Youth Work Bill, 1997: Second and Subsequent Stages.

Tuesday, 13 May 1997

Seanad Éireann Debate
Vol. 151 No. 10

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Question proposed: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time.”

Minister of State at the Department of Education (Mr. Allen): Information on Bernard Allen  Zoom on Bernard Allen  I am delighted to propose the Youth Work Bill, 1997, to the Seanad. Since my appointment as Minister of State with responsibility for Youth Affairs I have accorded priority to the policy aspect of my youth work responsibilities. The Seanad has the opportunity today to debate this ground breaking legislation aimed at giving a sound framework to the provision, co-ordination, monitoring, evaluation and development of youth work programmes and services.

The Bill is the result of many years of effort entailing detailed research, consultation and discussion among everybody interested in youth work. The Bill is of considerable historical significance in the Irish youth work context. Some historical events are chance happenings. However, many do not just happen but must be deliberately planned. This holds true for this Bill because it arose directly out of the December 1994 policy agreement, A Government of Renewal, made between the three parties that form the Government. That policy document included a particular commitment to prepare a Bill to provide a specific, detailed legislative framework for youth work. This undertaking was repeated in the chapter on youth work in the 1995 White Paper on Education.

These Government statements on legislation for youth work were inspired in large measure by the benchmark Irish youth work document, the report of the National Youth Policy Committee, chaired by Mr. Justice Costello, which was issued in September 1984. Although the Government then in power included in its December 1985 document, In Partnership With Youth, a commitment that legislation would be introduced for youth work, there was, regrettably, little progress between December 1985 and December 1994 on the issue of specific legislation for youth work, with the notable exception of the rejected Private Member's Bill introduced by Deputy Deenihan in 1990 while my party was in Opposition.

Nonetheless, although the period between December 1985 and December 1994 saw little or no advance on the issue of specific legislation for youth work, useful work was done in related areas. For example, an excellent report was presented in November 1993 by the consultative group on the development of youth work to my predecessor as Minister of State, Deputy Aylward. That report made a number of recommendations on the development of youth work, particularly with regard to definitions, underlying principles, characteristics of youth work, evaluation and youth work structures. This Bill draws [841] to a significant degree on the consultative group's report.

Admittedly, although I set to work soon after my appointment as Minister of State, the job of producing the Youth Work Bill, 1997, took longer than expected, as all of us involved soon realised the implications of the rather complicated and lengthy procedure that is a normal feature of the legislative process. Quite simply, these things take time.

One reason for the delay was the evident need for me to outline my vision for the future of youth work, which I did in a chapter of the April 1995 White Paper on Education, and following that publication there was a clear case for further research, consultation and discussion. Accordingly, I wrote in June 1995 to all the relevant bodies in order to give them the opportunity to present written observations on the youth work chapter of the White Paper. In addition, my officials and I met representatives of several of the interest groups that made submissions. In particular, we had especially valuable discussions with the National Youth Council of Ireland. Other important research was also undertaken, such as the obtaining of information on the legal and administrative framework for the provision of youth work services in Northern Ireland and England.

Following full consideration of the submissions, the meetings and the research to which I have referred, and having undertaken detailed consultation with other Departments, the Government approved, on 2 July 1996, the general scheme of the legislation that we produced. The parliamentary draftsman provided us with the draft Bill in December, 1996. After some concluding liaison since the start of the current year between my Department and certain other key Departments, the Government approved the final text of the Youth Work Bill on 25 February 1997. The way was then clear to publish the Bill on 5 March.

The Youth Work Bill has a number of important features. First, it gives a clear legal definition to youth work. For the first time, this Bill provides a clear mission for youth work by defining it in section 2 as being a:

programme of activity that is designed for the purpose of providing developmental and educational training so as to assist the personal and social development of young persons which

(a) requires the voluntary participation of young persons, and

(b) is complementary to academic or vocational training.

Furthermore, the Youth Work Bill sets out the responsibilities of the Minister for Education and of the education boards regarding youth work. In the first instance, the Bill formalises the Government's commitment to youth work because by setting out the Department's policy, co-ordination, budget, research, monitoring, assessment [842] and consultative functions, it will represent a clear and unequivocal Government commitment to the performance of youth work functions now performed on an informal and ad hoc basis. Second, the Youth Work Bill through stipulating that each education board will, in so far as it is practicable and within the financial resources available to it, ensure the provision of youth work programmes and services for its region, provides that the benefits resulting from subsidiarity are gained in the delivery of youth work services. We will thus have a structure that is more responsive to the needs of the regions and closer to community interests.

The resource allocation function exercised centrally by the Department at present in regard to local and regional youth work programmes and services will, therefore, be devolved from the Department of Education to the education boards. As a result, not alone will decision making on regional matters take place at the more appropriate regional level, but also the Department will be freed up sufficiently to enable it to concentrate more closely on vital issues such as national policy formulation, overall planning and development, assessment of performance, financial management, quality assurance and the national distribution of funding. This will be in full accordance with precedents of devolution in other European countries, most notably Denmark, Belgium, the Netherlands, France, Italy, Sweden, Spain and Portugal, many of which had previously, like ourselves, a tradition of highly centralised control of all aspects of the education system.

I must stress, nevertheless, that the regionalisation of decision making to education boards will not result in the establishment of a rigid State youth service and will not substitute public sector activity for voluntary sector activity in the youth work sphere. On the contrary, the Bill sets out detailed procedures for ensuring that youth work services will normally be secured by education boards through grant aiding voluntary youth work organisations. Section 4(7), (8) and (9) details a procedure that an education board must follow which will ensure that only in the most exceptional circumstances may it consider providing a youth work service itself.

The Bill also formally provides that the Department will prescribe national voluntary youth work organisations and provides that the education boards will designate or name local voluntary youth work organisations. This provision for prescribing national voluntary youth work organisations means, in effect, that we will have a proper system of recognising national voluntary youth work organisations.

In this context I would like to inform the Seanad that my officials have recently initiated a process of consultation with the National Youth Council of Ireland in relation to the development of criteria for use in prescribing national voluntary youth work organisations. This most recent initiative will assist in the process of establishing [843] a proper mechanism for the legal recognition of national voluntary youth work organisations. Similarly, the provision under section 23 for the designation by education boards of local voluntary youth work organisations will help to set up a satisfactory system for the recognition of such organisations.

The Bill also underpins the primacy of the volunteer in youth work. The most significant way in which the Bill will do this is through the establishment of voluntary youth councils and of volunteer youth leaders throughout the country. These councils will have several crucial functions, including the power to nominate 50 per cent of the members of each education board's youth work committee, the duty of advising the relevant education board in relation to its youth work planning and the role of providing a forum for local voluntary youth work organisations. In this way, the Bill should help to ensure that volunteerism will continue to flourish in the youth service in this country. This is a major concern for me because I passionately believe that volunteerism is the key to real success in the provision of youth work services.

I want also to say in relation to the voluntary youth councils that, among the innovative provisions of the Bill, are that at least one-fifth of the membership of each council will be set aside for volunteer youth leaders under the age of 25, and that there will be special provision for volunteer youth leaders working with the travelling community. Hence, the councils will encourage youth participation and will assist in the empowerment of the traveller youth work sector.

In addition, the Bill does not neglect the all important issue of accountability in the expenditure of public resources. Several of its provisions, especially those regarding monitoring and assessment, afford a means for demonstrating the benefits and value for money of youth work and of ensuring that public funds expended on youth work services are spent efficiently and effectively. I am confident, therefore, that the Bill should help to attract additional resources for youth work. In fact, the many provisions of the Bill stressing integration, co-ordination, assessment and targeting will assist us in meeting the value for money requirement which must attach to all public expenditure as well as enhancing the measurement of the benefits of youth work.

The application of terms and conditions to the allocation of grants is provided for in section 19 in the case of ministerial grants and in section 4 in the case of education board grants. Sections 3 and 9 provide for a national system of monitoring and assessment of youth work services. Specific provision is made in section 3(4) for value for money considerations to be taken into proper account, in that it stipulates that ministerial monitoring and assessment shall have regard to an evaluation of the expenditure incurred in the provision of youth work programmes and services. Section 4(1)(c) makes a similar stipulation in the [844] case of monitoring and assessment done by the education boards. Another way in which the Bill emphasises value for money considerations is the special importance attached in it to co-ordination between youth work policies and other policies affecting young people, and to the youth work needs of disadvantaged young people aged ten to 21 years.

Furthermore, the national youth work advisory committee proposed under sections 10 and 11 of the Bill is of central importance in regard to ensuring value for money. The advisory committee will include nominees of the national body representing the views of voluntary youth work organisations and other Departments. This model will permit the availability of the best possible advice regarding the optimum integration and co-ordination between youth work services and other services for young people, thus helping to ensure value for money through proper targeting of resources, integration of efforts and networking between agencies. In a similar fashion, the proposed youth work committees of the education boards, by including representatives of the voluntary youth councils and of important statutory agencies such as the health boards, FÁS and the Garda juvenile liaison service, will also contribute to the value for money requirement.

Following on from the theme of value for money, many of the features of the Bill that are important in that respect also have the effect of providing for consultation and partnership in decision making. At national level, for example, the fact that the National Youth Work Advisory Committee will include substantial representation of the national body recognised as representing the views of the voluntary youth work organisations will ensure partnership and will also be a crucial guarantee of the voluntary nature of the Irish youth work service. Similarly, sections 17 and 18 provide for a youth work committee to be established by each education board, which, through a 50:50 membership ratio between the statutory sector and the voluntary sector, will ensure real partnership in decision making.

