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Evidence Informed Practice in Youth Work


ISSUE 85 September 2016 ISBN:0791 6302


Answering the Call for Evidence. Learning from Learning. Developing an Evidence Informed Approach.

Scene Magazine Issue 85, September 2016 Introduction

Scene Editorial

Welcome to the Autumn edition of Scene Magazine. In this edition we focus on the topic of generating of evidence from youth work.


hose of us working in the youth sector know that our practice has a positive impact on the young people we work with, be it in terms of personal and social development, developing new skills that are applicable to areas such as employment, education; or in terms of enabling young people to become independent and healthy adults in our society. While we in the youth sector know this anecdotally, what we also know is that there is a lack of evidence that quantifiably demonstrates the impact our work has on the lives of the young people we work with.


Dr Patrick J. Burke

Answering the Call for Evidence 4 Ciaran O’Donnell

Learning from Learning 9

However, there is an increasing shift in government Policy, and therefore in funding availability towards demonstrating the ‘added value’ of youth work. The Value for Money and Policy Review by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs sits within this policy shift, and asks hard questions around an evidence base for the youth sector. The report found that while there was little evidence of demonstrable impact of youth work on young people, there was evidence that youth workers are doing the kind of things, and have the relationships that you would want and expect in order to support young people achieve positive changes to their lives.

Yvonne McKenna, Gaisce The President’s Award

Developing an Evidence Informed Approach to Group Work Practice


Joyce Brennan, Youth Work Ireland Tipperary

Drug and Alcohol Survey 2015 14 Amy Glover, Clare Youth Service

Contributors to this edition of Scene Magazine showcase how the sector can look to empower itself, and develop its own capacity around generating evidence from effective practice. Yvonne McKenna, CEO of Gaisce, outlines the impact that carrying out a long-term research project on the organisation, has improved their understanding of the impact of their work, as well as providing a strong evidence base to support funding applications. Geraldine Hogarty from Youth Work Ireland Meath outlines a project in Navan which has helped young people learn valuable new skills. Amy Glover from Clare Youth Services speaks about her involvement in the ‘Aftereighteen’ club and a survey they conducted in 2015. Finally, Joyce Brennan, a youth worker with the Templemore Youth Project in Youth Work Ireland Tipperary, describes her journey towards working with evidence, and how this way of working has re-energised her work with young people. The other contributions to this edition speak to different ways in which evidence is relevant to our work with young people.

Library Resources 17 Navan Men’s Shed 18 Geraldine Hogarty, Youth Work Ireland Meath

Evidence Informed Practice Glossary


Research Brief 24 Policy Brief 26

Production Editors: Ciaran O’Donnell and Matthew Seebach. A special thanks goes to Ciaran O’Donnell for his extensive work and contribution to this edition. Layout: Gina Halpin Cover Image: Ruth Medjber Contributors: Joyce Brennan, Patrick Burke, Amy Glover, Geraldine Hogarty, Yvonne McKenna, Michael McLoughlin and Ciaran O’Donnell,

I hope you enjoy reading this edition of Scene Magazine, and use it as a stimulant to reflect and revisit the conversation around evidence with your own colleagues, and within your organisations.

Contact: Youth Work Ireland, 20 Lower Dominick St, Dublin 1, Tel: 01-8584500 Email: Website: Facebook: Disclaimer: It is open to all our readers to exchange information or to put forward points of view. Send in news, comments, letters or articles to the editors. Views expressed in this magazine are the contributors own and do not reflect those of Youth Work Ireland.

Dr. Patrick Burke CEO Youth Work Ireland 3

Scene Magazine, Issue 85, September 2016

Answering the Call for Evidence Introducing this Edition Ciaran O’Donnell, Centre for Effective Services This edition of Scene Magazine revisits the ever-pressing and recurring topic of ‘evidence’ in youth work, and specifically seeks to “poke, prod and prompt” our thoughts, ideas, successes, challenges and concerns around the theme of generating evidence from effective youth work practice. It follows from a very successful youth practitioner symposium on the same topic held in Youth Work Ireland’s National Office on September 20th. The theme of evidence in youth work is nothing new, and it does not feel like too long ago since it was last discussed in Scene Magazine in December 2013 (Issue 77). Since then however, there have been requests from within the sector to revisit the topic, to take into account developments over the past three years, and to address concerns around the lack of clarity over what exactly are we, as youth workers, being asked for when it comes to evidence. Before diving into the content of this edition that is geared towards progressing our understanding of evidence in youth work practice, it is important to first ‘set the Scene’. The previous issue and accompanying symposium on evidence in youth work, provided a broad

overview of what I would call, an evidence-informed approach to youth work looks like. In doing so, it showcased different ways of working with evidence, and can be situated within a wider sectoral move towards the acceptance that evidence is here to stay, and it needs to be incorporated into our work in order to meet new requirements for funding. A number of resources have since been developed to support the sector in working in this new way with evidence (see CES website for more information www. Ongoing work by the Centre for Effective Services (CES) and the Quality Standards Training and Resource Development Working Group seeks to focus on specific themes in relation to generating evidence from effective practice, such as use of reflective practice methods, evidence-informed working, carrying out self-evaluations. These are all seeking to develop the capacity of the youth sector around evidence. While there has been progress for some, other members of the sector are still struggling to get to grips with what ‘the call for evidence’ means for them and their work. With the above in mind, this edition of Scene Magazine hopes to share learning from the work of our contributors with the wider youth sector. This edition follows our recent practitioner symposium, where over fifty representatives from across the Irish youth work sector came together to openly discuss their experiences, challenges and frustrations of using evidence in their youth work practice. Four speakers provided insightful inputs on the day, ranging from departmental policy makers, youth organisations CEOs and managers and youth workers on the ground getting to grips with working in an evidence-informed way. They were:

Centre for Effective Services


Scene Magazine, Issue 85, September 2016

• Olive McGovern, Assistant Principal Officer in the Youth Affairs Unit, Dept. of Children & Youth Affairs. • Yvonne McKenna, CEO at Gaisce, The President’s Award. • Sinead Tierney, Practice Development Programme Manager, Crosscare. • Joyce Brennan, Youth Worker in Templemore Youth Project, Youth Work Ireland Tipperary. Olive opened the day setting the theme within a national policy context. Beginning with the National Policy Framework for Children and Young People (BOBF), moving to the Value for Money and Policy Review of Youth Work (VFMPR), and provided some much needed clarity over where the department intends to move towards in relation to evidence-driven decision making. Yvonne discussed Gaisce’s experience of undergoing an organisational shift to using evidence in their everyday practice, and spoke of the challenges and benefits that followed. Sinead spoke about how Crosscare have a culture of constantly asking ‘why’ when it comes to their work with young people, to ensure that their practice and decision making is evidence-informed throughout. Finally, Joyce brought attendees through her own journey of using evidence. While it was not an easy journey, shifting to evidence-informed practice has re-energised her passion for youth work and is making a big difference to the way she and her colleagues plan their work with young people. Attendees then split into groups and discussed a number of prevalent questions around generating evidence from effective practice. By sharing these questions with you all, we wish to continue this conversation at a sectoral level, and invite you all to think about the following in relation to your practice: • A need for clarity over what is ‘the ask’ when it comes to generating evidence from youth work practice. • The provision of resources [funding/time/training] to acquire the necessary skills and competencies to generate evidence from practice, including using measurement and self-evaluation tools and resources. • The need for commitment from leadership, joinedup thinking and collaboration, and shared learning forums for successes and failures to enable the sector to respond to ‘the call for evidence’. 5

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• The need for a sector to take ownership of the language used to describe itself and its work with young people, and for the sector to be able to communicate this language from the ground up. In my role in the Centre for Effective Services, I have had the opportunity to work alongside Dr John Bamber and support the youth sector shift its way of working towards an outcome-focused and evidence-informed way. CES has developed a number of tools to aid in this task, including the Ideas in Action, a Route Map for youth services, and an upcoming Guide to self Evaluation. The latter is currently being piloted with the Youth Employment Initiative and seeks to provide youth workers with simple tools that will enable them to evaluate their own work with young people in a flexible manner, removing the potential costly barrier of paying for external evaluation. The Guide will be made widely available in early 2017, following the completion of the YEI evaluation, so that the Guide can be revised with feedback from youth workers using it currently. This edition features articles from three speakers who recently spoke at our practitioner symposium. It also contains a number of other articles featuring youth work services and projects that are tapping into a variety of different types of evidence to inform their practice. Our research brief features recently published research from Eurofound, which explores the diversity of young people who are not in education, employment or training (NEET) across the European Union and individual member states, Ireland included. Amy Glover, a member of Clare Youth Services over-eighteens youth group showcases a great piece of research that the After-eighteens have carried out with fellow young people in Clare on their drug use. Finally, we have also included a new Glossary of Terms on using evidence, which has been adapted from work previously carried out by the Quality Standards Training and Resource Development Working Group. We hope that the content of this edition will aid you with responding to ‘the call for evidence’, as youth workers, as volunteers, as students or as anybody who has an interest in the Irish youth sector.

Learning from Learning

what is missing or wrong. As Gaisce was philosophically about building inner strength, the research sought to explore if participation in Gaisce resulted in the development of positive psychological attributes – the kind of social and emotional competencies we know are key to young people unlocking their potential, making positive life choices and flourishing. The particular areas explored were the following: Hope thinking: the ability to see that you can be an agent of change and work a path either out of a difficult situation or towards a better one.

Yvonne McKenna CEO, GAISCE - The President’s Award

• Self-efficacy: a belief in your own competencies. • Self-esteem: your sense of self-worth. • Happiness: your emotional well-being and sense of contentment. • Psychological well-being: acceptance of yourself and your place in the world.


The research also explored whether Gaisce fulfilled the criteria to be considered a ‘Positive Youth Development’ (PYD) programme. PYD programmes are intentional efforts or interventions that provide positive opportunities and experiences for young people. In order to qualify as a PYD, certain criteria must be met with respect to structure, intent and, crucially, outcomes.

The Impact of Impact Measures for Gaisce - The President’s Award

From its inception in the 1980s, Gaisce was designed more as a means to an end, than an end in itself: the purpose of the programme was not only to involve young people in a variety of pursuits – including physical recreation and active citizenship – but, through that, to provide an opportunity for young people to unlock their potential and develop inner strength. A few years shy of its 30th anniversary, the organisation embarked on a significant research project to see if participation in Gaisce was having the desired impact. The findings, published last year, emphasised the continued relevance of the Gaisce programme, with important learnings and implications for the organisation too. 6

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By the time Gaisce turned 25 in 2010, the programme was, for all intents and purposes, both successful and popular with more than 15,000 young people registering each year. Was ‘being busy’ enough, however? The Gaisce Council (the board of Gaisce) thought not and engaged a psychologist in the HSE, Niamh McMahon Clarke, to undertake research on the impact of participation in the Gaisce programme. The project was mutually beneficial in that Niamh undertook the research towards her PhD degree, whilst Gaisce benefited from the professional expertise of Niamh and her colleagues in University College Dublin. The perspective taken by Niamh was positive psychology. Positive psychology is the scientific study of the elements that facilitate individuals and communities to prosper – so it’s more concerned with what ‘works’ and building on that, rather than focusing on

Gaisce - The President's Award is a three-tiered (Bronze, Silver and Gold) personal development programme for young people aged 15 – 25. It is non-competitive and self-directed: supported by a trained adult mentor (a President’s Award Leader or PAL), young people set and achieve challenges in four areas: physical recreation; community and active citizenship; learning and development; and undertake a team adventure journey. At Gold level, a residential project is required. Intrinsic to the Gaisce programme is the empowerment of young people to set their own goals so, whilst there is a minimum time in which a Gaisce award can be achieved, there is no maximum time. 7

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The methodology employed to undertake the research was both quantitative and qualitative, involving surveys and structured questionnaires with over 400 Gaisce participants – as well as a ‘control group’ of young people that did not participate in Gaisce. The findings were conclusive: participation in Gaisce was found to significantly enhance levels of hope, self-efficacy, self-esteem, happiness and psychological well-being for participants. The programme was found to have a particularly positive impact on those young people that scored ‘low’ in pre-participation testing, both with respect to other Gaisce participants and the control group of non-participants. Essentially, those who scored low with respect to self-esteem etc. prior to getting involved in Gaisce, travelled furthest.

