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VEC Education Officer arguing for closure of Youthreach Centres

category national | education | news report author Tuesday March 17, 2009 15:59author by Blacbloc Report this post to the editors

Are thousands of young people to be thrown to the wolves?

This information from a reliable source has yet to be confirmed in print but Youthreach pupils, teachers and co-ordinators are growing increasingly concerned that a VEC Education Officer from one of the county VECs is calling for their closure as a cost cutting exercise. More information is to follow but this threat is something that a lot of people ought to sit up and take seriously because of the knock-on consequences such a move is likely to have.

Youthreach is a nationwide education and training scheme for early school leavers and young adults who, for a variety of reasons, have not succeeded within mainstream education. A high proportion have multiple social, behavioural and learning difficulties that have proved impossible to resolve in secondary schools. The more flexible and personal nature of the Youthreach centres has proved very effective at helping people to overcome personal and educational difficulties and in providing them with knowledge and skills in subjects they like and can use for work and to participate in society in general.

Youthreach was first established during the depths of the last recession in the 80s in order to help tackle the then enormous problem of disaffected, undereducated and unskilled young people living on the margins of society with very little hope of creating a secure future for themselves. With that problem now resurfacing again in recent years it would be deeply ironic if this time around this urgently needed provision was shut down. Youthreach has grown into a successful and inexpensive approach to tackling what can become a nightmare problem for young people and related public services across the spectrum - including social workers, probation officers, secondary schools and all those who need a safe and constructive environment to which to refer young people . The biggest problem about Youthreach is that there are too few centres offering too few places. It has also been chronically underfunded.


Without Youthreach huge numbers of young people would be lost to unemployment for lack of education and skills. Many would end up on drugs or in prison - which aside from the disastrous outcome it has on reoffending rates, is also vastly more expensive.

For second level schools and colleges it will also create a problem with pupils who are unhappy there. This can create problems for everyone.

author by Blacblocpublication date Tue Mar 17, 2009 16:35Report this post to the editors

From today's Irish Examiner - the recidivism rates say it all about the success of locking young people up and the costs are astronomical in comparison to placing a young person in Youthreach - which many are instead of being sent to one of these institutions. The average cost of a student at Youthreach is approximately 13.5K per annum: at Trinity House it costs 360K pa and at St Pats, 106K pa.

"FOUR out of five young offenders end up back behind bars due to a lack of rehabilitation in juvenile institutions.

The high re-offending rate has been attributed to the aggression, bullying and violence, coupled with the low level of educational participation, in the facilities.

Fine Gael spokesman on juvenile justice Joe Carey, who visited St Patrick’s Institution earlier this month, said with a population of 216 — half of whom could not read or write — it was "shocking" that about 170 would be back behind bars within a short time, or would "graduate" to Mountjoy prison.

He said the alarming re-offending rates in Trinity House and St Patrick’s Institution, which cost the state €360,000 and €106,000 per young offender respectively, are an indictment of the Minister for Justice’s failure to address their needs.

Fr Peter McVerry, a social justice campaigner who has worked with troubled young men for 30 years, said conditions in St Pat’s were particularly worrying.

Fr McVerry said the many young men on lock-down for their own protection have limited access to education or facilities.

"They are left in their cells all day watching television," he said. "There could be in the region of 50 to 60 men on protection. They are receiving no stimulation, rehabilitation or education and have limited access to the school. I talk to them and they are just trying to get through their time, but it is very difficult emotionally and psychologically."

St Pat’s, long criticised for housing both children and adults, is breaching the UN convention on the rights of the child by doing so.

Fr McVerry said there are serious childcare protection issues for the 16 to 18-year-olds, as St Pat’s does not have any childcare workers.

He claimed Department of Justice policy was "going backwards" in the past four or five years.

A spokesman for the Irish Penal Reform Trust said it was unfortunate another generation of young people would go through St Pat’s.

"It has long been agreed that it is an unsuitable institution; the real question is what is the strength of the government commitment to go-ahead with replacing it? We would very much welcome if the Minister for Justice would confirm the situation with Lusk," he said.

A spokesperson for the department said the first phase of 80 spaces at Lusk, a centre to remove children from the system, is scheduled to be completed in 2012, and will provide adequate spaces to accommodate 16 to 17-year-old males currently in St Pat’s.

The spokesperson said the department is carrying out a study on re-offending in people aged under 18 and the Irish Youth Justice Service will then use the findings to advance an overall service development.

The Irish Prison Service said: "We have no official statistics to back up the claim of a recidivism rate of approximately 80%." "

author by Michelle Clarke - Social Justice and Ethicspublication date Fri Apr 03, 2009 18:51Report this post to the editors

Every level of life long learning needs endorsement in our society. For a VEC Education officer to seek closure of classes to young adults is nothing short of selfish, in the dreadful economic circumstances presently experienced.

Well done to the second posting. Trinity House costs in the region of euros 300,000 plus for a young offender.

The VEC Course could be the alternative that says no to crime and abililities focus on the Knowledge Economy.


author by Michelle Clarkepublication date Fri Apr 17, 2009 18:24Report this post to the editors


We know from the reports and comments of people like Fr. McVerry and other dedicated people to the plight of our disadvantaged youth, that more Government commitment, funds, teachers, mentors are required. We know the age gap of say 16 to 18 forms a kind of trap which determines what path lies before you, in life. For some, they can fall into the criminal trap and end up in the like of Trinity House costing the state in excess of euros 300,000.

Yet the Youthreach programme was funded by funds from the European Social funds - they are part of the 2007-2013 Irish EU Structural Funds programme.

It is said that a VEC officer is not interested in the advancement of Youth Reach and may vote accordingly.