What is most significant about the Bill is that it should give everyone involved in youth work the opportunity of demonstrating the benefits of youth work, especially in terms of assisting the disadvantaged and marginalised. I am convinced that youth work can help to prevent social ills such as juvenile delinquency and that such prevention is vastly more cost effective than the most sophisticated programmes of rehabilitation can ever be. As I said when I spoke on Committee Stage in the Dáil, an article I read in a recent issue of The Economist made an impression on me because it stated that in England it costs more to keep a child in a young offenders' institution than it would to send him to Eton.

Juvenile delinquency has been the cause of much tragedy in both Dublin City and Cork City in the recent past. Easter weekend this year was especially tragic for the family and friends of all those killed in the so-called “joyriding” incidents.

[845] As I also mentioned in the Dáil, an event that made a marked impact on me was the 71 year old mother of seven from Raheny, Dublin, who died after being struck by a car driven at high speed by a 15 year old. That tragic event was followed by a deeply moving statement by one of those directly affected. In a dignified response to the awful death of his dear mother, Mr. Joe McGrath made an impressive plea for improved recreational, developmental and sporting programmes and facilities for young people, particularly in disadvantaged urban areas. While we need an increased emphasis on the standards of law and order if we are to maintain the integrity of our society, we must also address the root causes of problems such as joyriding. Youth work can help our young people, including those at risk of getting involved in anti-social activities, to acquire the knowledge, skills and attitudes needed to overcome the problems caused by unemployment, alienation, demoralisation, crime and drug abuse.

In this connection also, the Bill is significant because it stipulates that in the development of youth work programmes and services particular regard will be had for the youth work requirements of young people aged between ten and 21 years who are socially or economically disadvantaged. I am a firm believer in the principles of social solidarity because, as the great Martin Luther King once said: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” The Bill helps, moreover, to address the justified concern of many people that expenditure on the formal education system and the non-formal or youth work system is incurred by means of administrative measures which are known only to a handful of officials and specialists but which are not readily available to the public. Together with the Education Bill, this Bill will tackle this issue.

I will now deal with some points of criticism that have been made in certain quarters. First, it has been said that the Bill does not guarantee additional money for youth work. Although the Bill is essentially aimed at establishing a legislative basis for youth work services that are, to a great extent, already in existence, the Government intends to implement the further development of youth work services on a phased basis within the financial resources available. While the legislation will not of itself commit the Government to the provision of additional youth work services, it will provide a statutory framework in which the phased development of youth work services may be undertaken. Moreover, since the Bill ensures accountability in the expenditure of public resources, provides the opportunity of demonstrating the benefits and the value for money of youth work and ensures that public funds expended on youth work services are spent efficiently and effectively, I am sure it will help to attract additional resources for youth work.

Some have also wondered, in the light of the delegation of youth work functions from the Department of Education to education boards [846] following implementation of this legislation, if national youth organisations will continue to receive direct grants from the Department of Education. The position is that, while responsibility for the funding of local and regional youth work programmes and services will in general be devolved from the Department to the education boards, sections 8 and 19 of the Youth Work Bill empower the Department to allocate direct grants to voluntary youth work organisations in respect of the provision of youth work programmes or services in two or more education regions.

Section 8 also permits the Department to secure the provision of supplementary regional youth work programmes and services by allocating direct grants to voluntary youth work organisations. Accordingly, the direct funding of youth organisations by the Department will continue in respect of national and inter-regional youth work programmes and services. However, youth work programmes and services particular to a specific education region will normally be secured by education boards and not by the Department.

In addition, some have questioned our definition of youth work. In this context, I point out that the general scheme or Heads of the Bill, as approved by the Government on 2 July 1996 and as subsequently submitted to the parliamentary draftsman, included the following definition of youth work:

“Youth work” means a planned systematic educational process which assists and enhances the personal and social development of young people, entails the participation of young people on a voluntary basis, is complementary to the formal education and training system and is implemented primarily by voluntary groups and organisations.

The definition of youth work in the general scheme of the Bill was based on the definition produced by the consultative group on the development of youth work which reported to the former Minister of State for Youth Affairs, Deputy Aylward, in November 1993. One of the tasks set for the consultative group was to devise a more precise definition of youth work. The definition in paragraph 3.1 of the consultative group report forms, therefore, the basis of the general scheme definition.

On the basis of the general scheme definition and in consultation with the Department of Education, the parliamentary draftsman produced the definition, phrased in appropriate legal language, that appears in the Bill. The main change of substance between the general scheme definition and the definition in the Bill is that the phrase “and is implemented primarily by voluntary groups and organisations” was dropped because this is not an absolutely defining characteristic of youth work. That is to say, it is possible, even in the context of the situation envisaged under the Youth Work Bill, for non-voluntary organisations to provide youth work programmes and services in certain [847]— admittedly exceptional — circumstances. Since the phrase in question was obviously not a defining characteristic, it was decided that it should be omitted from the definition.

In response to some questions that have been raised regarding the phraseology used in the Bill regarding gender equity, I wish to point out that much thought and effort was put into that phraseology both by staff within the Department of Education and within the office of the parliamentary draftsman. Having particular regard to the need not to interfere with the single sex programmes and organisations that are necessary features of some aspects of youth work, we consider that the provisions made regarding gender equity in sections 3(2), 4(3), 6(7), 7(1), 10(2) and 14(3) are satisfactory. The main focus of our effort in this sphere was to ensure overall gender equity but in such a way as to safeguard the aforementioned single sex programmes and organisations.

Accordingly, rather than requiring equality of access of all youth work programmes and services and requiring an equal balance of participation in all youth work programmes and services, the aforementioned provisions regarding gender equity simply state that regard shall be had... to the treatment of males and females in relation to access to youth work and the number of males and females participating in youth work.

Some questions have, moreover, been raised regarding the fact that, under the terms of the Youth Work Bill, voluntary youth councils will be entirely composed of volunteer youth leaders. Section 15(2) of the Bill clearly and unambiguously states that membership of voluntary youth councils is limited to volunteer youth leaders. Our reason for limiting membership of voluntary youth councils to volunteer youth leaders is derived from a number of key objectives that have informed our work on this legislation. One of those objectives is that we want to introduce a structure which will truly empower local communities, permitting them to play a key role in the development of appropriate responses to the youth work needs of young people.

Another key objective is that we are anxious to afford youth work groups at local level a significant input to the formulation and implementation of youth work policy at local and regional level. We are also motivated by an awareness that it is through the work of volunteers on the ground that the bulk of youth work opportunities are provided in communities throughout the country and that volunteerism is something special to the Irish youth service which needs to be fostered in every way possible. Accordingly, we strongly believe that voluntary youth councils, composed of volunteer youth leaders elected in the way described in the Bill, will meet our key objectives.

The voluntary youth councils will also be the vehicle for the representation of the voluntary youth work sector on the education board youth work committees. In fact, one of the vital functions [848] of the councils will be to nominate persons for appointment to the youth work committee of the relevant education board. I stress in this regard, however, that it will be possible for voluntary youth councils to nominate whomsoever they wish for appointment to the education board youth work committees including, as the National Youth Council of Ireland requested, the National Youth Federation, Foróige and others and employees of youth work organisations. In deference to the representations made by the National Youth Council of Ireland and others, I decided to withdraw my Committee Stage amendments in the other House to sections 14(2)(b) and 18(2)(c) circulated on 29 April 1997. Those amendments were aimed at ensuring that only people actually in membership of voluntary youth councils could be nominated by the council for appointment to the relevant youth work committee.

The effect of withdrawing those amendments is that it will be possible for voluntary youth councils to nominate whomsoever they wish for appointment to the education board youth work committees including, as I said, employees of youth work organisations. Nevertheless, my fundamental belief is that people who are actually members of a voluntary youth council would normally be in the best position to represent the views and interests of that voluntary youth council. I also reaffirm my commitment to the empowerment of the volunteer youth leaders in local communities who give the Irish youth service its unique character and who provide the bulk of youth work opportunities. Having said that, I accept, having carefully considered the well argued representations made by the National Youth Council of Ireland in particular, that there may be special circumstances where a voluntary youth council may wish to be represented on the relevant education board youth work committee by employees of youth work organisations.

The Youth Work Bill arises from an exhaustive process of consultation carried out with all the partners in youth work. This consultation continued after the publication of the Bill. For example, on Committee Stage in the other House, amendments proposed by me to sections 3, 4, and 6 were agreed. Those amendments were made following consultation with the National Youth Council of Ireland which expressed concern that the existing wording might be interpreted by some education boards as meaning that the needs of disadvantaged young people should be dealt with prior to all others. In the interests of consensus, I agreed to the council's proposal that the word “priority” should not be used. The replacement phrase specifying that “particular regard” will be had to the youth work needs of disadvantaged young people aged ten to 21 will be satisfactory in terms of the achievement of the essential aim of the original wording.

