1.4 Youth policy decision-making
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Youth policymaking takes place at central government level in Ireland.
The Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (DCEDIY) is the top-level authority responsible for youth policy. It is a dedicated government department responsible for children and youth affairs.
The DCEDIY brings together several key areas of policy and provision for children, young people, and families. Its mission is to lead the effort to improve the outcomes for children and young people in Ireland.
In 2020, the DCEDIY's remit was expanded by the Government. It's responsibilities now include policy, legislation, and services in the areas of integration, equality, and disability, which were previously held by the Department of Justice. The Government also plans on giving the Department additional responsibility for disability services that will be transferred from the Department of Health.
Included within the Department's remit are the following organisations:
- Child Policy and Tusla Governance Division (Tusla is the national Child and Family Agency)
- Early Learning and Care and School-Age Childcare Division
- Corporate and Business Support Division
- Youth Justice, Adoption, Youth and Participation Division
- International Protection and Equality Division.
Other actors formally involved in youth policy making include government departments whose remit includes young people, for example:
- Department of Education
- Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science
- Department of Health
- Department of Justice
- Department of Social Protection
- Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media
- Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage
- Department of Rural and Community Development
The main policy themes addressed in the National Youth Strategy relate to the five national outcomes outlined in Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures: The national policy framework for children and young people:
- 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
Chapter 2 of the National Youth Strategy provides an understanding of the situation of young people in Ireland. This includes presenting youth policy and research related to the five outcome areas under the headings of:
- The socio-economic context
- Youth as a period of development
- The youth policy environment
Several objectives are outlined in the National Youth Strategy under the five outcome areas.
Outcome 1: Active and healthy, physical, and mental wellbeing.
Objective 1: Young people enjoy a healthy lifestyle, about their physical, mental, and sexual health and well-being.
Objective 2: Young people benefit from involvement in recreational and cultural opportunities including youth work, arts, and sports.
Outcome 2: Achieving full potential in learning and development.
Objective 3: Young people’s core skills, competencies and attributes are enhanced and promoted through accessible, responsive, formal, and non-formal education and learning opportunities.
Objective 4: Young people benefit from strengthened transition supports at all levels as they move through the education system.
Outcome 3: Safe and protected from harm.
Objective 5: Young people, particularly vulnerable and marginalized young people, are supported to feel safe at home, in school, in their communities and online, and are empowered to speak out when feeling unsafe or vulnerable.
Objective 6: Young people have safe places and spaces where they can socialize and develop.
Outcome 4: Economic security and opportunity.
Objective 7: Young people are better able to participate in the labour market through enhanced employability skills that complement formal learning and training qualifications and entrepreneurship opportunities.
Objective 8: Young people are a particular focus in policies that address social inclusion and poverty.
Outcome 5: Connected, respected and contributing to their world
Objective 9: Young people are included in society, are environmentally aware, their equality and rights are upheld, their diversity celebrated, and they are empowered to be active global citizens.
Objective 10: Young people’s autonomy is supported, their active citizenship fostered, and their voice strengthened through political, social, and civic engagement
The National Youth Council of Ireland (NYCI) is the representative body for voluntary youth organisations in Ireland. The role of the NYCI is to use their collective experience to act on issues that impact on young people. NYCI’s role is recognised in legislation through the Youth Work Act 2001.
The role of NYCI includes:
- Representing the shared interests of voluntary youth organisations
- Building solidarity among its members
- Advocating on issues that impact on the lives of young people
- Promoting the development of evidence informed high quality specialist youth work practice
- Capacity building and professional development.
NYCI design and manage a number of programmes including:
- Child Protection Programme
- Development Education Programme
- Youth Arts Programme
- Youth Health Programme
- Intercultural and Equality Programme
- International Programme
- Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Maths (STEAM) and Digital Youth Work Programme.
NYCI also provide training to youth organisation on these programmes.
NYCI is funded by the Youth Affairs Unit of DCEDIY under the Youth Service Grant Scheme. Youth Service Grant Scheme funding is made available on an annual basis to 30 national and major regional voluntary organisations. NYCI was awarded €633,244 in 2020 under this scheme, an increase from the €608,888 awarded in 2019.
NYCI called on the government to invest an additional €4.7 million, of the Irish National Budget, into youth work services. This additional funding requested was to provide more supports and activities for young people, to meet the needs of the growing Irish youth population and to strengthen voluntary youth organisations.
NYCI argued for this increased investment in youth, on the basis that:
- Young people have been hit hard by the pandemic especially with the interruption of their education, career, employment
- The pandemic had an impact on young people’s mental health including the interruption of support from friends and relevant networks
- Youth employment is over 37.8% because of the pandemic
- Overall, the total Government spending has increased by 17% since 2011, but support for youth work has only increased by 2.7% in the same period.
The National Youth Strategy was evaluated in 2017 by DCEDIY to assess progress, examine the process and review the continuing relevance of its objectives and priorities. This evaluation was conducted as part of the Mid-term review of Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures.
The DCEDIY have evaluated the successes of Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures and will build on these evaluations to implement a successor strategy that is integrated, action-focused and whole of society orientated in its input and application