Who represents this vulnerable group of young people who 'are basically thrown to the wolves' as evidenced by a strong Union protected group of teachers that have lost direction and are self-focused about the cost value of education as distinct from the quality of education they provide.

Who suffers with all these Strikes.......I note that a man from FAS who ran up excessive expenses has been demoted (to working with disabilities!!! - surely an arogant assumption) at the behest of the Unions.

Where does the Power lie? Those who have strong Unions or those who have no support at all, the vulnerable, those with disabilities, our young people. A platform is required in education and teachers are morally bound to ensure that children get a basic education that will allow them participate at a later stage in life-long education and thereby ensure we move gracefully to the Knowledge Economy, we are presently part of.

I fear that many of the programmes funded by the European Union and much underplayed by the media, will be axed before they ever have the opportunity of fruition. These programmes formed an integral part of many university studies into people with mental illness, child sexual abuse, trafficking, autism, aspergers, disabilities, youth reach. People, like me, who have benefited from these programmes, often found secondary education somewhat hostile, and are glad of the chance to participate in these EU Funded programmes.

Youthreach is for the young........let not bureaucracy steal from them the opportunity of stepping onto the ladder of learning.......even if they are to postpone the learning until later.

John Hume speaks of 'Diversity in Unity'.

I am greatly surprised at teachers comments about the alarming level of racism in schools........rather than separate people with disabilities/race/etnicity/dyspraxia/dyslexia/physical disability, why not converse with people who access Third Level under these headings and take their sound recommendations.......They know.......Teachers often make to many assumptions and are too preoccupied in victimisation.

The Irish Penal Reform Trust have a publication on Perspectives of Youth Crime (Barnardos). www.iprt.ie

Education is about Access, Creativity, EU. It ought to stimulate a mobility in the employment ladder so as to avoid teachers over-focused on years and pension rights.

How many teachers really know about the EU office in Dawson Street - all the free booklets, papers, computer access, libraries etc?

Michelle Clarke

Related Link: http://www.youthreach.ie
author by Youthreach Employee - Youthreachpublication date Tue Apr 28, 2009 14:47Report this post to the editors

Youthreach is celebrating 20yrs service to young people this year. Youthreach has leaped forward in its delivery of the programme with the introduction of the Quality Framework Initiative (QFI) and Health Promotion; many centres were inspected by the Department of Education & Science with positive results regarding the teaching methodologies and learning taking place, but we fell down on the state of our building; some so old that they had to shut down immediately. We are the only education organisation that does not have a caretaker or cleaner to maintain our building. In the good times we never got to see the Celtic Tiger, maybe he ran too fast… Youthreach has seen ONE increase in its twenty years, for a centre of twenty five students the DES contributes €52,000.00 per annum.

Our teachers highly qualified and are dedicated to their students yet they don’t receive the recognition that they deserve, most work part-time and receive no sick pay etc. They work in appalling conditions but still come to work with a smile and motivate their students to learn. Our students are not young delinquents; most fell out of the mainstream educational system because it failed them. This is not the fault of teachers; they were left behind because they required extra resources that have now been extracted from schools by the last savage education cuts. More and more schools are directly referring students to Youthreach as an alternative to school.

Our staff is paid lesser than their counterparts in schools, yet we work with the most vulnerable in society. We are at the bottom of the pile when it comes to funding but do the most valuable work. We do not receive extra money for Special Education Needs (SEN). SEN monies were granted in a pilot programme to a small number of centres but the funding did not extend beyond this, as it was cut. The Government needs to cop on and realise how important Youthreach is in Ireland for our young people; after all they are our future.

author by Eoin Trotskylitepublication date Tue Apr 28, 2009 15:39Report this post to the editors

. . . can we trust this report from an un-named source suggesting the service is threatened? Who is this VEC officer referred to in the statement?

How advanced is the discussion within the VEC - and within which VEC? Every county council has its own VEC, statutorily established, with public representatives on its advisory boards. The electorate should know about this before June 5, as they'll be electing Councillors who will nominate representatives to the VEC.

Youthreach students often achieve fantastic results in Leaving Cert Applied, Junior Cert and FETAC courses. Many experience their first positive learning environment in Youthreach. They receive a meagre allowance as an incentive to participate. Often the primary and secondary school systems have failed them before they get a place in Youthreach.

Youthreach is an under-resourced education scheme. I would hate to see it threatened and would encourage FEE and others to support their local youthreach projects. Solidarity between students, says I, be they the affluent on free fees, or Youthreach trainees struggling to make ends meet.

I would hope that the allegations in the original posting prove untrue, but please attribute a source to the allegations, so a proper informed discussion can take place.

author by Blacblocpublication date Wed Apr 29, 2009 08:08Report this post to the editors

" . . can we trust this report from an un-named source suggesting the service is threatened? Who is this VEC officer referred to in the statement?

How advanced is the discussion within the VEC - and within which VEC? Every county council has its own VEC, statutorily established, with public representatives on its advisory boards. The electorate should know about this before June 5, as they'll be electing Councillors who will nominate representatives to the VEC."

The OP makes clear that the idea of closing Youthreaches was the suggestion of one individual Education Officer and not a matter of policy fact so far as we know. The point of posting was to alert people to the possibility, that the suggestion might be adopted - not to say that it actually had been - and to have exactly the debate you call for so that the many positive aspects of the Youthreach scheme can be aired and understood. It doesn't matter which of the EO's put the notion forward or which VEC they are from. The important thing is to try and help make sure that the idea is not taken up! Whoever suggested closing Youthreach, it is a rotten idea in lots of ways and for lots of different reasons.

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