The other House also agreed to amendments to sections 11 and 22 that I proposed on Committee Stage following consultation with the National Youth Council of Ireland which asked that the [849] Department's commitment to partnership should be explicitly stated in section 11, which deals with the membership of the national youth work advisory committee. I indicated in the Youth Work Bill explanatory memorandum my basic commitment to equality between the number of representatives of prescribed body representing voluntary youth work organisations on the advisory committee and the number of representatives of Departments and agencies. On consideration of the views expressed, therefore, I decided to build provision for this equality into section 11, while retaining the right of the Minister to appoint an additional person to act as chairperson and at least one and not more than three additional direct ministerial nominees who would be experts with special knowledge of or experience in youth work.

The Dáil also accepted my amendment to section 11 providing for the nomination by the Minister for Foreign Affairs of a representative on the advisory committee. This was done on the recommendation of the National Youth Council of Ireland and in recognition of the increasing international dimension to youth work. The Dáil approved a technical amendment to section 22, which was aimed at ensuring there would be a correct cross-reference, in light of the substantive amendment of section 11, between sections 11 and 22 to the prescribed organisation representing voluntary youth work organisations.

Accordingly, nobody can say I was unwilling to engage in wide-ranging consultation, which I did until the last minute possible. The time has come, therefore, when all reasonable compromises have been made in this Bill and when more changes run the risk of diluting some of its central principles. Decision making time has, therefore, arrived and I do not want to be like those politicians whom Winston Churchill so memorably lambasted in the thirties when he said they “decided only to be undecided, resolved only to be irresolute, adamant for drift, solid for fluidity, all-powerful to be impotent”.

I am satisfied there has been sufficient consultation and consideration and that the Youth Work Bill is good legislation. Since becoming Minister of State, I have done my utmost to promote dialogue with maximum openness and transparency. This Bill bears all the hallmarks of that philosophy. I commend it to the House.

Mr. Farrell: Information on Willie Farrell  Zoom on Willie Farrell  I welcome this Bill and the discussions with young people during its preparation. I thank the Minister of State for his help and kindness to the disabled, particularly one-armed golfers. Disabled groups appreciate his recognition of their problems.

This Bill should be called the youth vocational training Bill. I attended a technical school in the 1940s where the third year was used for work experience. Students who were not academically motivated were given as much time as possible to [850] improve their practical skills. They were sent to serve their time in shops or as carpenters, builders, plumbers, etc.

I am disappointed that vocational education committee schools are not included in this Bill, although FÁS and other such bodies are mentioned. Technical schools have a wealth of information on how to train young people. Brainy people generally went to convent schools and colleges while the rest attended technical schools. Yet vocational schools turned out great students; they trained them for life. My old teacher used to say: “small things make perfection, but perfection is no small thing”. I would like the vocational education committees to have a greater say in this area.

Secondary schools did away with many practical subjects and concentrated on woodwork and metalwork theory. As a result, we now have many theorists — people who can write 40 foolscap pages on the shape of a penny without saying it is round. It is a pity young people did not receive more training in practical subjects.

This Bill makes special provision for the travelling community. Vocational education committees run good programmes for the travelling community in practical and academic subjects. I welcome its inclusion in the Bill. Youth organisations are also happy with the amendments made to this Bill.

We are spending a lot of money on crime but we are not dealing with the root problems. This Bill is aimed at a section of our youth who are neglected and, therefore, become involved in crime. I saw young people being interviewed on television recently and they said they dropped out of the education system because there was nothing in it for them. We must come to grips with the fact we have failed these people. A 14 or 15 year old who can hot-wire a car in two minutes has ability and brains. We must work to ensure they use their brains in a more positive manner. This Bill is aimed at those people.

Young people become involved in drugs because they see no future in education. Many volunteers work in this area and I am delighted they are mentioned in the Bill. One could not put a price on the amount of good work done by volunteers. They are dedicated people who enjoy their work in the same way as I enjoy a game of golf. I thank the Minister for using this Bill to encourage these young people to continue their good work because they often do not get the credit they deserve.

I used to bring international work camps to Grange and on one occasion young people from the area spent three weeks making a car park. They notified the media, but I told them not to expect too much as I did not think there would be a big press reception. Their hearts were in their boots that night because nobody had come to see the work they did, which is sad. If those youths had wrecked a few cars in my village it would have been news and RTÉ would have had their cameras there. So often we ignore the good [851] works done by young people. We only see the bad deeds done by a small percentage of young people. These people cause a lot of heartache to their families, schools and communities. They take up prison places and make more work for the legal system. We have to communicate with these people and try to help them. This Bill provides that contemporaries of those young people will talk to them and give them an interest in life. The Minister mentioned that another Bill will be introduced to provide funds for this. This is very important because although this Bill is good it is like giving a carpenter a kit of tools, instructing him to install a fitted kitchen but not giving him any timber. It is like the councillor said: “everything for the stirabout but the meal”. It is important to provide funds as well.

Mr. Magner: Information on Patrick Magner  Zoom on Patrick Magner  Is the Senator saying that is Government policy?

Mr. Farrell: Information on Willie Farrell  Zoom on Willie Farrell  No, the Minister must legislate to ensure funds will be made available. It costs more to keep a criminal in jail than to attend Eton. One cannot estimate the cost to society. Many school leavers would return to school if we put more emphasis on vocational training. I have said before that the vocational education committees missed out. The vocational education committees became secondary schools because technical teachers were not good enough for them. If these schools had remained technical colleges we would not have required ANCo and subsequently FÁS. The technical colleges catered for the needs of children who were not academically minded by providing practical courses for them. I repeat that many young people who were very poor academically began to read up on metalwork or woodwork because they had developed an interest in these subjects and wanted to improve their skills. If these students were given the same book to read as an academic exercise they would not look at it because they were not interested in the subject matter.

Many young people become involved in drugs and criminal activities because the educational system has failed them. We are not giving them interesting things to do. Technical colleges catered for these young people. The day we closed down technical colleges was a sad day. The vocational education committees should be brought more into play here; they have a wealth of experience in this type of work on which we could draw. We must ensure this Bill works. We must ensure we catch school dropouts and young potential criminals before they become involved with the wrong type of people and become a nuisance to themselves and society. I believe every child born is good; it is the society in which they are brought up in that influences them. Some of us were from a poor background but were reared in good homes. As I mentioned before, in the 1930s and 1940s we had bad houses but we had good homes. Today we have good houses but a [852] lot of bad homes. Money has not solved everything for us in that regard.

National schools have become very large and lack the personal touch. When there were small two teacher schools every school had a football team. When these schools were amalgamated with larger schools there was still only one football team which was not good for children or society. We must be able to incorporate them all. If we had several graded teams it would be class distinction which was referred to in my younger years as the class behind the door. It would be more feasible to have a small two teacher school on every street in the larger built up areas that would have 70 or more students for the first five years of primary education.

I know that some children do not attend school at eight years of age. We have lost track of these children in big cities. In my generation every child went to school in rural and urban areas. The local garda knew the truant children and visited their homes. I heard a man say that when he went to England he was asked for his curriculum vitae or a paper stating what he achieved at school. The man replied that the only paper he got from school was sent to his mother and was a summons for non-attendance. In those days no child slipped through the education net. Now, in a more enlightened time, we are letting so many slip through the net that we have a big problem.

Mr. Magner: Information on Patrick Magner  Zoom on Patrick Magner  The Senator will have us dancing at the crossroads yet.

Mr. Farrell: Information on Willie Farrell  Zoom on Willie Farrell  This welcome Bill seeks to look after young people and will solve a very big problem but only if another Bill is introduced immediately to provide funding for projects. I appeal to the Minister to think of vocational education committees which should be incorporated in this system. The vocational and technical schools did great work for youth down through the years. They have a wealth of experience to share and they should, at this late stage, be considered. I am delighted with the Bill and wish it a speedy passage through the House.

Mr. McDonagh: Information on Jarlath McDonagh  Zoom on Jarlath McDonagh  I welcome the Minister to deal with this important legislation. Its need was identified as far back as 1984 by the National Youth Policy Committee which was chaired by Mr. Justice Costello. A renewed call was reiterated in the 1994 Government of Renewal policy document and in Charting Our Education Future in April 1995. The White Paper contained commitments to introduce this legislation and the overwhelming majority of those involved in youth work, including the bulk of those representing the voluntary youth work sector, favoured a legislative framework for it. There is universal welcome for this Bill.

The aim of the Minister for Education is that 90 per cent of all students continue to leaving certificate level. The reality is that only 80 per cent of students do so at the moment. It is generally [853] acknowledged that there is a large dropout figure and a sizeable number of early school leavers. School leavers are currently being catered for by a diversity of agencies but no statutory obligation is placed on any particular agency. The Youth Work Bill is essentially concerned with establishing a legislative basis for youth work services which, to a great extent, already exist. While the Bill will not commit the Government to fund additional services, further development to the Bill will provide a statutory basis for the development of a stronger youth work service on a phased basis and within available resources. By providing a framework to demonstrate the value for money of youth work, the Bill should help to attract additional funds.

The Youth Work Bill, in setting out the Department's policy on co-ordination, budget, research, assessment and consultative functions, represents a clear Government commitment to the performance of informal and ad hoc functions. The Bill requires the voluntary participation of young persons and is complementary to academic and vocational training. I welcome the fact that a statutory obligation is to be vested in the education boards which will be more familiar with the problems of early school leavers than the people involved in the education process. They will be in a very strong position to respond in a positive manner to these and to put in place projects in the areas of training and work to help young people. The education boards will make use of the large pool of experience which is currently available. I agree with Senator Farrell that much of this experience is available within the vocational sector and within agencies such as FÁS and the Department of Justice.