Youth Work Ireland


Developing an Evidence Informed Approach to our Group Work Practice The research also confirmed that Gaisce met the stipulated criteria to be termed a Positive Youth Development programme. Other fascinating themes emerged from the research: participants found it easier to form positive relationships with others, felt mentally stronger and more resilient, and more likely to help others. They also had fun! From Gaisce’s perspective, the results were very positive and a collective sigh of relief emitted from the office. No matter how passionate and convinced you are about your work, it’s difficult not to be nervous if someone is looking at what you do with a fine-tooth comb. The timing proved to be important too: by the time the research was complete and ready to publish, Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures had been launched and the National Youth Strategy was close to being completed. Increasingly, evidence of impact was becoming more and more important and Gaisce was able to contribute to the discussions in a real and meaningful way, speaking directly to the desired outcomes, not only of policy makers but practitioners. Knowing that a two-volume doctoral thesis was more reading material than most people have time for in today’s world, the first thing we did was publish a 40-page synopsis of the research and a shorter executive summary. Then Minister of Children and Youth Affairs, James Reilly, launched the research at an event to mark Gaisce’s 30th Anniversary in April 2015. And then what? More than a year after the launch, has there been any difference to Gaisce as an organisation? Most certainly. From the get-go, the research provided an important reference point for us to talk to organisations. Gaisce is a programme, but not one delivered directly by Gaisce, the organisation. Instead, Gaisce trains 8

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people who work or volunteer in other organisations to become President’s Award Leaders (PALs) so that they can deliver the Gaisce programme directly to the young people they work with. These organisations become ‘Gaisce Award Partners’ and, just like PALs, are a diverse group. The research has been great for organisations that already deliver Gaisce, providing them with additional evidence of the value of the programme which they can then use to their own ends (including NQSF). It’s also helped Gaisce to talk to new and potential Gaisce Award Partners, especially organisations that might have had a different notion of the purpose of Gaisce. Internally, the organisation took a great leap forward: terms like evidence and impact were quickly embraced and it has given not only a confidence about, but a renewed commitment to, the ‘first principles’ of Gaisce to provide opportunity for self-development to all young people in Ireland. As an example, when asked by a PAL if an activity is eligible or not for Gaisce, we’re more likely to ask the PAL if they think the activity will contribute towards the development of that young person, than answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’. The next step for Gaisce is to explore how best to evaluate the programme on a continuous basis. As an organisation that is one-step removed, this is something we need to do in collaboration with the Gaisce Award Partners that deliver the Gaisce programme – but that’s okay, as it makes more sense to work and learn in collaboration than alone. For further information about the research referred to in this article or about Gaisce - The President's Award see

Joyce Brennan, Youth Work Ireland Tipperary Youth Work Ireland Tipperary delivers an integrated youth service across Tipperary and East Limerick, working with young people between 8 and 25 years, their families and their communities. Over the course of the past year, Youth Work Ireland Tipperary embarked on a process to ensure that an evidence base underpins our practice and the services that we deliver. With support from the Centre for Effective Services, our youth workers developed an evidence base to both validate and shape our future work with young people, based around five key areas of service delivery; group work, one to one work, rural youth clubs, and two Youth Work Ireland designed programmes; a youth mental health programme ‘Snow White and the Seven Mental Health Helpers’ and a social action programme called ‘ContribYOUTH’. During this period, my own focus has been on the development of an evidence base for our group work practice and here I will discuss the opportunities and challenges encountered as a result of the process. To begin the process of developing evidence informed group work practice, our initial action was to undertake a situational analysis of the current state of play in the group work arena. Looking at our own practice and from speaking to other professionals, it was apparent that group work is hugely utilised as a service delivery method by youth workers. However, when probed about the area, most of us felt unable to fully articulate the importance of group work, but felt intuitively that it was an essential component of the youth work process. This posed a problem; in an era when youth work is increasingly being called on to be accountable, measurable and outcomes based, we need firstly to be able to fully articulate our practice and ensure that is rooted 9

Scene Magazine, Issue 85, September 2016

in an evidential base rather than an experimental one. Over the course of the past year then, by engaging in the theory to practice process, which included gathering data from a variety of sources; grey literature, theory, policy, research in the area, practice wisdom and focus group based consultations; we created an evidence base for our work. A key opportunity derived from this journey was the ability to move our practice from intuitive action to one that is evidence informed. Inherently, I already knew that the group work process was beneficial to the personal and social development of young people. However, now I feel that I am in a better position to defend that process from a position of evidence rather than of sentiment. In many ways, this process wasn’t about reinventing the wheel. We were already using group work, but now I feel that I can hold up my practice in terms of both accountability, and sourcing funding, and both measure the impacts of group work and also plan for the best future outcomes based on my existing evidence base. As youth workers, we are already doing good work, but we now need to be accountable for, not just how we work, but also why. It’s no longer good enough to say we use group work as a delivery tool. To produce quality outcomes for young people, we need to be able to articulate with evidence the reasons why this particular way of working is crucial. In practice terms, my re-engagement with theory while undertaking this work has had massive implications. Jürgen Habermas’s ideas around communicative action; which argues that young people have the power to

Article Head Extra information Author

educate one another through opportunities for reasoned debate; really struck me. I wondered had I become too reliant on manualised programmes and overly concerned with the completion of the task when I should have been focusing on the process. I’ve now shifted my focus from the clock and my timed session plan when facilitating groups, and have refound my passion for the group process. Instead now of basing the success of a session on completing the activities set out for that timeframe, I am now concerned with the generation of dialogue within the group, the possibilities for self-directed learning and the opportunities for peer education. Drop in/café space has also been an area that my focus has been shifted towards as a result of building an evidence informed group work base. Through theory and focus groups with young people, I now think of drop in/ café space as a group work arena. Previously, I would have connected group work to structured activities with young people and missed the group work potential of a casual space such as drop in. Through focus groups, it was revealed that within casual spaces such as drop in, young people developed ties to the youth project and to the youth work staff. They shared how within this space, they felt they belonged, that it was a home from home, a community. This was what was of paramount importance to these young people, to feel they have somewhere they are a part of. This linked to ideas of Josephine Brew McAlister that had surfaced while we researched the area of group work and association. McAlister believed that education starts in a space where young people feel at home and also that education can manifest itself in every human activity. This has shown me that any space can be an educa10

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tional group space, as long as attention is paid to fostering the culture of the space. Robert Putman’s thinkings around social capital has also been beneficial to our drop in sessions. Putman believed in the ‘bridging and bonding’ that occurs when people interact with each other. In other words, when people congregate in a social sphere, we bond with those who are like us, but we also create bridges with those who are different to us. This has had further implications in the way I view drop in space. I now see it as an opportunity for young people to come together in an unstructured group setting with opportunities to overcome gender, social and cultural differences between them. It also has repercussions for their adult life and involvement in society; if a young person can learn to function and thrive in supervised and supported group spaces, they should succeed in the wider space of society. Again, building an evidence base for group work, has provided me with the chance to reflect on my own thinking around groups and become more accountable and theoretical in my practice. As with structured group work practice, I can now defend unstructured group work space also and articulate and justify my reasons for ensuring it is a key part of my service delivery.

