Sorry, you need to enable JavaScript to visit this website.
Skip to main content
European Commission logo


EACEA National Policies Platform


1. Youth Policy Governance

1.9 Current debates and reforms

Last update: 28 March 2024
On this page
  1. Forthcoming policy developments
  2. Ongoing debates


Forthcoming policy developments

National Youth Policy  

Ireland's last National Youth Strategy 2015-2020 ended in 2020, although it is still an important guiding document for Irish youth policy. The strategy falls under the remit of the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (DCEDIY). According to the Department's Statement of Strategy (2021-2023), the Department has plans for the development, launch and successor strategy to the National Youth Strategy. 


Ongoing debates

Young people living in Direct Provision

Direct provision is a way of meeting the basic needs of food and shelter for asylum seekers directly, while their claims for refugee status, subsidiary protection or appeals for leave to remain are being processed in Ireland. As of the 26th of March 2023, there were 4,200 children living in Direct Provision (according to Accommodation Statistics published by DCEDIY). This is a significant increase to previous years, for example, according the Irish Refugee Council, in August 2019 there were 1,647 children living in Direct Provision. 

Direct Provision and Emergency Accommodation Centres tend to be isolated, and residents must share rooms. Most do not have the facilities to cook for themselves or their families. In many Direct Provision centres, meals are only served at set times. The Royal College of Psychists’ report on Children in Direct Provision found that a lack of funds, transport, strict mealtimes, and a ban on visitors to Direct Provision centres can exclude Asylum seekers. For example, this can exclude children and youth from afterschool activities. It can also exclude young people from further or third level educational opportunities.

In 2019 the Irish Government established an Advisory Group chaired by Dr Catherine Day, former Secretary General of the European Commission. Its role is to: 

  • advise on the development of a long-term approach
  • identify good practices
  • set out a process for solidifying a long-term approach. 

In a 2020 report the Advisory Group found that this system which places applicants for long periods in segregated, congregated accommodation with little privacy or scope for normal family life is not fit for purpose. 

The Government committed, in the Programme for Government - Our Shared Future (2020), to end Direct Provision and to replace it with ‘a new International Protection accommodation policy, centred on a not-for-profit approach’ (page 76). In February 2021 the Irish Government published A White Paper on Ending Direct Provision and to Establish a New International Protection Support Service. The Government plans to replace the Direct Provision system with an international protection system.

According to the plan, people including children who are applying for protection will be helped to integrate into Ireland from day one, with health, housing, education, and employment supports at the core of the system. The necessary supports will be in place depending on the relevant needs of the person. A health assessment will be provided for all new international protection applicants in phase one and there will be a focus on the needs of children who come to Ireland with their families.

It was originally intended to close all Direct Provision centres by the end of 2024. However, the Head of Advisory Group has warned that it is no longer likely to close all Direct Provision centres by the end of 2024 given the continuing accommodation pressures. 


Young people experiencing homelessness

There is a debate on the number of young people experiencing homelessness and living in emergency accommodation because of the current ‘housing crisis’ in Ireland. This includes young people under 18 years of age living with their parents in emergency accommodation and young people aged 18-24 years living in homeless accommodation. 

The Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government releases Homelessness Reports which take a specific period and look at the number of people accessing Emergency Accommodation at that time. The Homelessness Report for January 2023 shows that 1,423 of young people aged 18-24 years accessed local authority managed emergency accommodation during the week of 23-29 January 2023. 

The main topics debated are the negative impact of homelessness on young people, e.g., lack of space, mental health, education, and lack of social housing. The main actors involved in the debate are the Irish Government, the Department of the Environment, Housing and Local Government, the Ombudsman for Children, homeless charities, and the media.

LGBTQI+ youth homelessness has been highlighted as an issue by homeless services. According to Focus Ireland, ‘youth services staff have reported high numbers of LGBTQI+ young people are becoming homeless as a direct consequence of their sexual orientation or gender identity.’ A Qualitative Study of LGBTQI+ Youth Homelessness in Ireland published by Focus Ireland in September 2020 sought for the first time to make visible and give a voice to the specificities of LGBTIQ+ youth homelessness in Ireland. 

In 2022, the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage published a Youth Homelessness Strategy 2023 to 2025. It is a 3-year strategy working towards ending homelessness for young people aged 18-24 through:

  • prevention and exits
  • improving the experience of young people accessing emergency accommodation.

This Strategy adopts a whole-of-Government approach to tackling youth homelessness. It brings together a multitude of key stakeholders. The Strategy contains three main strategic aims:

  • To prevent young people from entering homelessness
  • To improve the experiences of young people accessing emergency accommodation
  • To assist young people exiting homelessness.

The Strategy identifies certain groups within the 18-24 age group who are particularly at risk of becoming homeless, and are disproportionately represented in the young homeless population. The Strategy includes specific actions to help each of these vulnerable groups: 

  • Care leavers;
  • People with disabilities;
  • Young parents, especially those parenting alone;
  • Members of the Traveller community
  • Members of the LGBTI+ community;
  • Individuals leaving prison services. 


Issues facing LGBTQI+ Young People

The 2022 School Climate Survey from Belong To Youth Services identified several issues affecting LGBTQI+ young people, including anti-LGBTQI+ bullying, homophobic remarks, discrimination, harassment, and assault. Impacts on LGBTQI+ young people included absenteeism, lack of sense of belonging, isolation, and stigmatisation. 1,208 LGBTQ+ students took part in the survey. Its findings included that: 

  • 69% of LGBTQ+ students hear homophobic remarks from other students.
  • 58% of LGBTQ+ students heard homophobic remarks from school staff.
  • 1 in 3 LGBTQ+ students have skipped school to avoid negative treatment due to being LGBTQ+. 

The LGBTI+ National Youth Strategy 2018-2020 was the world’s first National LGBTI+ Youth Strategy and is essential in identifying and addressing issues that may prevent LGBTQI+ young people from enjoying full equality in practice in Irish society.

The National LGBTI+ Inclusion Strategy ran from 2019 until 2021. Although the overall strategy is not specifically aimed at young LGBTI+ people, it does include "actions to support intersectional needs so that the rights of LGBTI+ people who are Travellers or Roma, have disabilities, are prisoners, migrants or are young or older people are adequately identified and protected" (page 13). 


LGBTQI+ Young People and Mental Health 

A 2020 report by the Economic and Social Research Institute found that the Covid-19 pandemic has had negative effects on young people’s health and wellbeing, especially amongst marginalised groups. The report, based on the findings of research undertaken by SpunOut and the DCEDIY's Youth Advisory Group, shows how young people struggled with being separated from their friends, and faced significant mental health impacts because of Covid-19 and the restrictions.

The mental health of LGBTQI+ young people in Ireland worsened during the Covid-19 pandemic. The About the LGBTI+ Life in Lockdown Survey, conducted by BeLonG to Youth Services, included more than 3000 young people. It found that 97% of LGBTQI+ young people are struggling with anxiety, stress, or depression. It found that 63% of LGBTI+ young people are struggling with suicide ideation compared to 2020’s 55%. The number of LGBTI+ young people struggling with self-harm increased from 45% in 2020 to 50% in 2021. Overall, 56% of LGBTI+ young people surveyed in 2021 said they experienced feelings of unacceptance in their home environment, including family rejection, feeling unaccepted, and a denial of identity. 

Debates about issues around young people's mental health are further discussed in section 7.8