The Youth Work Bill will greatly enhance the marvellous work being carried out by juvenile liaison officers, in co-operation with FÁS and the vocational sector, in providing support for the management of sheltered training workshops. In discussing this particular Bill, it would be remiss of me, as an adult education organiser, not to pay tribute to the people already involved in the various boards of management of traveller and Department of Justice workshops. These people, many of whom are very busy in their own walks of life, give of their time freely and willingly and bring wonderful expertise and life experience to the management table. I have seen at first hand situations where people who run into trouble with the law regain a foothold in society through various schemes and programmes and become employable on completion of these. The Bill will strengthen the role of these boards, supplement them and give them teeth.

A great deal of good work has been done by adult education organisers throughout the country since 1979. These people have been involved, in the main, in setting up programmes for disadvantaged people. I hope that, in the running of any future programmes, adult education organisers will be given a role to play, perhaps in an [854] advisory capacity, as they have a great deal of expertise to offer.

I welcome the setting up of the national youth work advisory committee which will have a sizeable input from young people. In the nature of its membership, young people, male and female, will be involved. The committee will call on the experience of various departments already in existence and, with its excellent mix of youth and experience, it will lead to setting out a meaningful agenda designed to cover the needs of our young people, particularly those who are socially and economically disadvantaged. We should also welcome the fact that this legislation will provide legal authority for the allocation of grants by the Minister for the provision of youth work services. As well as providing for the allocation of grants to education boards, the Bill will allow the Minister to allocate grants to national inter-regional youth work services and to supplementary services within a particular education region.

The Minister of State, Deputy Allen is to be congratulated on having steered this legislation through the Dáil in keeping with the Government's commitment to the Education Bill. There has been a lot of verbiage on the plight of young people by successive Ministers and Governments. I think it was the great American writer Walt Whitman who said that “...words are like leaves, they can be scattered in many directions...”; many words have been spoken in the past but little practical action has been taken. The Minister of State has faced up to the challenge. I compliment Deputy Allen for that and for putting into effect a legislative framework to cater for the needs of young people. This is one of the most important Bills to come before the Houses of the Oireachtas. Its effects may not be seen immediately but in years to come, when the crime rate is dropping and when young people are engaged in meaningful activities, people will remember Minster Allen for bringing into being a Bill which will impact on society long into the future.

I have noticed a phenomenon arising in certain parts of the country recently; I came across it at a board of management meeting in Gort, County Galway, yesterday. Some prospective employers are taking students on for summer jobs immediately after the Easter holidays, which is exploitative. These are students involved in fourth year programmes and the practice should not be condoned. Though I urge employers to help young people by giving them summer jobs which provide them with work experience and badly needed money, I appeal to them not to exploit students by forcing them to take up positions after the Easter holidays. There is a programme operated in many schools in fourth year in preparation for leaving certificate and it is as important a year as any other for students. Employers who force students to take up positions after the Easter holidays are doing a disservice to young people, their parents and the educational establishment. I appeal to employers to [855] desist from this practice and allow students to continue their studies.

The Minister deserves our sincere congratulations on the Bill as do the other people who have worked arduously on it. It is one which caters for our most prized possession — the young people who are the heart and soul of our country. As I travelled to this House from Galway this morning I heard a discussion on one of the radio programmes. One speaker said that we must devise a plan for our young people as they are the people of the future but the other pointed out that young people are very much people of the present. They are indeed people of the present and they provide great hope for the future.

This is praiseworthy legislation which will have positive repercussions for our young population long into the future. I compliment the Minister and those involved in drafting it and I strongly commend it to the House.

Dr. Henry: Information on Mary E.F. Henry  Zoom on Mary E.F. Henry  I welcome the Minister and the Bill which has been 20 years a-growing. Youth organisations have been looking for legislation along these lines for a long time.

We should remember that much work done by voluntary organisations concerned with youth does not involve children who get into trouble and it could appear that this Bill is being introduced to produce the diversionary tactics. However, the Bill is far broader because it takes into account the enormous number of children catered for by voluntary organisations who never run into trouble with the law. It is marvellous that such organisations are being given the recognition they deserve on a national and regional basis. This is very important.

Bureaucracy could be avoided through the simultaneous recognition of organisations at national and regional levels. I would not like to see a situation where each organisation had to be recognised again when it came to establishing regional councils.

It is important to have regulations and criteria for youth organisations and standards of good practice. Perhaps the National Youth Council could draw up suitable guidelines. It has much experience in this area and I am sure it would be willing to help.

The most important question regarding the Bill is whether sufficient funding will be provided. I see the Minister nodding and no woman will be more grateful than Sr. Mary Joseph of St. Catherine's Combined Communities Group about which I have written to the Minister on several occasions regarding funding for the inner city area. If the necessary operational infrastructure for these organisations is not provided they will be unable to fulfil their obligations under the Bill. We understand the provisions will cost money but such expenditure is well worthwhile.

The World Health Organisation defines health as not just the absence of disease but the presence [856] of spiritual, physical and mental well being. Involvement in voluntary organisations and the contribution they make to society is very important for the health of the nation.

I am extremely pleased at the decision to give extra resources to disadvantaged areas. Those of us who brought up our children in middle class surroundings know the value of having local football teams, scouts and cubs. I am glad the Minister spoke of gender equality because guides and brownies are very worthwhile. There is a tendency to think that only boys need to be involved in organisations. Girls become involved in them if they are available.

This is healthy living week and it is important to point out, particularly in the context of sporting organisations, that what we do in our youth sets the pattern for our later lifestyle. Encouragement of various youth bodies involved in sport is important and I congratulate the Minister on what he has tried to do in encouraging these organisations to date. This is very important for the health of the country.

Children in trouble with the law are discharged from institutions into the same milieu from which they came. Can youth organisations be asked to take account of this? Perhaps there could be liaison between these children and what they consider to be the most suitable organisations for them to be involved with. Children released from institutions are not often asked what they would like to be involved in. They will become more involved in an organisation in which they have an interest rather than forcing participation upon them.

I wish the Bill success. Provision of the necessary finance will be important and I am sure the Department of Finance will acknowledge the savings in the context of it being cheaper to send a child to Eton than to an industrial school. There is no school here which comes within one-tenth of the cost of keeping a child in an industrial school. It is also important to recognise that this Bill provides for all children.

Irish employers should be more open regarding summer work for children who should not be exploited. Children are not meant to be a source of cheap labour. Nothing is more useful for a child than the experience and discipline of work.

Mr. Magner: Information on Patrick Magner  Zoom on Patrick Magner  I welcome the Minister. It is no surprise that it is he who is bringing the Bill to fruition after many years. His energy often scared the life out of the Labour Party in Cork and keeping up with him was a full-time job. This is an important day for young people and for the institutions which cater for them. The Bill signifies the value placed by the Government on that sector.

I compliment Senator Farrell on his excellent speech which was the epitome of care and decency. It was one of those speeches which helped to make this country what it is. It was full of affection and care for children. He wanted to return to the time of de Valera and dancing at the crossroads and I understand his nostalgia. [857] However, unfortunately we cannot have a computer in every two teacher school or ten schools in each estate. However, I know where his heart is. I also agree with his reference to the vocational education committees. Their record in youth work and with the disadvantaged has not been adequately recognised by any Government.

The Minister quoted Churchill to good effect. I do not mean to be critical but I am reminded of Churchill when I look at the length of the Minister's speech which is 19 pages. Churchill once asked his officials to produce a memorandum for him on the war in the south Atlantic and they gave him a similarly long speech. He advised them that after the war they could publish the speech as a book but that in the meantime they might provide him with six pages.

The section of the population dealt with in this Bill is probably the most exploited. There are laws to protect those who are vulnerable and I realise many of these laws are connected with children. However, insurance companies, club owners and drinks manufacturers often target their products at one section and rip them off with ferocious intensity. The rip-off prices they charge for entry to clubs are an absolute disgrace. If they see somebody under the age of 23 or 24 it is open season on that particular person. I think it is disgraceful. If someone wants to insure a car — even if he could pilot an aircraft — it is open season in terms of loading, irrespective of how well he drives. The idiocy of the matter is demonstrated by the fact that, not too far from here, people aged 19 and 20 are flying fighter jets from airfields near Belfast, yet they could not get a banger insured in the Republic. It is nonsensical.

I know the Minister of State will be back again, perhaps not in that position, but he may have a junior Minister, and I would advise the Minister of State to let him deal with the question of exploiting young people. It is not just about the disadvantaged or those who have no possessions. It is also about young people who work six and seven days a week to earn money which is then unmercifully filtered out of their pockets by a society which seems to see them as milch cows.

They are also ripped off when they buy clothes, if one looks at the inordinate prices for branded items. A pair of jeans is an ordinary item but if one sticks Levi or some other fancy name on them the price quadruples. The youth market is led by association and advertising which is a total rip off. The youth are ripped off in clubs, for insurance, drink and jobs. Someone who is young, fit, willing or desperate enough for a job will be exploited. I am not saying all employers do that, far from it, but a significant section of industry and commerce is only too willing to squeeze young people until the pips squeak. It is a disgrace and young people need to be protected.

There is no training involved in many job placements, including FÁS schemes. Young people are put into shops, factories, pubs and clubs but there is no element of training. The motto is get the job done. I know the Minister of [858] State is conscious of the Government's responsibility to stamp out that sort of exploitation.

