Children - Their Lives (2000-2010) was the first national youth policy in Ireland. The National Children’s Strategy had a strong focus on the rights of children and young people to be heard in matters that affect their lives.
The National Children’s Strategy was succeeded by the National Youth Strategy 2015-2020. The National Children’s Strategy targeted children and youths 0- to 18-years-of-age, whereas the National Youth Strategy targets children and young people aged 10-24 years.
The National Youth Strategy also differs from the National Children’s Strategy as it takes a cross-government, cross-sectoral, whole-of-society approach to youth policy.
Within their Statement of Strategy (2021-2023) DCEDIY has plans for the development and launch of a successor Strategy to the National Youth Strategy and to Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures. Further information is available in section 1.9 on on-going debates and reforms.