Drug and Alcohol Survey Amy Glover, Clare Youth Service The Aftereighteens are an active group of 18+ year olds who work within Clare Youth Service. They are supported by the Mid-West Regional Drug and Alcohol Forum. One member, Amy Glover, 19, reflects on the results of a survey they carried out to look at young peoples’ interactions with drugs and alcohol throughout county Clare. From your first tipsy kiss at a teenage disco to the acrid tang of your initial cigarette in the school yard, the teenage years remind many of exhilarating new experiences and monumental milestones. Swigs of wine at family gatherings and tokes of a musty joint at a hormone fuelled party are news to almost nobody-- they have been pillars of many teens' lives for generations. The results of the Aftereighteens’ 2014 survey of teen substance use, then, shocked few. Alcohol, cannabis, and cigarettes were listed as the three most popular substances among 14-18 year olds in Clare. The survey, shared and undertaken mostly on Facebook, showed that from house parties and home brew to festivals and free booze, there are as many opportunities as ever for young people to indulge in substances, and no more incentive than there's ever been for them to decline. So it's little wonder that one of the better-received results from the Aftereighteens' study has been the 11

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circumstances under which alcohol was first taken. Unsurprisingly, and perhaps reassuringly, most of the young people questioned mentioned ‘family events' as the deceptively safe-looking backdrop to their first sip of alcohol. Traditionally, christenings, weddings, and national holidays have provided many a youngster with their first alcoholic drink, under the auspices of shared achievement and familial joy. It makes sense, then, that many young people claimed 'celebration' as the main inspiration for a solid night's drinking. The link between celebration and intoxication is established early on, and remains, in the heads of many, for years. What cost does this association have in the long run? Well, the fact remains that liver disease is one of Ireland's top five killers, with the greatest level of recent increase being among the traditionally least susceptible 15-to-34-year old age group. Results night for Junior and

Leaving Certificate students historically leads to huge pressure on hospitals, with hundreds of teenagers across the country suffering from alcohol poisoning and alcohol-related injury. A side-effect, perhaps, of the 'achievement = drinking' mentality prevalent in our culture. It is also interesting to note that many participants of the survey mentioned 'celebration' as a reason for taking drugs such as ecstasy and cocaine. Could the newfound availability of substances among young people have taken our 'intoxication as reward' culture to a disturbing new level? It appears that alcohol is not the only substance introduced to Irish teens at a young age, either. According to the Aftereighteens’ survey, the mode age of first cannabis consumption was 14, while many teens had smoked their first cigarette aged just 13. Some young people had had their first experiences with alcohol under the age of ten; a fact which speaks volumes about our culture, and one which could be having many more negative effects than many of us think. Until the age of 21, young brains are still developing, and are more easily affected by intoxicants such as alcohol and cannabis. Levels of later paranoia, rates of early school leaving, and low academic performances are linked to frequent early marijuana use (Risk and Protection Factors for Substance Use Among Young People : Trutz Haase and Dr. Jonathan Pratschke for the National Advisory Committee on Drugs); mental effects of the drug which are more extreme than those seen in users who begin taking the drug later in life. It's possible that the early use of marijuana, recently destigmatized and normalised almost to the extent that alcohol has been, has become, to teens, as seemingly harmless and innocent as their first supervised swigs of alcohol. Perhaps the most poignant feature of the


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Aftereighteens' survey were the comments left by the young people at the end of the questionnaire. The group offered an optional section in which young people could comment on how drug abuse affects their everyday lives. A section which was answered exclusively with either apathy, or negativity. Comments ranged from the nonchalant 'It doesn't affect me', to the rather more upsetting 'My girlfriend is like a braindead zombie' and 'It has ruined my relationship with family members'. We found it remarkable that, while many young people listed 'celebration' and 'curiosity' as their main incentive for indulging in substances, few of them seemed to actually enjoy the effects of substance use on their lives. Practically, one teen mentioned 'owing people money' as a downside of taking intoxicants, while others were so displeased with the behaviour of their peers while on drugs that they had vowed to never experiment with drugs. Remarkable discords between intentions and behaviour, like we see here, demand deeper investigation. It is noteworthy that many young people listed having 'nothing better to do', or being 'bored', as a reason for experimenting with drug use. How many of us know the often fruitless, constant adolescent search for something, anything, to do? While communities in Ireland, especially rural ones, tend to be vibrant, close-knit and supportive, it is so often the case that localities become pigeonholed into a restrictively singular area of recreation; GAA, or perhaps soccer, can dominate youth communities. The entirely healthy and positive effects of sports, such as camogie or hurling, aren't to be questioned; they're a vital social and physical activity for many young people, and they merit, as they should, our highest levels of support and regard. But what about young people whose interests many communities can't cater for? Whether you

are nuts about throwing hammer, crazy about knitting, or just looking for a warm, friendly place to meet people outside of a sporting environment; the struggle to find an appropriate and supportive backdrop for that can be almost crushing. Little wonder, then, that these 'curious' and 'bored' minds resort to behaviour that, while social and sometimes intensely enjoyable, does not appear in the long run to be having a positive impact on their lives. None of this is to say that all is doom and gloom. It is firstly important to note that, while the damaging effects of drugs and alcohol on the lives of young people are tangible, youths provided with the correct information and support can often limit their experimentation to what is a healthy, fun, and positive experience for them. It is also immensely reassuring to many young people, and, hopefully adults, that organisations exist to aid and support young people who are seeking a separate form of socialisation and entertainment. Clare Youth Service, under whom the Aftereighteens operate, are one such organisation helping to fight against cultural paradigms which can encourage young people to use substances that they may otherwise have turned down. Situations commonly associated with drugs and alcohol, such as festivals and music concerts, are given a drug-free spin by Clare Youth Service; events such as the Aftereighteens’ festival Synergy, which aims to provide the positive and productive atmosphere of a festival without the need for or availability of substances. Regular youth events and meetups are also held throughout Clare by the youth service. This is an invaluable and effective resource for young people who feel that they'd like something which could lessen or perhaps replace the use of intoxicants for the sake of recreational activity; perhaps, something which could help to moderate the alarming results we saw in our survey.


