By Sarah Mac Donald - 01 July, 2020
The head of Cloyne Diocesan Youth and Community Services has expressed concern that ‘youth affairs’ may be dropped from the title of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs (DCYA).
In a statement, Deacon Brian Williams, CEO of Cloyne Diocesan Youth and Community Services (CDYS) said he was adding his voice to the call by the National Youth Council of Ireland that ‘Youth Affairs’ should not be omitted from either the name or responsibilities of the Department (DCYA).
Following the appointment of Roderic O’Gorman of the Green Party as Minister with responsibility for the Department, the National Youth Council of Ireland (NYCI) said they are “deeply concerned” that ‘Youth Affairs’ has been omitted from the Department’s name and they hoped it is an “administrative blip”.
Mary Cunningham, NYCI Director said, “We congratulate Roderic O’Gorman, TD on his appointment and welcome the retention of the Department of Children with additional responsibilities in important areas.”
“However, we are very concerned at initial indications from the Taoiseach’s announcement that ‘Youth Affairs’ may be dropped from the name of the Department, and we are calling for this to be reversed.”
Ms Cunningham said the establishment of the Department for Children and Young Affairs (DCYA) in 2011, and the appointment of the first-ever cabinet-level Minister, was a significant development.
“The establishment of DCYA was a demonstration that the State valued children and young people and was at last willing to address their needs and concerns in a coordinated manner across Government,” she said.
Deacon Brian Williams is a permanent deacon in the Parish of Macroom in the Diocese of Cloyne and CEO of Cloyne Diocesan Youth and Community Services, which provides a range of youth, family, community, educational, and therapeutic supports and interventions with services and projects in Macroom, Midleton, Cobh, Carrigtwohill, Fermoy, Mitchelstown, Charleville and Mallow and environs.
CDYS has over 40 staff working across the region with very strong partnerships with a range of community, statutory and non statutory agencies.
In a statement, Deacon Williams noted that a number of reports published recently by the CSO, OECD and Eurofound had shown that young people’s well-being, employment and financial situations have been disproportionately impacted by Covid-19.
“The concerns raised by the National Youth Council confirm what we know in CDYS from working on the frontline in communities and with a lot of vulnerable young people and families. Young people and rural young people feel invisible, vulnerable young people ‘are’ invisible.”
He added, “Supports to young people and regional and local youth services such as CDYS took the single biggest hit during the austerity years, an austerity we are still grappling with today, an austerity from which young and vulnerable people and families are still living with the consequences.”
Deacon Williams highlighted how CDYS is dealing with an increased level of mental health, self-harm challenges as well as the very harmful use of drugs and alcohol across its communities.
“If you talk to young people or youth and community workers, these are some of the biggest challenges they face. These issues are beginning to define this generation and unless we take drastic action we will have simply failed.”
While acknowledging the very valued partnerships that CDYS has with a range of statutory and non-statutory bodies, Deacon Williams said that there are simply not enough resources going into these frontline supports and services.
“We are spending more and more time looking for money to plug the gaps of these essential and specialised services when we should be focusing on the people and families among us who need our time, expertise and dedication.”
The CEO of CDYS has on many occasions raised concerns for those who are falling through the cracks.
He expressed the fear that for a lot of these young people, as the country emerges from the Covid-19 crisis, “they will be in freefall unless there are appropriate, and sustained supports and safety nets put in place in the form of resourcing youth and community services. If we fail to focus resources where they are most needed, we will be counting the human costs for a long time to come.”
He said CDYS’ youth, family and community workers continue to engage with young people with the vital message of social distancing and personal responsibility.
“We are struck by the level of compliance among a lot of young people, but it remains a big challenge. A lot of young people worked in our shops and supermarkets throughout the pandemic – they put themselves out there for the good of their communities.”
“A lot of the young people we engage with were pivotal in caring for elderly or sick family members while dealing with their own worries and anxieties; they demonstrated a commitment to each other that we seldom hear about.”
Deacon Williams has asked the new Government not to turn away from young people and vulnerable groups.
Welcoming the commitment to social justice and to climate justice by the new Government, he said the Cloyne Diocesan Youth and Community Services would not be found wanting “in continuing to put our shoulders to the wheel in the areas and communities we are working in”.
“We need to ensure that in securing our planet for future generations that we also secure the vulnerable in our communities and protect, nurture and support vulnerable young people so they are ready to inherited a future we are all working so hard to ensure,” he said.
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