The Minister of State mentioned the Garda juvenile liaison service and this brings the zero tolerance issue into focus. I do not mean it in a political or partisan way because I welcome the debate, but zero tolerance touches on an area of endeavour which exercises the minds, effort and time of the Garda liaison squad. If one was to exercise every law to the full as is being suggested, one would bring a whole stratum of young people into conflict. They would be sentenced in courts and have criminal records. It would destroy a whole generation of people.

The greatest dread of any parent is when their son or daughter does not arrive home at a particular time. In such cases, parents hope their child has not been injured or involved in trouble. This is even more the case if one is a politician. I am always telling my children to walk away from a row because if they do not I will be on the front page of the Echo, the Irish Independent or The Irish Times with a headline saying “Senator's son guilty of assault”. While we may exercise zero tolerance in our own families, that sort of policy outside the home would criminalise a whole stratum of society for no purpose.

Everybody knows that from the age of 12 or 13 to 19 or 20, there is every possibility, through youthful exuberance and who knows what else, of a young person coming into contact with the forces of law and order. If there is no rationality behind that impact and if it is simply enforcing the law, there will be a major problem in the not too distant future.

The work of the Garda liaison squad should be expanded and that is where money should be spent. The Minister of State rightly made the point, quoting from The Economist, that “in England it costs more to keep a child in a young offenders' institution than it would to send him to Eton”. That kind of money should be used to properly train Garda liaison staff who will work with youth organisations. The problem will certainly not be eliminated because it is like trying to eliminate sin. There will always be crime and this country is no more crime ridden than anywhere else. In fact, it is markedly less so than most countries, but crime and sex sell newspapers and comics.

However, it is important to maintain a sense of balance, and that is not to misread or devalue the real concerns people have about society and their general safety. The way we tackle it is important. I have no doubt that zero tolerance in relation to young people is a recipe for total disaster.

As regards youth organisations, travelling the length and breadth of the country one is astounded by the commitment, vision and sheer intelligence of the young people. We are just about to start an election campaign. From what I have read in the papers to date, we will continue to treat young and old people as if free second level education never came into being. They are being fed the same old pap they got in the 1940s [859] and 1950s. I hope this campaign will not alone be free of venom and slander but will also be free of hackneyed politics.

It is no wonder young people will not vote. Why should they? They see us making all sorts of phoney claims and accusations against each other. In 1992 I sat on the Government benches with Fianna Fáil, while Fine Gael was in Opposition. We tried to do our best for the country. Fine Gael howled across at us and we howled back at them. In 1994 the positions were reversed. We stayed on the Government benches, thank God, while Fianna Fáil went into Opposition and the same process started again. It is sterile politics and young people will not vote because they know it is not real.

I had no intention of speaking in any detail on the Bill but if I did not agree with it I would be on the Opposition benches. I congratulate the Minister of State for steering the Bill through the Dáil. I commend him for his energy. I have no doubt that, like everything else he puts his hand to, he will not be deterred. He is seldom deterred, not even by the Olympic Council.

Mr. Mooney: Information on Paschal Canice Mooney  Zoom on Paschal Canice Mooney  This is definitely praise the Minister week and it would be churlish of me not to join in. I had better do so or the Minister of State will not talk to me again if I go down to Cork. In the general spirit that has greeted this Bill both in the Lower House and here, I want to endorse all that has been said about the Minister of State's personal commitment to this concept as well as having steered this Bill through the legislative waters.

He made a valid point when he said that, when coming into office, he did not realise the time lapse between initiating a concept and producing a Bill. I sometimes think the general public does not always fully appreciate the legislative obstacles one must overcome in putting together legislation such as this Bill. It naturally leads to frustration but, hopefully, the days of frustration are over.

I was impressed by the statistics relating to youth and youth affairs. There are 50 youth organisations with a combined membership of over half a million. There are 40,000 voluntary adult leaders, 300 full-time leaders and upwards of 500 part-time ones. These are astonishing figures by any standards. When you contextualise them in the Irish experience, with a population of some 3.6 million people, it is an extraordinary commitment to one segment of the population. If we were to do nothing else here today, it is important that we should state our admiration for those who are working in youth development, youth affairs and youth work, and particularly those who are operating in a voluntary capacity.

While I appreciate that we are talking about youth work, I would be interested in teasing out the Minister's definition of youth work in the context of this Bill although he has referred to the [860] definition in the consultative documents. One little caveat I would enter is that reference is made to a variety of organisations but omits one. The National Community Games is unique to Ireland. There is no organisation like it anywhere in the world. It started in 1968 as the brainchild of a most wonderful human being, Mr. Joe Connolly, from Walkinstown, Dublin. He saw around him the very marginalisation and disadvantage to which we have been referring and to which the Minister referred in his speech. The difference was that Mr. Connolly went out and did something about it. He is still hale and hearty and I hope he has another 50 years in him.

It is astonishing to think that the little acorn which he sowed in a working class district of Dublin in 1968 has now developed into a national organisation in which over 500,000 youngsters participate at parish and local levels, eventually progressing to the finals of the National Community Games at Mosney, County Meath. Although successive Governments and Ministers, including the Minister of State, have acknowledged publicly the role of the community games, appeared at functions and endorsed them, I have always believed that we have undervalued the movement. We should be giving it millions of pounds because I am convinced its work has steered in the right direction many young people who may have contemplated taking another path and built them both in mind and body. It would be irresponsible not to put on record my admiration for the community games during the course of this debate and, in so doing, state my interest in that I got involved in the community games in 1973 and was honoured to serve on the national games committee, which organises the Mosney games, for six years. I had a unique insight into how this movement works. I still have strong ties with the community games although time constraints prevent me, like many of my colleagues, from being more involved.

In the context of the nominations to the various bodies, the Minister might clarify that the community games movement will be acknowledged although this Bill may not lend itself to that. It is not a sporting or youth organisation per se. In fact, it is unique. It bridges all the gaps and the various aspects of activities for youth between the ages of seven and 18. It is an astonishing movement.

Youth unemployment has sadly remained stubbornly high. Various Governments' initiatives have failed to solve this problem, which has been exacerbated in recent years by the virtual elimination of emigration. I promise I will not make more than one reference to the Celtic tiger, an overused cliché, but the buoyancy in the economy has created certain advantages for the youth. On the other hand, it has created serious disadvantages also.

I do not wish my remarks to be misinterpreted but I was interested to note in the Minister's speech that he seemed to have listened to the representations of the National Youth Council of [861] Ireland to an extraordinary degree. The council seemed to have a direct involvement in a significant number of changes to the Bill. I do not question the bona fides of that fine organisation but there are other organisations. I was particularly concerned about one of the Minister's amendments which was proposed by the National Youth Council of Ireland, to which the Minister referred. He changed the phrase in relation to marginalisation and disadvantage from “priority” to “particular regard”. I would be interested to know why the Minister felt he should have conceded on that point. The Minister heard the views of Senator Henry and others and her point was well made. There is definitely a perception, in spite of all the figures to which I referred earlier, that we are essentially addressing the comfortable, the well-heeled and the settled, those in functional families the vast majority of whom do not need the special care and attention which the marginalised and disadvantaged need. I would have thought that because a significant percentage in society is marginalised and disadvantaged as they have left school without educational qualifications, the Minister would have held firm on his original phraseology even for purely ideological reasons and that the mission statement from his Department would be that the State would give “priority” and not just “particular regard” to the marginalised and the disadvantaged.

Over 1,000 young people between the ages of ten and 14 left the primary sector without transferring into the secondary sector. Some 3,000 have left the secondary sector without any qualifications. Therefore, for any year there is a cohort of 4,000 young people in its teens and beyond, which forms part of the intractable problem of long-term unemployment. I hope this well meaning legislation will help to address the problems those people face.

I do not expect the Minister to wave a magic wand and solve all the problems which affect young people today. As I said at the outset, it is a problem which has defeated successive Governments. There are still the problems of youth unemployment and social disadvantage. Many would agree that even if Ireland were the richest country in the EU, it would still have problems of marginalisation and disadvantage. I would be interested in the Minister's definition of disadvantaged and marginalised.

When I was growing up as a youngster in Drumshanbo, County Leitrim, I used think that being marginalised and disadvantaged meant one lived in tenements in inner city Dublin where there were no green areas and one's parents, like their parents before them, were out of work. When I got to the stage where I was thinking about such matters I used think I was really very fortunate, but as I grew older I came to realise that living in rural Ireland had its disadvantages also and one could feel marginalised and excluded. It is interesting that this has been addressed in the reports of the National Economic [862] and Social Forum, on which I had the honour to represent Fianna Fáil. I am particularly pleased that a number of colleagues, especially Deputy Brendan Smith, made extensive references to the reports of the NESF in the areas which were under discussion.

I hope the new structures will address marginalisation and disadvantage. That should be the mission statement of this legislation. The rest is bound to follow because there are 40,000 voluntary adult youth leaders and the existing structures are impressive. I hope that these legal structures and the placing of youth work, and the participation of youth organisations in that work, on a statutory footing will result in radical change for those outside the mainstream of society. They are the people about whom we, as legislators, should be concerned. These young people are falling through the net despite the best educational opportunities available and the plethora of Government training and educational initiatives, sponsored and supported by EU funding which I hope will continue after 1999. We have still not solved or come to terms with the real problems with which they are faced.