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Maybe it is time that we as a nation began to separate intoxication and celebration; that we began to expand our recreational landscape for young people; perhaps, in short, it's time for a good ‘aul rethink of what joy, and celebration, and recreation, looks like. Maybe it is not always the stumbling group of guys at the bar, the slurring teens at the house party, the curious first sip of Guinness at a christening. Sometimes it looks like a workshop, a pair of hiking boots, or sometimes simply a friendly room with free access to kettles, new people, and chocolate Hobnobs. And maybe, just maybe, for some young people, that's as good as any drug. Clare Youth Service is a drug-and alcohol-free environment for young people, and provides various creative and social outlets for young people. The Aftereighteens are an active group of 18+ year olds within Clare Youth Service who are supported by the Mid-West Regional Drug and Alcohol Forum.




Youth Work Ireland Meath and Navan Men’s Shed have joined forces and talents to help young people learn new skills and make the most of the resources we have to hand.

Geraldine Hogarty Youth Work Ireland Meath

During one of the final sessions of our Teen Summer Activity Programme, we organised a woodwork session led by one of our recently trained CE Youth Worker. The Summer Activities Programme offer local young teenagers opportunities to get up and out of the house during the summer break. With the same limited resources that we all know well, we emphasis in our projects an environmentally friendly approach. We also wanted to give our young people an opportunity to develop skills they have picked up in school, but also for some to get a taste for something new. This woodwork workshop was a perfect fit! Over the summer, our weekly Saturday youth group had decided that they wanted to renovate the garden area right outside our youth centre. After three sessions of hard work, they transformed the garden into something really lovely! When the young lads in our summer project saw the new and improved garden, they wanted to contribute somehow. A pair of dirty old bins caught their eyes, and sparked their creativity. They decided they wanted to make a Bin House out of recycled materials! However, we didn’t have the tools that we would need. One of our youth workers had some contacts with the local Men’s Shed group in Navan, and reached out to them. They really jumped at the opportunity to get involved, and came down one Friday afternoon and brought their tools too. They taught the guys how to use the equipment and mentored them on how to cut, fit and drill everything together. After two days of long and tiring work, the group of men, young and old have designed 14

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and built a fantastic Bin House out of recycled materials, while sharing skills, stories and planning more woodwork projects in the process! Our young people got so much out of this once-off project thanks to teaming up with Men’s Shed. They got to develop skills, learn from an older generation, and create something with their own hands out of what would normally be thrown away by society. Using recycled goods and emphasising the value of sharing skills and expertise in a social and friendly manner, creating the Bin House has shown our young people that you can do a lot with very little! We think this type of project is a great showcase for how communities and ages can come together and learn from each other, while providing young people opportunities to develop practical skills and improve their confidence. Given its success, plans are already in place to ‘build on’ this new relationship. The Men’s Shed group will be supporting our fundraising efforts creating a template for ornamental wheelbarrows that one of our teen groups will be making to sell at the Christmas Craft Fair in December Youth Work Ireland Meath would like to give a special thanks to Peter, Paul and the team from Navan Men's Shed at Claremont Stadium who came along to help out at our Woodworking Skills workshop during our Teen Summer Activities. 15

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Library Resources Effective Community Development Programmes: A Review of the International Evidence Base J. Bamber, S. Owens, H. Schonfeld, D. Ghate and D. Fullerton, 2010

The purpose of this review was to seek important lessons from the international evidence base about effectiveness in community development type programmes. It is aimed at those interested in and responsible for effective performance in publicly funded community development-type programmes. The evidence from this review is clear that community development programmes are not ‘quick fixes’ for entrenched social problems. Effective programmes take time to mature. However, given strong and not over-complicated structure, good governance, careful design, high-quality delivery standards and proper monitoring, evaluation and feedback, they can achieve important positive changes for local communities.

Capturing the Evidence: Tools and Processes for Recognising and Recording the Impact of Youth Work H. Comfort (NYA), 2006

Young people readily talk about what they gain from youth work. They are thoughtful in what they say, clear about how they apply the gains in other areas of their lives and astute in their thinking about what helps them achieve. Identifying what young people gain and being in a position to use this information to demonstrate what youth services achieve is highly topical in the current policy climate in the UK. The techniques presented in this book will support youth workers in recognising and recording what young people gain from the youth work they are involved in. They can also contribute to youth services demonstrating their effectiveness and the difference youth work makes to young people’s lives.

Childhood Adversity: An Access Evidence Summary September 2016 CES Resources

This report is the first of the Access Evidence series produced by CES. The aim is to produce evidence based resources to support frontline practitioners, working 16

Scene Magazine, Issue 85, September 2016

Here are a selection of the resources on the topic of evidence and youth work available through Youth Work Ireland’s Online Library Service

with children, young people and families. This summary outlines the learning from research literature about childhood adversity, and some implications for frontline practice. Practitioners who come across children and young people in their work can play an important role in recognising adversity, intervening early and supporting children and their families to deal with its effects.

Youth work: A Systematic Map of the Research Literature Dept. of Children & Youth Affairs, 2013

The starting aim of the review, therefore was to track down relevant information from theory, policy, practice and research, and to distil out key findings or learning points that have relevance to the development of the Youth Policy Framework in Ireland. The review is not limited to desk-based or empirical research, or evaluations. It would also refer to and draw from appropriate ‘grey’ literature since the aim was to define the core concepts, to identify examples and emerging trends, and to contain sufficient studies that can usefully inform the Department in this policy development.

