Recently, it has been suggested that the incoming coalition government may decide to abolish the Department of Children and Youth Affairs (DCYA).
Having my voice and opinions heard
This Department and Youth Work has had a huge impact on my life, and I cannot stress the value it has on the lives of all young people. For many children and young adults, particularly in rural areas of Ireland like Mayo where I live, youth clubs and organisations are a lifeline; a chance to connect with other young people and have our voice heard. By taking away the DCYA, you take away the youth voice, which is, quite frankly, unacceptable.
I have been involved with many youth organisations, one being SpunOut.ie. All of these organisations have greatly valued the voices and opinions of young people. Being part of these organisations has given me confidence to voice my opinions, and also the opportunity to learn about issues that I may not have known much about previously. They have given me and so many young people the opportunity to feel heard, and that we are making a difference.
Supporting young people across the country
I am also a youth work volunteer with Foróige, a role that I have been in for five years, and really enjoy. Due to the COVID-19 restrictions, most youth clubs and projects have been shut down, but thankfully myself and another leader from our club have been able to connect with our young people through online activities. However, as the young members of our club repeatedly say, it is not the same, and they are hugely looking forward to getting back to our youth club and activities once again.
Foróige clubs have no requirement to join, only to fall between the ages of 12 and 18, and generally to live in the surrounding areas of the club. There are no particular skills or talents a young person has to have. We accept everybody. I have had the honour of seeing quiet, reserved young people join the club, somewhat apprehensively, and see their confidence grow through the work that we do. We are providing a safe social environment that thousands of young people across Ireland sign up to take part in every single year. In Mayo alone, there are over 70 volunteer led Foróige clubs, and this number is growing, as every year, new clubs are created to accommodate the growing number of young people that wish to take part. Without the DCYA, this may no longer be possible.
Youth work changes lives
If the Department of Children and Youth Affairs is abolished, I believe young people will suffer. Young people in rural areas may not have a place to meet their peers, and probably will experience isolation. Young LGBTI+ people that have previously found comfort and support in their groups will have that taken away from them. These are only two examples. I really do believe that young people will suffer, because, forgive the cliché, youth work changes lives.