1.6 Evidence-based youth policy
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The Irish government has a political commitment to evidence-based youth policy. This importance of this commitment is outlined in Better Outcomes Brighter Futures: The National Policy Framework for Children and Young People in Ireland (2014-2020), which states that, ‘to be effective, policies and services must be supported by evidence and focused on the achievement of agreed outcomes.’
This approach was used in the creation of the National Youth Strategy (2015-2020). The Strategy takes an evidence-informed approach stating, ‘implementation is guided by the learning from, and research into, policies, strategies and approaches and on best practice in service delivery’ (page 39).
The Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (DCEDIY) has an Evidence into Policy Programme. The programme aimed to support and meet the Department’s research and evidence needs, with respect to core Departmental and Government policy priorities. It promoted evidence-informed policymaking, to support better outcomes for children and young people. The Evidence into Policy Programme Team helps staff across DCEDIY to ensure that they have relevant and recent evidence to inform their policy making and decision making. This is done in several ways, from the team acting as a sounding board to giving advice on conducting research, to commissioning and managing external contractors. They also conduct research to meet the policy needs of the department.
While the DCEDIY does maintains some institutionalised and regular cooperation with providers of research on youth, there are also examples of Informal and ad-hoc cooperation.
Institutionalised mechanisms and actors
For longer-term research studies, the DCEDIY has cooperation with research institutes. For example, there is ongoing cooperation between the DCEDIY, and the research institutes contracted to conduct a Longitudinal Study of Children in Ireland called Growing up in Ireland. These research institutes are the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) and Trinity College Dublin. The study began in 2006 and is managed by the DCEDIY in association with the Central Statistics Office (CSO). The ESRI and Trinity College Dublin regularly compile research reports and briefings based on the study’s findings in cooperation with the DCEDIY.
Since 2019, there has been a Research Partnership between DCEDIY and the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI). It aims to generate research on children and young people to inform public policy. The programme draws on data from the Growing Up in Ireland study (the national longitudinal study of children and young people), as well as other information sources. Studies are currently underway on housing quality and child outcomes; civic engagement among young adults in rural and urban areas; and the profile of young adult carers.
The Centre for Youth Research and Development (CYRD) at Maynooth University conducts a range of research projects, which are commissioned, funded or otherwise supported by external organisations and agencies. Recent and current partners and funders include DCEDIY, as well as the European Commission, the Combat Poverty Agency/Department of Social Protection, the National Youth Council of Ireland, Youth Work Ireland, the Equality Authority, Kildare Youth Services and Youth Advocate Programmes Ireland.
The DCEDIY has several funded research programmes, including:
- The National Children’s Research Programme
- The DCEDIY Research Scholarship Programme
- The DCEDIY / Irish Research Council Scholarship Scheme.
Informal / ad-hoc cooperation
The DCEDIY has a research panel, which academic and independent researchers can apply to be part of. The DCEDIY sends requests for tenders for research projects to approved members of the DCEDIY Research Panel who can then apply to conduct the research. The DCEDIY also conducts training with members of their research panel. In the past, the DCEDIY also funded research master’s and PhDs in child and youth issues.
Policy themes informed by research
The key policy themes informed by research include:
- Understanding of children and young people’s lives
- Youth justice issues
- Traveller and Roma attendance, participation, and engagement with the education system
- Youth participation in decision-making
- LGBTI+ issues.
Statistics on youth in Ireland are collected by several actors.
Central Statistics Office
The Central Statistics Office (CSO) collects data in the Census of Population every five years on areas including education, health, ethnicity etc.
The Child and Family Agency (Tusla) collects data on children in the care of the state. Tusla Performance and Activity Reports are published every quarter.
The Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government
The lead local authorities for homelessness in each region, under the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, collects statistics on the number of young people aged 18-25 years who are homeless in Ireland every month.
Oberstown Children Detention Campus
Oberstown Children Detention Campus publishes an annual report ‘Key Characteristics of Young People in Detention.’ Statistics include a profile of key characteristics of young people, e.g., age, gender, care history, health issues, mental health issues, behavioral issues, substance misuse issues, engagement in education, learning difficulties etc. The research is aimed at providing a better understanding of the challenges faced by young people in conflict with the law, and to inform services and interventions to assist such young people. It also publishes monthly Occupancy Statistics.
Irish Prison Service
The Irish Prison Service publishes statistics on young people aged 17-25 years in prisons in Ireland. The data is published and updated on a yearly basis.
State of the Nation’s Children
The State of the Nation’s Children Reports are an outcome of the publication of the National Set of Child Well-Being Indicators in 2005. The DCEDIY (previously known as the Department of Children and Youth Affairs) published the reports every second year between 2006 and 2016.
Growing Up in Ireland
Growing Up in Ireland, the National Longitudinal Study of Children in Ireland, tracks the development of two nationally representative cohorts of children: a Child Cohort (recruited when the children were 9 years old) and an Infant Cohort (recruited when the children were 9 months old).
The Growing Up in Ireland study is funded by the DCEDIY, in association with the Department of Social Protection and the Central Statistics Office. The study is being carried out by a consortium of researchers led by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) and Trinity College, Dublin.
In the Statement of Strategy (2021-2023) recently published by the DCEDIY there has been an updated plan to deliver a new model of delivery for ‘Growing up in Ireland, the national longitudinal study of children and young people.’ This plan states that the DCEDIY expects to oversee the delivery of the Growing up in Ireland contract from 2020-2022 and to transfer the Growing up in Ireland into the Department and the CSO from January 2023.
Ombudsman for Children Office
The Ombudsman for Children’s Office conducts research on topical issues such as education, healthcare, and youth homelessness.
Youth Hub (Hub na nÓg) is part of DCEDIY which supports government departments, state agencies and non-government organisations to give children and young people a voice in decision-making on issues that affect their lives. Both the Youth Hub and DCEDIY’s Youth Participation Unit regularly conducts consultations with children and young people on issues that affect their lives.
DCEDIY funds the Evidence into Policy Programme (described above), which both conducts and supports research on youth that explicitly supports evidence-based youth policymaking. Evidence into Policy Programme Team sit within the DCEDIY.
Regarding external research, there is not a specific line of funding for external research on youth explicitly supporting evidence-based youth policy making. However, DCEDIY does provide ad hoc budget allocations which support external research in the youth field.
There is also a Research and Evaluation Unit within DCEDIY. This unit is responsible for conducting evaluation projects in policy areas across the Department. The Research and Evaluation Unit's projects include Focused Policy Assessments, Spending Reviews, and a range of internal policy and programme evaluations. It also provides technical and evaluation inputs to policymakers across the DCEDIY.