Other Articles & Research Reports What Do Youth Workers Do? Communicating Youth Work Jean Spence, 2007 Youth Studies Ireland, Vol. 2, No. 2, 2007 Using Evidence to inform Child and Family Services: Findings from an Independent Evaluation of a Pro-Social Programme in Tallaght West, Childhood Development Initiative, 2012 Conceptual and Empirical Underpinnings of Community-Based Early Intervention and Prevention in Youth Mental Health The Evidence Base for: Early Intervention & Systems Design in Youth Mental Health, National Centre for Youth Mental Health, 2013

For these and more resources see

EvidenceHead Informed Article

Practice Working Group Extra information Glossary Author Dialogue

Dialogue allows a display of thought and meaning that makes possible a kind of collective mirroring back, of both the content of thought and the less apparent, dynamic structures that govern it. In Dialogue this can be experienced both individually and collectively. It creates the opportunity for each participant to examine the preconceptions, prejudices and the characteristic patterns that lie behind his or her thoughts, opinions, beliefs and feelings, along with the roles he or she tends habitually to play. And it offers an opportunity to share these insights (Bohm et al., Garrett, 1991).

Documentary Evidence

A source of evidence requested as part of the NQSF self-evaluation process in which youth workers give an overall picture of their work. Documentary evidence includes reports, policies, minutes of meetings, videos of practice, websites, photographs, posters on a wall, letters, external evaluation reports, planning and evaluation sheets, programme planning and recording sheets (CDYSB, 2012).

Evidence Base

The available knowledge from a range of available sources which substantiate youth work and support practice. Schorr and Farrow (2011) propose a five-part set of actions that can be taken to build a wider and deeper evidence base: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.

Combine findings from research, theory, practice, and evaluation to promote more informed decision-making. Become more strategic to support successful implementation and scale-up. Adopt a pragmatic approach to assessing complex interventions. Create an expanded learning framework and manage the results. Strengthen measurements for accountability and learning.

Bamber et al. (2014) outline a range of possible sources that can inform understandings of youth work and support practice. • • • • • • • •


Research (primary research, commissioned research, or publications in academic journals). Grey literature (reports from government and other sources such as think tanks). Consultation (with young people, peers, experts, to better understand issues or practices). Theory (often derived from research, opinion pieces, books, and more widely from disciplines such as psychology and economics). Independent evaluation (carried out by people external to practice, according to widely accepted standards and procedures). Internal monitoring and self-evaluation (routine data gathering, analysis of the data, reviews of the work, evaluation according to standards but conducted by, for example, a staff team on their own work). Policy (often constructed through research and consultation processes). Practice wisdom (accumulated knowledge that finds expression in benchmark statements, guidelines, manuals and so on, but is often implicit) Scene Magazine, Issue 85, September 2016

Evidence from Practice


Evidence of Practice


Evidence to Show Outcomes

Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures: the National Policy Framework for Children and Young People establishes a shared set of outcomes for children and young people towards which all government departments, agencies, statutory services and the voluntary and community sectors work. These outcomes are:

Evidence gathered for reflection, continuing professional development (CPD), appraisal and improvement of practice as well as for external accounting (McArdle and Briggs, 2012). Methods include reflective dialogue and journal writing, service user feedback and vignettes.

Evidence from methods such as direct observations of practice, case recording and work products which accurately illustrate the programmes and activities undertaken as well as their developmental objectives.

Purposeful findings gathered by youth workers and/or young people in order to illustrate that a programme or activity has achieved particular outcomes. Findings are required to indicate change in knowledge, attitudes or behaviours as well as change at individual, community or wider societal level. Methods used to gather such evidence include case studies, personal narratives and quantitative evaluations.

Evidence Based

A term used to describe programme/activity development that is derived from, or informed by, rigorously established objective evidence. For a programme or activity to be evidence-based, it requires the compilation, analysis, and use of objective evidence to inform the design.

Evidence Based Programmes

A term which refers to the implementation of specific programmes that have consistently been shown to produce positive results by independent research studies, that have been conducted to a particular degree of scientific quality (Bamber et al., 2012). This term is not to be confused with evidence-informed practice or evidence–informed programmes.

Evidence Informed Practice

An approach that helps people and organisations make well-informed decisions by putting the best available evidence at the heart of practice development and service delivery (Nutley, 2010). Acting in an evidence informed way involves: • Sifting information gleaned from research and other sources. • Weighing reliability and relevance. • Synthesising and interpreting meaning. • Identifying actions applicable to the realities of practice. • Systematically applying objective criteria to inform planning and decision-making. • Remaining open-minded and willing to question accepted orthodoxies (Bamber et al., 2012).

Evidence Informed Programmes

A programme that has been developed using the best available evidence, including theory, practitioner wisdom, qualitative and quantitative research findings and evaluations. This is not to be confused with evidence-based programmes which are found to repeatedly and consistently demonstrate desirable outcomes through application of scientific research methods e.g. randomised control trials.

The broad or longer-term effects of a project or organisation’s work (also referred to as the difference it makes). This can include effects on people who are direct users of a project or organisation’s work, effects on those who are not direct users, or effects on a wider field such as government policy (NCVO, 2013).

Broadly defined as the results of activities that enhance the lives of children and young people (Dickens et al., 2013).

• • • • •

Active and healthy, with positive physical and mental wellbeing. Achieving their full potential in all areas of learning and development. Safe and protected from harm. Economic security and opportunity. Connected, respected and contributing to their world.

Practice Informed Evidence

A process in which youth workers seek to make explicit, and draw from accumulated practice wisdom, from their own and the work of others (Bamber et al., 2012).

Qualitative Research

The following four characteristics are identified by most as key to understanding the nature of qualitative research: • The focus is on process, understanding and meaning. • The researcher is the primary instrument of data collection and analysis. • The problem is inductive. • The product is richly descriptive (Merrian and Tisdell, 2015).

Quantitative Research

A formal, objective, systematic process for obtaining quantifiable information about the world. Quantitative research is presented in numerical form, and analysed through the use of statistics. This research approach is concerned with numbers, statistics, and the relationships between events/numbers (Offredy and Vickers, 2010).

Reflective Practice

Introduced by Donald Schön in 1987, reflective practice involves thoughtfully considering your own experiences as you make the connection between knowledge and practice, under the guidance of an experienced professional within your discipline (Schön, 1996). Schön had previously argued (1983) that the model of professional training that relied upon filling up students with knowledge then sending them out into the world of practice was inappropriate in a fast-changing world. A reflective practice model would enable learners and novices within a discipline to compare their own practices with those of experienced practitioners, thus leading to development and improvement (Fewings, 2015).