The concept of devolution permeates the Bill. Anyone involved in public life will welcome that development. To use an overworked cliché, we have the most centralised State machinery in Europe. In the past, it was believed that Communist eastern Europe employed the most centralised State apparatus. However, to all intents and purposes, that is no longer the case. It is a credit to the Minister of State that during the past number of years there has been a real desire to change the kind of centralisation which has permeated our lives since the foundation of the State.

Like Deputy Brendan Smith and others, I fail to understand why it is necessary to channel the worthwhile initiatives in the Bill through the proposed education boards when the vocational education committee structure is already in existence on a county by county basis. I am honoured to be a member of the County Leitrim vocational education committee and I have served as vice-chairman for the past number of years. This has given me a unique insight into the workings of the vocational education committees across the spectrum. The Minister of State will be aware that the Minister for Education initiated an audit of vocational education committees in advance of the legislative proposals before the House. Those who carried out the audit were pleasantly surprised at the range of activities in which vocational education committees are involved and at the widespread commitment and dedication not only of those nominated to serve on these bodies but also of their executives and staff. If we are to be sincere about devolution, I do not understand why the Minister of State is devolving power to an intermediate tier which has yet to be established and which, if returned to power, Fianna Fáil is committed to abolishing, but not enhancing the role of the vocational education committees. Surely, this Bill is ideal for the [863] vocational education committee structure? However, the vocational education committees do not appear to be given a role. Will the Minister of State clarify the role of vocational education committees, specifically in the area of grant allocation?

The Minister of State will be aware — it forms part of his brief — that the vocational education committees receive an annual allocation for youth in sport. I am chairman of the Country Leitrim sports advisory committee and I also serve on the youth affairs committee. Will such committees be abolished following the enactment of the Bill and the statutory establishment of the education boards? Will the role of vocational education committees in grant-aiding youth and sporting organisations be terminated? I will be very disappointed if that role is terminated because it will remove another strand from the vocational education committee structure.

From my experience of dealing with grant applications I am concerned about the entire structural development that will result from the enactment of the Bill, particularly in respect of the number of people required to staff the various councils at national and regional level. I am disappointed that, despite the best efforts of the adult education officer in County Leitrim, who also serves as secretary to the sports and youth advisory committees, few of the sporting organisations operating in the county attend meetings arranged to discuss grant allocations being decided upon in their interests. However, 99 per cent of these organisations respond in the correct manner to the advertising and publicity campaigns put in place in advance of the dispersal of grant funding. There is a great deal of transparency and accountability in this process but few of the organisations involved attend meetings.

When the structures proposed in the Bill are put in place, I hope that the broadest possible spectrum of expertise will be placed at the disposal of the youth councils. I am concerned that they will be obliged to rely on activists as sometimes happens in the case of trade unions. The majority of trade union members do not attend meetings which results in the views of activists being taken to represent those of the unions. I am aware that the Minister of State will not be able to intervene personally in this regard but I hope that this will not be the case.

I welcome the establishment of the voluntary youth councils. Will the Minister of State explain their role? Will there be a statutory role for sporting bodies on such councils? I also welcome the provision relating to public accountability but I suggest that the existing mechanism is transparent. Will the Minister clarify the position relating to annual grants to vocational education committees? I welcome the provisions concerning gender equity but existing resources in our schools seem to suggest a gender balance does not exist and the emphasis is more on the male than the female. For example, my 9 year old [864] daughter would like to play gaelic football but there is no facility in her primary school to allow her to play because the sport is male-oriented. The same is true in many other cases.

I welcome the provisions dealing with the role of youth leaders. In paying tribute to the community games, I pay particular tribute to Foróige which has done outstanding work in rural areas. The Minister of State and Members involved in Foróige activities are aware of the energy, enthusiasm and excitement these young people bring to their activities, which is a joy to behold. We should acknowledge their contribution.

Will the Minister of State clarify the position in respect of the change of emphasis with regard to priorities? I welcome the proposals in sections 11 and 22 in connection with ministerial appointments. This may seem strange coming from someone who is more opposed to ministerial appointments than in favour of them, but the provisions in these sections may help to provide a proper balance. If everyone is left to their own resources, the correct balance may not be achieved and it is important that the Minister has a role in this area.

Will the Minister of State explain the role of the nominee from the Department of Foreign Affairs? I would like to believe he is opening a window of opportunity for people working with Irish emigrants. I am aware that this involves the areas of sport and youth but will the Minister of State consider the inclusion of a person working among Irish emigrants in the UK rather than in Australia or the US? This would represent a good beginning and would be a symbolic acknowledgement of the importance of emigrants. I compliment the Minister of State on his initiative and I wish the Bill well.

Mr. Hayes: Information on Brian Hayes  Zoom on Brian Hayes  I congratulate the Minister of State, Deputy Allen, on the work he has done on the Bill. As many speakers said, it has been gestating for 20 years or more. Promises to introduce such legislation have been made to the youth sector by previous Governments but it never became part of their legislative programmes. In the short time Deputy Allen has worked in the Department of Education he has shown great leadership. The Department had been more well known for its concentration on sports as opposed to the youth policy. Organisations and volunteers involved in this sector compliment him for raising the status of youth work in the community and for introducing the Bill. The inherent democracy it will establish in regard to youth services is to be welcomed and that is why there is cross party support for it.

I listened with great interest to Senator Farrell. He described a golden age in Ireland and there was a fundamental decency to his contribution. The role of volunteers, particularly in regard to youth services, has been referred to by many colleagues. I, like many others here, come from a fundamentally privileged background having had good educational opportunities and breaks and great encouragement from my parents. There is an onus on us to give something back to those [865] who are not so fortunate and who do not come from the same background. My generation must give more back. The State has provided an education system through which we have come. If one is lucky enough as a graduate to obtain employment in our booming economy or abroad, the focus is then on mé féin. We live in an industrialised society which focuses on the pursuit of one's goals. However, youth work concentrates on giving to others. My generation should ask whether it has more to give to those younger and older than us.

We must focus on that because in many of our cities and towns the same small group of people carry out voluntary work in their communities. They carry out fund-raising, bring children to the country and help them to organise soccer tournaments and debates. Their personal lives are strained because of the huge role they take on in sport, youth work, etc. My generation should take a lead and become much more involved in voluntary activity, otherwise, many youth groups, such as the CBSI and other sporting organisations will not be there in the future. When I speak to people in my constituency, I find this is an issue. Where are people who will take up positions of leadership in those communities? I believe young people who have come through the system must take a leading role.

The changes in Czechoslovakia following the velvet revolution were initiated by students and young people. This notion is perforated by the media slagging off young people but one can point to the tremendous advances and changes that occur in society when young people get involved. Our role is to lead them. Instead of going home to watch television, we have a responsibility to help youth groups become established and to ferment.

Senator Mooney referred to disadvantage in rural communities. I concede that, but I represent a predominantly urban constituency, mainly comprising Tallaght and Clondalkin. There is a fundamentally different sense of disadvantage in urban settings, particularly those which sprawl in Limerick, Cork and Dublin, in comparison to rural settings. If one grows up in rural Ireland, one interacts with a cross section of society. It is much more interactive than an urban setting. In some parts of my constituency, there are children who have not been to the beach, or seen some of the more beautiful parts of Dublin, or experienced a sense of history and culture in one of the oldest cities in Europe. Urban Ireland has a much deeper and ingrained sense of disadvantage because of a lack of interaction between various groups in society.

There are also huge environmental problems in young housing estates because there are no community centres, churches have only been built recently and the public transport systems are not good. Such children are disadvantaged because the areas have been allowed to sprawl without proper development taking place. For example, [866] in Tallaght 40 per cent of the population is under 18 years — a massive youth population. This is in contrast to the national average. Every year the demography of the country is changing in terms of the number of young people coming on stream for college and the labour market.

The Minister of State referred to the negative imagery sometimes attached to young people, a good example of which was seen at Easter. Had elements of the media nothing better to do than go to Tallaght and create a story which helped to increase the sense of alienation felt by people in that community? The story was dragged out over three weeks and did nothing but harm to my community. The media have a huge responsibility to young people who suffer from the negative imagery that opinion leaders and so-called experts portray. I am concerned about that. This legislation and public policy can do so much but we must portray both sides. Some of the imagery regarding young people is blatantly wrong. We hear about delinquency and children out of control but what about the good work being done in the thousands of projects and community organisations throughout the country? The same focus is not on them nor was it evident two days before the problem in Knockmore in Tallaght when the Circuit of Ireland rally was launched. There were no television cameras or microphones there then because it was good news. When it was bad news connected to teenagers, it was sprawled all over the newspapers, because there was nothing better to report. Responsibility attaches not just to politicians and parents but also to the media. They have a responsibility to portray young people in all lights, not just in a negative one when it suits them. I know the Minister feels passionately about this, as I do, and he referred to it in his speech.

Young people should be involved in politics. I had the privilege of working for my party and with the National Youth Council for two and a half years. Every party acknowledged the difficulty of getting young people into politics. Senator Magner may have been right when he said that young people are turned off because of the antics at political level. In the 1980s a third of all members of Fine Gael were also members of Young Fine Gael. They came from youth groups and wanted to be involved in politics and change the system. Other parties have experienced the increasing problem of getting young candidates and people to give up their time for nothing. This is reflected in the make-up of the other House in particular.

