Fine Gael Donegal North East Senator Joe has called for a nationwide assessment of youth work needs, embracing every town and village, because large areas of the country still do not have a dedicated youth work programme.
Senator McHugh said this is the right time for an assessment because of the appointment of a national Youth Work Assessor, Conor Rowley.
“I very much welcome the appointment of Conor Rowley and hope that this new position will finally bring about much-needed developments in the provision of youth work programmes. It is regrettable that the Government took five years to make this appointment, which was provided for in the 2001 Youth Work Act.
“As a former youth worker myself, it is clear to me that this is a good opportunity to revitalise youth work services throughout the country and extend them to new areas. This will have to involve investment in new services and facilities, and particularly in new youth workers.
“The next step should be to commission local VECs to determine the sort of youth work services that are needed in their area. This assessment should consider every town, village and townland because large areas still have no access to youth work programmes at all.
“However, it is vital that any new programmes are set up on a permanent basis. The pilot programmes have been run and lessons have been learned, and what we need now is investment. For example, a number of peace and reconciliation programmes in Donegal which have been very successful are now being wound down.
“I have high hopes for the appointment of the new Youth Work Assessor, and would hope that it does not become yet another bureaucratic layer. The needs of our young people must be paramount, and the real work starts now. It’s time for the profile of the youth work sector to be raised, and for it to leave behind its Cinderella image.”