Tacit Knowledge

Argyris and Schön (1974) differentiated between practitioners’ espoused theories and their ‘theories in use’, which become apparent only during the action itself. Argyris and Schön contended that theories in use may derive from tacit understanding and it is this that determines practice. Schön (1983) called this ‘tacit knowing in action’. Altricher et al. (1993) identified three important characteristics of this action: • Thinking and acting are not separate (skilful, practical activities take place without being planned and prepared intellectually in advance). • The professional is frequently unaware of the sources of his or her practical knowledge or how it was learnt. • The professional will usually not be able to give a straightforward verbal description of this practical knowledge. 18

Scene Magazine, Issue 85, September 2016


Scene Magazine, Issue 85, September 2016

Youth work

A planned programme of education designed for the purpose of aiding and enhancing the personal and social development of young persons through their voluntary participation, and which is complementary to their formal, academic or vocational education and training; and provided primarily by voluntary youth work organisations (OMCYA, 2001). While the above is a recognised definition offered in the Youth Work Act, it is difficult, given the fluidity of the conditions under which youth work functions, to achieve consensus around any standard definition. With this, Spence (2007) outlines some key themes that communicate youth work: • Educational: Informal education is a vehicle by which youth workers seek to positively differentiate their educational approaches from those of schools. Its emphasis upon the centrality of conversation emphasises the relational principles characteristic of social education whilst accommodating but transcending the structural limitations of non-formal education. The educational perspective of youth work involves invoking a set of ideals which transcend personal ‘needs’. • Starting where young people are at: An oft-repeated youth work mantra which rather clumsily covers a complex, sensitive and highly skilled process of intervention. Starting there creates the conditions in which some young people will voluntarily and actively engage with a youth project, eventually communicate positively with youth workers, and through them learn to actively participate in wider social issues. This process of intervention involves understanding the socio-economic, institutional and cultural context of young people’s lives in a general sense whilst simultaneously having the capacity to respond sensitively to the differences between individuals and groups on an inter-personal level. The primary skill which is used to ‘start where young people are at’ is that of listening. Because youth workers listen in an informed but open way not only to words, but to silences and absences, conversation and dialogue can emerge. • Relationship-based: The process of making young people happy, of being friendly, involves youth workers in a whole person experience in which the personal cannot be entirely separated from the professional. Their professionalism of necessity involves communicating something personal. In order to commit their trust, the young people need to believe that the youth worker cares about their welfare not just as a professional matter, but at a personal level. It in this untamed area that the heart of what youth workers do in their work with young people is to be found.


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Help us make Scene Magazine even better, complete our readership survey and be in with a chance to win a E50 One4All voucher. To complete the survey please go to the following:

Scene Magazine is a dedicated triannual magazine for youth and community workers and students in Ireland. Scene Magazine features articles from youth work practitioners, profiles of youth projects, details of new resources and sectoral / policy updates. By completing this survey you will help us make Scene Magazine a better resource for you in your youth work. 20

Scene Magazine, Issue 85, September 2016

Research Brief Going Beyond the Label Exploring the Diversity of NEETs Exploring the diversity of NEETs - Research Brief to Scene Magazine In 2015, 12% of young people aged 15–24 in Europe were not in employment, education or training (NEET). Although recent statistics show an improvement in the labour market situation of young people, Eurofound’s new report ‘Exploring the Diversity of NEETs’ emphasises the ongoing need to focus on the specific needs of different groups of young people who are NEET. The report argues that a comprehensive effort is needed to understand the diversity of NEETs, as the various subgroups within the NEET category have very different characteristics and needs. Since 2010 the concept of NEETs, young people between 15-24 who are not in employment, education or training, has been widely used as a tool to inform youth-oriented policies at both European Union and national level. The NEET indicator has helped to understand the common features of young people not involved in the labour market or education and has been important for the development of the Youth Guarantee, which aims to ensure that all young people under 25 get a good-quality offer of a job, apprenticeship, traineeship, or continued education within four months of leaving school or becoming unemployed. The ‘Exploring the diversity of NEETs’ report, which is accompanied by a country by country overview, presents an up-to-date picture of the situation of 21

Scene Magazine, Issue 85, September 2016

Members of the Network of EU Agencies, 2016

NEETs in the EU and includes an analysis of NEET rates over time, the gender composition of the NEET group, educational attainment, and risk of social exclusion. With regards to the current status of NEETs, it shows that fewer than one in three NEETs across the EU are short-term unemployed, more than one in five are now long-term unemployed and roughly the same proportion are NEET due to family responsibilities, or due to illness or disability. This report examines the NEET indicator and uses EU Labour Force Survey data to disaggregate the NEET population into seven subgroups. It provides an analysis based on the data available for each subgroup and describes the composition and characteristics of Europe’s NEET population at both EU 28 level and in each Member State. The report shows that the composition of NEETs varies greatly across Europe. For example, in Nordic, western and continental countries, the largest groups are generally the short-term unemployed, while in some southern and Mediterranean countries the shares of long-term unemployed and discouraged workers are higher. In eastern European countries, the majority of NEETs are women, who are NEET due to family responsibilities. Understanding the composition of NEETs in Europe is important for the effective implementation of the Youth Guarantee.

