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Forthcoming policy developments
The Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth is currently developing a Statement of Strategy 2021 – 2023. This statement will define the Department’s vision, mission and goals for that period, and attempt to build upon the progress made on the Department’s last Statement of Strategy 2016 – 2019. It will set out high-level goals as well as the strategies and high-level actions to be progressed to achieve the Department’s mission. The Department accepted submissions from the public, regarding the new statement, during October-November 2020. The new statement is expected to be published in early 2021.
The latest National Policy Framework for Children and Young People and National Youth Strategy both expired at the end of 2020. It is possible that the Irish government will renew these policies during 2021, however, as of January 2021 no details have yet been released.
Young people living in Direct Provision
There is an ongoing debate around young people living in Direct Provision in Ireland. Direct provision is a means of meeting the basic needs of food and shelter for asylum seekers directly while their claims for refugee status are being processed in Ireland.
The main issues debated are the negative impact of Direct Provision on young people, e.g. safety, impact on mental health, lack of space, food, education, the long waiting times to be processed.
The Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth conducted consultations with young people living in Direct Provision centres in 2017. The consultations heard what children and young people living in Direct Provision like, dislike and what they would like to change or improve about the places in which they live.
The main actors involved in the debate are the Irish Government, the Department of Justice, The Reception and Integration Agency (RIA), the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, the Ombudsman for Children, NGOs and the media.
The Ombudsman for Children, the office that investigates complaints made by children and young people or on their behalf in Direct Provision, states the main issues complained about include financial supports, accommodation, communication, complaint management and management of transfers to different centres or larger accommodation.
Young people experiencing homelessness
There is a debate on the number of young people experiencing homelessness and living in emergency accommodation , linked to the ‘housing crisis’ in Ireland. The main topics debated are the negative impact of homelessness on young people, e.g. lack of stability, 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 Housing, Local Government and Heritage; the Ombudsman for Children; homeless charities and the media.
The Ombudsman for Children published a report on consultations with young people living in homeless accommodation in 2019, outlining children’s views and experiences of living in Family Hubs.
LGBTI+ 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 who are becoming homeless as a direct consequence of their sexual orientation or gender identity.’ However, the extent of the problem is largely unknown, as it is often hidden by young people who engage with homeless services due to stigma or fear of violence or assault.
LGBTI+ young people
The 2019 School Climate Survey conducted by BeLonG To Youth Services identified a number of issues affecting LGBTI+ young people. These included anti-LGBTI+ bullying, homophobic remarks, discrimination, harassment and assault. Impacts on LGBTI+ young people included absenteeism, lack of sense of belonging, isolation and stigmatisation.
Solutions proposed to address these issues included:
- safe and supportive schools with inclusive staff;
- representation of LGBTI+ identities in the curriculum;
- explicit anti-bullying policies to reduce levels of anti- LGBTI+ bullying; and
- a student body with a higher sense of belonging and better educational outcomes .
Young people on reduced timetables
The issue of young people being placed on reduced timetables by schools is an ongoing debate. The main topics debated are the impact of reduced timetables on young people with disabilities and from the Traveller community and reduced timetables being used as a method of dealing with challenging behaviour.
The main actors involved in the debate are the Department of Education, schools, the Ombudsman for Children’s Office, charities such as Barnardos and NGOs such as Pavee Point.
Barnardos, a children’s charity, made a submission to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Education and Skills on topic of the barriers to education facing vulnerable groups, which included reduced timetables.
The Ombudsman for Children identified the issue of reduced timetables to the Oireachtas Committee on Education in June 2019.
Groups advocating for young people on reduced timetables such as young Travellers and young people with learning and behavioural difficulties also presented submissions to the Committee. These groups included the Irish Traveller Movement, Pavee Point, Irish Traveller Women’s Forum, Inclusion Ireland and the autism advocacy organisation ‘AsIam’.
As a result of measures to control COVID-19’s (Coronavirus), there was a significant downturn in the economy. This created a vast increase in youth unemployment. According to the Central Statistics Office, the seasonally adjusted Monthly Unemployment Rate for May 2020 was 41,300 persons aged 15-24 years, compared to 35,900 in February 2020.