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 Header Item Housing Issues (Continued)
 Header Item Youth Services
 Header Item Child Poverty

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 938 No. 3

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Katherine Zappone: Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone] A total of 524 Leap cards were distributed to families in hotels in 2016 as an interim measure pending the development of what is called a "ticketing solution". The percentage breakdown of the education level of the children using those cards was approximately 58% at primary school level, 19% at secondary level and 4% at third level. Therefore, they are, first, assessing in terms of the need and, second, developing what they are calling a "ticketing solution", which they assure me will be in place by the end of this month.

Youth Services

 51. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan Information on Maureen O'Sullivan Zoom on Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone her views on linking in community and youth services with schools in the local area in terms of awareness programmes dealing with the dangers of misuse and abuse relating to drugs, alcohol and gambling and the possible positive effects this will have on children, particularly those from backgrounds of high risk. [6759/17]

Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan: Information on Maureen O'Sullivan Zoom on Maureen O'Sullivan This question relates to prevention and education programmes on addiction. Is there a way to link more definitely the community and youth services that are rolling out these programmes in other settings with the schools in their area, especially in those areas where children are at high risk?

Deputy Katherine Zappone: Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone I agree with the Deputy that we need an integrated approach to the programmes that aim to support children and young people, especially for those at high risk. My concern is to ensure that we target our programmes and funding so that the most vulnerable people are reached effectively and in a way that makes sense in their lives.

My Department administers a range of funding schemes and programmes to support the provision of youth services by the voluntary youth sector to young people throughout the country. The funding schemes support national and local youth work provision to some 380,000 young people. The voluntary youth sector involves approximately 1,400 paid staff, including youth workers, and 40,000 volunteers working in youth work services and communities throughout the country.

I was pleased to provide an additional €5.5 million in current funding for voluntary youth services in 2017. This is a 10% increase over 2016 and will support, in the main, the targeted programmes for young people who are at risk of drugs or alcohol misuse, homelessness, unemployment or early school leaving.

From within this budget, my Department provides funding to projects that are located in disadvantaged areas where a significant addiction problem exists or has the potential to develop. The objective is to attract at-risk young people into facilities and activities and divert them away from the dangers of substance abuse. These schemes target young people who are at risk because they live in a disadvantaged community context and are vulnerable to drugs, addiction and alcohol misuse or are out of school or at risk of homelessness. These schemes account for 70% of the funding available to my Department for the provision of youth services.

As the Deputy knows, these services are generally delivered on a non-formal or out-of-school basis to supplement the work of the education sector and to reach young people through non-formal means. I agree with the Deputy that the co-operation between the schools and this work of the youth services in terms of the schemes that they are involved in would ensure a more effective and efficient way of tackling these issues.

Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan: Information on Maureen O'Sullivan Zoom on Maureen O'Sullivan I thank the Minister. I work with a prevention and education sub-committee in the north inner city that has been involved in quite a number of interventions with young people. Recently we had a round table discussion with youth workers involved in various projects, including sports, the SPHE programme, SASSY and Community Against Drugs to look at what is the best way forward. Excellent programmes are happening within youth services. In some areas, they are very much welcomed into the schools but there is a need for a more formal arrangement or agreement. I have tried to pursue this with the Minister for Education and Skills but he was not buying because he tells me that the new well-being programme to come into schools will practically solve all the problems. As a former teacher, I know that is not going to happen because it is very hit and miss in the schools. We have these programmes, many of which the Minister is funding, and they are working. I was taken aback at the extent of the work they are doing with young people.

Deputy Katherine Zappone: Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone I thank Deputy O'Sullivan. She referred to the day I came to her constituency and the conference that was being held by all of the groups that are engaged in working with young people. Many young people were there themselves as well as representatives of the schools. It was impressive. The Deputy works with people who put into practice that which she is arguing for. We ought to encourage and enable more integration between those working within the schools and those working within the youth sector to provide the supports that are possible, particularly for young people who are at risk. These things need to be taken into account, particularly from my Department's perspective, as we are involved in the design of a new funding scheme that streamlines some of the past funding schemes. We need to build into that a way of ensuring the kind of integration Deputy O'Sullivan is speaking about does happen. There could be some sort of criteria involved and I am happy to continue to discuss the matter with the Deputy.

Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan: Information on Maureen O'Sullivan Zoom on Maureen O'Sullivan There has to be a much more holistic approach that takes into account physical education as well as food, nutrition and diet. I will make two points. When a blanket amount of funding becomes available, it must be directed at those areas that are most at risk, which is exactly what the young people's facilities and services did. My second point is on the amount of paperwork required of youth services and community services that have voluntary boards. I agree with governance and accountability but the amount of form filling required is taking away from the direct and face-to-face engagement of youth and community workers with young people. It is good to hear the Minister is looking at streamlining it because sometimes the form filling is out of proportion to the amount of funding that has been applied for.

Deputy Katherine Zappone: Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone I agree with what the Deputy presented. She will be aware that I have a number of years of experience working in similar and comparable communities as well. I am aware of the absolute importance of working in an integrated fashion. The Deputy was also concerned with the amount of paperwork etc. that may at times get in the way of doing the job and bringing about effectiveness. She is aware of the value for money review that was done in terms of youth work. One of its focuses was the importance of governance and accountability and I am sure the Deputy agrees with me in that regard. At the same time, there are ways of ensuring that we can do that without overburdening the sector with administrative duties that do not necessarily enable the effectiveness in a way that the review is calling for and, in fact, may be a barrier to it. We need to examine these matters in the designing of the new scheme and to examine ways of ensuring that the funding supports the integration of which the Deputy speaks.

Child Poverty

 52. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone if she will establish a cross-departmental task force to address the recent finding of a survey on income and living conditions that children in one-parent families are much more likely to live in consistent poverty in comparison to those in two-parent families; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6739/17]

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan Of the 800,000 or so of our fellow citizens who live in poverty, approximately 250,000 of them are children. This question refers to the EU-SILC report that we received recently. The at risk of poverty rate for one-parent families was up four points to 36% and the consistent poverty rate for lone-parent families was up from 22% to 26%. The deprivation was also highest for that group of families, at 58%. What is the Minister and the Minister for Social Protection, who is sitting beside her and who has a huge responsibility in this area, planning to do, if the Government is still in place later into 2017? Will it come up with a response to these disappointing and worrying figures?

Deputy Katherine Zappone: Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone The reduction of children's poverty is a key political priority for the Government. The Taoiseach has described tackling child poverty as a moral imperative and I too believe that it is a vital issue that we must address robustly. In recognition of the higher risks and lifelong consequences of child poverty, the Government set a child-specific poverty target in Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures to reduce consistent child poverty by at least two thirds by 2020. This figure currently represents 102,000 children who need to be lifted up from this threshold.

The Department of Social Protection has the lead role in co-ordinating Government strategies on child poverty and is adopting a cross-departmental approach. It also has lead responsibility for the national action plan for social inclusion and has identified child poverty as a key cross-sectoral priority to be addressed. Officials in my Department are working closely with the Department of Social Protection in informing the development of this cross-sectoral priority. Officials in the Department of Social Protection have convened a subgroup with members of the advisory council for Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures to progress solutions to child poverty.

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