I hope that political parties will do everything in their power to encourage more young people to enter politics. The more young people who do so, the better the chance is that the issues which affect them will be brought to the fore. I am aware of my responsibility, given that there are so many people under 25 in this country. We have a vested interest in speaking loudly on their behalf. Other interests — business, trade unions and women's interests in terms of parliamentary [867] life — are well articulated. However, young people's interests are not adequately addressed. This is a result of not having a specific committee for young people, as we do for women's affairs and the interests of small businesses. We need to focus on young people, and we will only do this by getting more young people into both Houses and county councils.

Unlike Senator Mooney, I welcome the intervention of the National Youth Council of Ireland in the legislative process. Democracy is at work when expert views are listened to in the public domain and their concerns are considered when amendments are made on Committee Stage. While this legislation gives effect to much of what people in youth services are asking for, more funding is required. Perhaps it is time to consider a full Cabinet position for youth affairs and have a Department standing on its own, rather than including it in the area of sports. It is important that the Minister for Finance provides resources for youth services every year. I congratulate the Minister of State on this legislation. If he was able to do this in two years, we should consider what would happen during a five year term.

Mr. McGowan: Information on Paddy McGowan  Zoom on Paddy McGowan  I also welcome the Minister of State to the House. He is pleasant and good-humoured, and that is half the battle. I welcome the legislation but I am long enough in the House to understand nothing has ever been achieved by the introduction of legislation — it is its implementation that counts. We are in a grey area at present although I have hopes and aspirations for the next three weeks.

The legislation is acceptable and good in principle —“an Act to extend the functions of educational boards in relation to youth work.” This sounds perfect and nobody in their right senses could quarrel with it. However, I was hassled when I was involved in the establishment of an IT training centre in Letterkenny Regional Technical College. The partners involved were Telecom, the IDA, FÁS and the Department of Education. We established the most progressive IT training centre for young people in the country and perhaps further afield. The centre had a £2 million contract with the Board of Works as well as one with Europe. It was successful and progressive. However, Minister of State, Deputy Rabbitte, refused to meet the director of this centre, Dr. Vincent Murphy, as he was too busy. He did not refuse him on political grounds because Dr. Murphy is from Cork and one would not have to do much research to know he is not a Fianna Fáil supporter. The IT centre employed 16 top staff experienced in advanced IT to teach bankers, council staff and those going for jobs who wished to do a crash course in IT. It was fantastic and was the heartbeat of technology in the area.

I was flabbergasted when I read the agenda for an industrial conference in Pittsburgh, which included Minister of State, Deputy Rabbitte, giving a keynote address on the development of IT.

[868] I would have found it hard to sit down and listen to that Minister who would not receive a deputation from the IT centre in Letterkenny. Unfortunately, after ten years of building up that centre, we had to close it down. It was jointly managed by Letterkenny Regional Technical College and jointly financed by the partners to whom I referred — Telecom contributed £180,000. There was a shortfall and neither the Department of Education nor Minister of State, Deputy Rabbitte, would contribute £1 towards rescuing the project. This legislation sounds good, but if it is not intended to implement it, the paper it is printed on is useless.

I was disappointed when the Department of Social Welfare wrote to about 20,000 young people telling them the summer jobs they had applied for were not available. This happened at a time when the local authorities and the commercial sector were prepared to offer jobs to young people. My local authority advertised jobs for young people. Some young people got a letter from the Minister for Social Welfare indicating that because they were not excluded from drawing a social welfare payment they could not be placed in a job. The Minister for Social Welfare professes to be concerned for the disadvantaged and the unemployed and he might be classified as a socialist but such experiences make me sceptical about the Government's intentions to implement any actions which will create jobs for young people. My scepticism is borne out by the fact that no jobs have been created in the west. I am not surprised that the Minister for Tourism and Trade had to retract his announcement of 2,000 jobs at Knock Airport nor am I surprised that the Minister of State, Deputy Stagg, announced a gas pipeline from Shannon to Derry via the west, a project which he would have known was not feasible. They were attempts to appease people who are desperate.

The Government has no intention of delivering jobs to the north-west. This Bill will not create one job unless there is the commitment to implement it. Not one job has been created in the west and in the southern Border counties, with the exception of County Louth and the worthwhile employment at Fruit of the Loom in County Donegal. If Fruit of the Loom had not created 3,000 or so jobs, the north-west would have faced disaster. I have read about the economic boom in Ireland but it has not reached the north-west.

The Minister of State may diplomatically express all the good aspirations in the world with regard to this Bill but we must be realistic. Ultimately, we will have to explain to the electorate what, if anything, the legislation means. My experience leads me to believe there is no commitment to fund education boards, regional technical colleges or FÁS. There are over 70 job creation organisations, and the number increases almost weekly. However, the Taoiseach found it necessary to set up a strategy committee under the control of his office largely because there are [869] so many organisations that the funds, from whatever source, are barely sufficient.

I received correspondence recently from the Developing the West Together group. I was at the launch of that group's strategy plan. The bishops may have a greater chance of success through their communication with God than otherwise. A number of groups have been set up to concentrate on development in the west but I do not believe they are getting anywhere. I have seen no evidence of job creation. It would be foolhardy of me to applaud the introduction of a Bill which makes provision for youth employment. I would rather see a measure of delivering jobs — perhaps 100 jobs per county. Can the Minister of State indicate where jobs will be created in the west? The present circumstances are not acceptable. Will this Bill give additional funds to regional colleges or the new education management structures? This Bill is a last desperate effort to stem the tide of disappointment.

Senator Hayes welcomed the Bill but it is useless without supporting funds and the intention to deliver on its commitments. I have been bitterly disappointed over the last few years. Our young people are educated, trained and prepared to work but there are few outlets for them. During the election the young people of the west and the southern Border counties will give a clear indication of their disappointment.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Fergal Quinn  Zoom on Fergal Quinn  I welcome the Minister of State's speech which explained his objectives. It is hard to criticise those objectives and his achievements during his term in office. He referred to the responsibilities of the Minister for Education and the education boards. There is a danger that the work experience elements could be a time-filling exercise rather than the provision of work experience which will be valuable in the future. If that happens it would be a serious waste of resources. I have tried to examine it from the perspective of what employers and business are seeking and the likely changes that business will require in the future.

In the future the majority of jobs will be in services and not in manufacturing. In the US over 80 per cent of jobs are in services while in Ireland the figure is just over 50 per cent. Therefore, it is important to give young people experience in sectors which are likely to be open to them in the future. In the future job creation will be in the services sector — for examples, entertainment, health care, education and telecommunications technology. The jobs will be technologically driven and it is important to concentrate on supporting technology.

Few people will expect to stay in the same job for their entire working life, given the way the world is changing. When I left school most people expected to get a secure job in which they would be settled for life and they would not have to study any further. That day is gone and people now have to continue to learn. We must learn that jobs are not created by the State. It was very [870] interesting to listen to the commitment, enthusiasm and dedication of Senator McGowan. He asked how many jobs have we created. Long-term jobs are not likely to be created except by those who will make jobs that will last for a long time.

When we were talking at the Forum on Peace and Reconciliation about money from Europe, somebody said they hoped such money would not be put into swanky hotels but into the Border area where people need work. I said I thought such thinking was incorrect. A few days earlier I had seen the Slieve Russell Hotel in County Cavan which, dare I say it, is in the middle of nowhere but there were at least 100 cars outside. It is a beautiful hotel with a glorious golf course. It was said at the forum that money should not be invested in swanky golf courses and beautiful hotels, but at least 100 people are working in that hotel and golf course. If it succeeds and thrives, those will be permanent jobs. That is better than using funds to create jobs which will last a year or two but will finish as soon as the money stops.

I am talking here about service jobs in new areas. Few people can expect to stay in the same job for life so we must find a way for such people to continue to work. I hope that will be recognised in the work experience element.

I would like to see a concentration on general skills. In the past our education system concentrated too much on focused skills. For example, next month, for the first time, there will be an oral English examination in the applied leaving certificate; this will examine people's ability to communicate orally rather than just in writing. Up to now, the examination took into account written communication skills but most of us spend very little time communicating in writing. The vast majority of working time is spent communicating orally, which requires an ability to manage and work together. Until now, there have been oral examinations in Irish, French and Spanish but never in the language most useful for acquiring jobs. I hope this work experience will help young people acquire those general skills.

A necessary umbrella skill, which can be applied to almost every job in the future, is the customer driven approach. I do not think any future jobs will last unless workers recognise the existence of the customer. Schools will not survive unless students want to go there. Some hospitals will not survive if another hospital gives a better service. I would love to see those on work experience beginning to appreciate that all these people are customers. When I was in An Post one of my challenges was to get the employees to refer to those who used the services as “customers” rather than “the public”. For 150 years we talked about “the public” because of the lack of competition. There is now competition from many organisations which can deliver messages, such as courier services. Once we begin to think of the customer service approach in work experience, those young people will be much more valuable to employers.

[871] Another changing aspect of careers is that more opportunities are arising in the self-employment area. I hope the work experience will teach them to stand up for themselves. A huge number of the jobs being created in Britain and, even more so in the US, are not in big factories — what is called the smokestack industry — but by businesses employing one or two people and then doubling and trebling that employment.

