Seanad debates

Tuesday, 26 September 2023

Nithe i dtosach suíonna - Commencement Matters

Youth Work Supports

1:00 pm

Photo of Mary ButlerMary Butler (Waterford, Fianna Fail) | Oireachtas source

I thank the Senator for raising this important matter. Like the Senator, I am a great fan of youth clubs and organisations. They provide young people with a chance to develop and grow, particularly in self-confidence and empathy. They give young people an opportunity to succeed on their own merits and they provide supports for all young people, particularly for those who are disadvantaged. Especially from my brief, for those who might suffer from anxiety or emotional distress, they are fantastic.

As Members are aware, budget 2024 is being finalised by Government and Members will appreciate that it would not be appropriate for me to comment on any specific details of future investment until the budget announcement. I did not mention it at the start but I am taking this Commencement matter on behalf of the Minister, Deputy O'Gorman, who is at a Cabinet meeting. That said, the Government provides significant funding to support the delivery of a range of youth work programmes and services.In 2023, this funding exceeded €75 million in current and capital funding.

During the time in office of the Minister, Deputy O'Gorman, there has been a significant increase in the level of investment for the youth sector. From 2021 to 2023, current funding for youth services and programmes increased from €61.7 million to €72.9 million – an 18% increase overall. The majority of the funding goes to UBU Your Place Your Space, as the Senator referred to, a youth service funding scheme that targets disadvantaged, marginalised and vulnerable young people. The national allocation for UBU is more than €46 million for this.

UBU was launched in 2021, with funding provided for 260 youth services that are administered on a local level by the national network of education and training boards, ETBs. ETBs carry out area needs assessments to enable them to prioritise the youth services most needed in their operational area. These services are provided by third-party organisations with expertise in designing and delivering youth services. These organisations are predominantly charities and provide an essential service to these young people and their communities. These organisations provide youth work services for traditional youth clubs to outreach services to disengaged young people and online services for young people who are unable to access the premises in person.

I also wish to talk about the volunteers. I note the Senator said she is a volunteer. I give a big bualadh bos to the volunteers who give an awful lot of their time to support young people in these youth centres. I always ask where we would be as a society without the spirit of volunteerism that we see the length and breadth of the country.

UBU funding has increased year on year since its introduction, which has created 16 new services and allowed smaller organisations to increase their staffing levels.

The Minister's Department also provides funding to universal youth services, which are open to all young people. Funding of more than €13 million was made available in 2023 to the 30 national youth organisations through the youth services grant scheme. The services of these youth organisations are predominantly delivered by volunteers, which I just spoke about, and encourage their young members to take part in a wide range of activities, including scouting, drama and music.

Universal youth services are also provided by the local volunteer lead youth clubs, which are supported by the local youth club grant scheme. This scheme supports 1,400 clubs nationwide, with a budget of €2.5 million.

We are also aware that young people face a mass of information and misinformation online. To help young people to access accurate and reliable information about the issues that matter to them, the Department provides funding of just over €1.5 million to youth information centres nationally. The purpose of these centres staffed by youth workers is to provide young people with access to accurate information on rights, opportunities, benefits, health and welfare.


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