Relevance of these findings to Youth Work The NEET concept has been an extremely powerful tool in focusing public opinion and policymaker’s attention on the labour market problems of young people. However, given the heterogeneity captured by the NEET indicator, governments and social partners should better target their policy interventions by taking into account the different characteristics and needs of the various subgroups within the NEET population. While the report divides the overall NEET population into 7 sub-groups, of which some are much closer to the labour market than others. Both groups of shortterm unemployed and those who will shortly be re-engaging with employment, education or training can be considered as generally less in need of support than those who are further disengaged.

suffer from multiple issues, which may make it more difficult to reengage these young people. Despite this challenging task, good practice examples of reintegrating youth exist (see for example Eurofound’s 2015 report on the social inclusion of young people). Download Eurofound’s NEET reports: Exploring the Diversity of NEETs (2016), EU28 country profiles showing the diversity of NEETs Social inclusion of young people (2015) Eurofound’s pioneering 2012 report ‘NEETs - Young people not in employment, education or training: Characteristics, costs and policy responses in Europe’

Policy Brief

Autumn 2016

Extra information Author

These may include short-term unemployed and discouraged workers as well as young people who are NEETs due to illness/disability or due to family responsibilities (with the remaining group being classified as for other reasons) on the other hand are likely to

Review of Youth Guarantee The European Commission recently adopted a Communication that highlights the main achievements of the Youth Guarantee and Youth Employment Initiative (YEI) since their launch in 2013. It draws lessons on how to improve the EU and national efforts on deploying national Youth Guarantee schemes. This communication effectively begins the first pan European review of the EU Youth Guarantee which provides that all young people should have an offer of a job or quality education and training within four months of becoming unemployed. There have been mixed views at national and European level on the Guarantee and the review process. The Commission is highlighting successes and positive stories from member states. The National Youth Council criticised the process and expressed disappointment at implementation to date. At EU level it was reported that there were large gaps in the system of data collection and funding will be reduced for the future.

Youth Work Ireland Political Briefing Youth Work Ireland held its annual political briefing on October 5th. The date was postponed due to political circumstances in April. The briefing has become one of the main gathering points for politicians relating to youth work in Ireland and has established itself as an essential date in the political calendar. The event features three asks for newly elected TDs as they returned to business in Dublin. These were, to eliminate mental health waiting lists this year, provide an annual increase of 5% to the youth work sector consistent with the Value for Money Report and to implement the findings of the National Substance Misuse Steering Group.


Scene Magazine, Issue 85, September 2016


Scene Magazine, Issue 85, September 2016

Youth Affairs Funding Advancing Children’s Rights through the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill On October 3rd The Children’s Rights Alliance held a briefing on the child impact of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill 2015. The event was opened by Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald TD and the key note address was given by Professor Geoffrey Shannon, Founding Patron of the Children’s Rights Alliance and Special Rapporteur on Child Protection. The event was chaired by Noeline Blackwell, Chief Executive Officer of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre. The Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill 2015 is a landmark bill for the protection of children and young people in Ireland. As children and young people increasingly spend time online and with technology evolving quickly, this Bill gives legislators the opportunity to support families and protect all children in Ireland. Grooming and solicitation can be the first steps that lead to a childhood of abuse both online and offline. Our laws have not kept up with the pace of technological practices and developments and this Bill will close key loopholes to ensure that children are safe and are protected from abuse. The Bill also brings Ireland closer to meeting its international obligations for children.

Cherishing All the Children Equally

A substantial increase was agreed in youth affairs funding on the 2017 Budget. The Minister says the funding will allow for significant increases for existing youth services, the inclusion of communities identified as needing better youth services and the start of the first LGBT National Youth Strategy. The 2017 allocation represents an increase of €5.5m which will be used across a number of areas including, a potential increase of up to 5% to all existing youth projects; all costs associated with the procurement, design and writing of the LGBT Youth Strategy; possibility of including organisations providing much needed services to young people and which haven’t been funded up to now; continued funding for 4 newly commenced Value for Money sample projects as well as the capacity to earmark funding for additional projects in 2017; re-examination of current funding streams to ensure best outcomes for young people.

Job Bridge Minister Leo Varadkar announced the discontinuation of the Job Bridge Scheme in May. To date there has been no firm proposals about a replacement. Job Bridge was controversial but it did provide a number of labour market paces for young people although a minority of the positions provided were taken up by young people. Many saw the ending of Job Bridge as an opportunity to provide a new labour market programme focussed on young people however there was no developments on this in Budget 2017. The Minister had promised a new “targeted” scheme to replace Job Bridge but there has only been media speculation on what this might look like.

On 12th October, the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) and Trinity College (TCD) released a book which draws on 10 years of ground-breaking research findings from the Growing Up in Ireland study to assess if, 100 years on from the Easter Rising, children in Ireland have equal chances of a bright future. Cherishing all the Children Equally? brings together multidisciplinary expertise to shed light on how child development is influenced by a variety of familial, socio-emotional and demographic factors. Following the official launch of the book by Dr. Katherine Zappone, T.D., Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, its editors presented on themes which are central to childhood (such as education, family and health) and discussed how the key findings can help policymakers and practitioners to navigate a social landscape which has changed so completely since 1916.

The full edition of Youth Work Ireland’s Autumn Political Brief, including all links, can be downloaded at

Sugar Tax A growing number of health experts have been advocating for a sugar tax in recent times similar to one introduced in the UK. The idea is to increase the price of food and drink with high sugar content to disincentive its consumption and thus combat the rise in childhood (and general) obesity. The idea is also often seen as a way to raise further revenue for children’s and youth services. The World Health Organization has said governments should raise taxes on sugary drinks to fight what it says are global obesity and diabetes epidemics. If retail prices of sugar-sweetened drinks are increased by 20 percent through taxation, there is a proportional drop in consumption, it said in a report titled “Fiscal Policies for Diet and Prevention of Non communicable Diseases”. The idea featured in a number of pre-budget submissions and received support from Marcella Corcoran Kennedy and the Royal College of Surgeons Ireland. Michael Noonan agreed to examine the proposal particularly with reference to the UK in his budget speech and set up a public consultation forum aimed at introducing the tax in 2018.

Children’s Minister at the Oireachtas The new Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone TD has continued to brief the Oireachtas on her work. The Oireachtas now has a dedicated Committee on Children and Youth Affairs unlike the previous Committee which was still split with Health issues. The last briefing on October 5th was mainly focused on the estimates for mid-year. The Minister spent a lot of time on the proposed childcare strategy but also mentioned a desire to provide extra support for youth work and indeed stating “I have put forward the case during the budgetary process to achieve a favourable increase in funding for youth organisations. While the youth sector may attract less commentary than other areas, it is a key focus for the coming year.”


Scene Magazine, Issue 85, September 2016


Scene Magazine, Issue 85, September 2016

Scene Magazine September 2016  

Youth Work Ireland's Scene Magazine is a magazine which features and profiles youth work practice, projects and initiatives in Ireland and E...

Scene Magazine September 2016  

Youth Work Ireland's Scene Magazine is a magazine which features and profiles youth work practice, projects and initiatives in Ireland and E...