Tuesday, 17 December 2013
Ceisteanna - Questions - Priority Questions
Youth Services Funding
72. To ask the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs when she will announce funding being provided to youth groups in 2014; if she will confirm that there will be no further reduction in such funding in 2014; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [54103/13]
Given that 37% of young people under 18 years are at risk of poverty and social exclusion, I ask the Minister to indicate when she will announce the funding to be provided for youth groups in 2014. I also ask her to confirm that there will be no further reduction in such funding next year.
The youth affairs unit of my Department supports the delivery of a range of youth work programmes and services for all young people, including those from disadvantaged communities, by the voluntary youth sector. The funding schemes support national and local youth work provision for some 400,000 young people and involve approximately 1,400 paid staff and 40,000 volunteers.
In line with Government policy, my Department, with all other Departments, has been required to achieve significant savings on schemes and services in line with the reductions set out in the comprehensive review of expenditure, CRE. However, I am pleased to advise the Deputy that, as part of budget 2014, I have secured an additional allocation of €1 million in current funding to reduce the impact of the CRE savings requirements on youth services next year. This means that the savings requirement in 2014 will be €2 million rather than the €3 million indicated for youth services in the CRE. The total current funding allocation for youth services will be €49.78 million.
The CRE proposed reductions of 10% for national youth organisations and reductions of 5% for local youth projects in 2014. While my Department is still finalising the 2014 allocations, I can advise the Deputy that the reductions will be significantly lower that those proposed in the CRE. Every effort is being made to finalise these allocations promptly in order that youth projects and national youth organisations can be advised of their 2014 allocations as soon as possible.
I will continue to meet representatives of many youth organisations and groups to try to see how we can work together to ensure the most effective and efficient use of the resources available in order to continue to support the provision of quality youth services for young people in 2014. The CRE had projected reductions of 10% for national youth organisations and 5% for local youth projects, but I have managed to ameliorate these reductions to a significant degree through an additional budgetary allocation.
The Government’s Action Plan for Job claims there is considerable potential for youth work services to contribute to the wider Government approach to addressing youth unemployment. Despite this, we witness a further cut of €2 million in the 2014 youth services budget, on top of 5% cuts in 2013 and 2012. Recently I had the pleasure of visiting Cabra For Youth and witnessing at first-hand the fantastic good work it was carrying out with a shoestring. One third of its funding comes from the Irish Youth Justice Service and the other two thirds from the Department. The Irish Youth Justice Service recognises these groups require a basic level of funding, below which it will not go. It has not made one cut in funding in the past two years. Does the Minister agree that there is a basic level of funding that community and youth groups need to maintain the services they provide? Will she confirm that she will not go below that threshold? Youth groups are at the pin of their collar and do not know what cuts are down the track.
There is ongoing contact between my Department and youth organisations. CDYSB, City of Dublin Youth Service Board, is also in contact with youth organisations and I am very keen to ensure front-line services will continue. Any organisation facing a situation such as that described by the Deputy has been met. Every effort has been made to address the issues involving, including the need for supplementary funding. I have met many youth groups in recent months. Everyone involved has informed me that while the groups would prefer to see no cutbacks, they recognise that there will not be cuts of 10% or 5% but minimal cuts this year. I recognise the work they are doing. The extra moneys will allow us to ensure there will be no reductions in youth services, just as there was none in 2012 and 2013. If the Deputy has a case involving a particular group that has particular difficulties, he should bring it to my attention. We have endeavoured to meet organisations which are finding it difficult to maintain their services.
I recognise that youth services have taken a hit during the years. That is why I made a particular request this year in the budget that extra moneys be allocated to them in order that the situation would not continue. The position is quite different this year from what it was last year.
Will the Minister confirm when youth groups will know what their budget allocations are for next year? It is unfair on them in planning their 2014 programmes that they do not know what moneys they will have available. The group in question wrote to City of Dublin Vocational Education Committee about its funding in 2014 and was told it could not be informed. If there is the same cut as last year, it will have to move from a five-day to a four-day week. It is making savings by not giving toast to the kids attending the group, stopping its training fund and not carrying out repairs to its facilities. It is welcome that the Minister is taking on board what I have said about this youth group. However, it is not an isolated case; it is being replicated the length and breadth of the country. The Minister agreed with Deputy Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan on the need to invest in youth. We must ensure we invest in these critical programmes in communities.
Despite the budgetary difficulties, the 2014 budget for youth services is over €50 million, so youth organisations around the country are still getting over €50 million in direct funding, and there is superb work going on. It would be wrong to give the impression that every youth group out there is struggling to provide any type of service. In fact, high quality services are being provided with that €50 million by a variety of groups. That is not to say we have not had to make changes.
There is also need for some reform. Agencies and youth organisations are working together to examine overall services in a community and to make sure they share services as well. We also have to ask that of the youth services. Having said that, I certainly do not want to see organisations getting to the point where they are not able to provide a service. We have had direct contact with quite a number of organisations and that is ongoing.
The proposals on funding will be known very shortly. The good news is that will be far less than envisaged in the comprehensive review of expenditure, due to the fact that I got an extra €1 million to support youth funding this year. That is really important.