We spoke about this in the debate on the Finance Bill last week. My fear is that if we only help small businesses we will send out a message that they should not get any bigger or employ any more people because they will lose the benefits they were given initially. We should encourage people to be self-employed. At one point I worked with a self-help group and realised that large capital investment was not required to set people up in jobs. Possessing a ladder and bucket can get one into the window cleaning business at the age of 16 or 17 years, and this can build into something bigger. That is how many businesses started.

We must recognise that careers are becoming more international in many ways. It should be recognised that work experience provides opportunities to use the skills on an international basis.

The success of this Bill will depend on how we use the work experience element. Work experience should not be used, under any circumstances, as something to fill time. We should not pay people to just attend work; we should find some way of ensuring they can learn from the experience.

I have a wish list of what we should attempt to achieve with work experience. First, young people should know how to learn rather than just what to learn. That umbrella skill should be looked on as the bedrock of experience. It is easy to say that work experience should teach people something new every day. However, employers should be challenged when they take someone on to try to give them different experiences rather than doing the same job over and over again. I have found there is far more talent, ability and skills in young people if they are challenged. If we give them something which challenges their abilities they will learn from their work experience and will be much more useful, both to that employer and future ones.

Second, we should make young people independent rather than dependent. In the future, jobs will not exist in “me too” companies but in businesses which are better than the next. One of the tasks of employers in work experience programmes is to empower young people. We had a theme in our company called SMILE, the “M” of which stood for “make everybody a manager”. Rather than giving young people jobs to do, they should be put in charge of something, even if it is only cleaning part of the floor. They should be told to take the credit or blame for that job. It is amazing how much talent can be found if young people are empowered in that way.

[872] Third, young people should appreciate the difference between acquiring skills and acquiring facts, and how to creat the right balance between the two. In other words, employers will ask not “what do you know?” but “what can you do?”. The ability to communicate by the spoken word becomes much more valuable in that case.

Fourth, young people should know how to apply what they have learned at school and through work experience to real life. Many of us study subjects at school which we think we will never use again. My father ran a holiday camp which had a ballroom which also functioned as a dining room and a theatre and we had to sweep the floor after each use. After he had seen a team of three or four of us sweeping the floor he took me aside and asked if I studied geometry at school. I replied that I did, to which he responded that while he never studied geometry there was something in it about the shortest distance between two points being a straight line. He went on to say that he did not think we used geometry to sweep the floor. He was correct. When I thought it over I realised that we could have swept the floor in one third of the time if we did it differently and I then realised that this was a matter of putting to use in work what we had learned in school. That is my fourth wish — to apply what young people learn in school in real life.

My fifth wish is that future employees have some knowledge of the world of work. That is why I welcome this Bill and what the Minister of State is trying to achieve. It is much more likely to ensure that the person embarking on a first job will have experience of the world of work and will be a more valuable employee.

My last wish is that young people going to work will have learned how to work as a team with others who have different skills and abilities and will realise that they can achieve far more this way. In this Bill, the Minister of State has provided a foundation for the achievement of these wishes. I hope we as a nation do not waste it. I am pleased to see the Bill before the House and I am sure it will pass without difficulty. I also hope that those charged with its implementation will make use of the benefits provided by the Minister of State under the Bill, that, we as a nation, will ensure we use it to the best of our ability and that it will achieve the objectives he has set for it.

Mr. Fitzgerald: Information on Tom Fitzgerald  Zoom on Tom Fitzgerald  In correspondence I received it would appear that the different youth bodies support the Bill and are anxious that it is passed before the general election. There is much legislation to go through the House before then.

I welcome the Bill. The Minister of State can be assured of our support on this side of the House. An old saying comes to mind: “Mol an óige is tiocfaidh sí”. He has given the youth of the country a chance to help themselves a little more than hitherto.

[873]Minister of State at the Department of Education (Mr. Allen): Information on Bernard Allen  Zoom on Bernard Allen  I thank Senators for their comments in praise of the Bill. Senator Farrell stated that there was no reference to vocational education committees. To avoid a needlessly complicated and administrative system, to ensure clarity with regard to the delivery of the service and to have regard to the fact that in many parts of the country Department funding for youth work is channelled directly to youth organisations rather than to the vocational education committees, there will be one tier of administration — the education boards. Where vocational education committees are currently involved in youth work, their responsibility will be transferred to the education boards.

With regard to the point raised by Senator Henry, the Bill provides that the youth work committees of the education boards will include representatives from all of the relevant agencies, including juvenile liaison officers. The Senator also referred to the co-ordination of effort with regard to young people. My Department's contacts with the juvenile liaison services will ensure the co-ordination of efforts. There is an emphasis on the need for co-ordination of the various agencies working at community level. I would welcome further efforts in that regard.

Senator Mooney raised a number of issues, including the national community games. Since most of its activities relate to sport it would fall to be considered under the sporting umbrella rather than in the youth work context. I am mindful that a new role with regard to culture and history is being developed and we will look at the development of the organisation. I wish to pay tribute to what the national community games has achieved. In practical terms, getting young people involved in physical activity and sport will keep them away from the more negative activities of which we see so much.

With regard to the disadvantaged, the aim of the original wording was retained in the new wording. We must recognise that a coming together of needs is required in the youth work sphere, which is concerned with prevention above all. Accordingly, youth work must encompass all young people and we are committed to paying special attention to the disadvantaged. The new wording reflects that and to allay any fears Senator Mooney may have regarding what he sees as a watering down of our commitment, much of youth work relates to dealing with young people at risk who may fall between the systems.

The Senator's point about the vocational education committees is similar to a previous point. Where vocational education committees are involved in grant aid for youth work, their functions will be transferred over time to education boards to avoid too much bureaucracy, administration and duplication. We do not encourage sporting organisations to get involved in voluntary youth councils. They are limited to voluntary youth work. He also questioned why we are including a representative from the Department [874] of Foreign Affairs on the council. It is essentially a recognition of the developing role of youth work and the developing European and international dimension to it.

Senator Mooney also questioned the purpose of the amendments to sections 3, 4 and 6, to which I referred at the outset. I proposed them following discussions with the National Youth Council of Ireland, which had expressed concern that the existing wording might be interpreted by some education boards as meaning that the needs of disadvantaged young people should be dealt with prior to all others. In the interest of consensus I agreed to the council's proposal that the word “priority” should not be used and the replacement phrase specifying “particular regard” will be had to youth work needs of disadvantaged young people between the ages of ten and 21 years was a satisfactory compromise in terms of the achievement of the original aim.

I agree with Senator McGowan that unless legislation is implemented it is useless. I am committed to implementing this legislation over time and the necessary funding and structures will be put in place. However, there was a misunderstanding about the objectives of the Bill. It is not essentially concerned with youth employment.

In relation to Senator Quinn's points, the Bill is not concerned with work experience. Its purpose is to ensure that out of school experiences are provided to assist young people in their personal development and in social education. In tangible terms, it concerns youth organisations and clubs, youth information centres, scout troops and special youth work projects in disadvantaged areas. Youth work initiatives will be addressed in relation to combating drugs and other problems and challenges which young people face. The Bill is not related to the direct creation of jobs for young people. Its priority is their personal development. The Senator mentioned teamwork. However, the true principle of youth work is the development of the spirit of teamwork among young people.

I thank all the Senators for their commitment and comments. This Government has done something no previous Government did. It has introduced the first ever Government sponsored legislation for the development of youth work. This states, loud and clear, that the Government is entirely committed to youth work.

The Government is also committed to providing adequate funding for youth work. That concern was expressed during the debate. Successive Governments have raised the level of funding for the youth affairs section of my Department from £3.765 million in 1987 to just under £14 million in 1997. When one disregards the fact that funding for certain child care and substance abuse projects have this year been transferred from the youth affairs section to the Department of Health, the 1997 provision for the section represents an increase on the equivalent 1996 figure. It is worth noting also in this connection that the [875] 1996 provision represented an increase of over 10 per cent on the corresponding figure for 1995.

The rise in funding in 1996 allowed me to extend provision under the grant scheme for special projects to assist disadvantaged youth, thus making more out of school youth work opportunities available to young people who are at risk due to a combination of factors ranging from early school leaving, low income, unemployment, substance abuse and social isolation. It also permitted me to allocate sufficient funds for the maintenance and development of mainline youth work programmes and services provided by the national and major regional voluntary youth organisations through the youth service grant scheme.

In addition, the extra resources available in 1996 enabled me to undertake development in the network of youth information centres in terms of extending the network of centres and helping to meet the modern information technology requirements of that network. Moreover, I recently succeeded in obtaining additional funding for youth work. The Government recognises that there is significant potential for drug misuse prevention, intervention and awareness strategies in the youth work sector.

Youth work programmes which equip young people with the social skills necessary to make informed choices and decisions for their own lives, encourage a positive self-image and build personal autonomy and promote an awareness of personal responsibilities, are fundamental to a positive prevention strategy. Accordingly, the second report of the ministerial task force on measures to reduce the demand for drugs recommended the establishment of a youth services development fund. The Government last week sanctioned the expenditure of £20 million over a three year period for this purpose and I envisage that measures will include developing youth services for young people in disadvantaged areas, the formulation and dissemination of a substance abuse programme for the youth work sector, training for trainers within that sector and a specialised Outreach programme for youth who are at risk.

This additional £20 million over three years will build on the already significant contribution made by our youth work services to combating drug misuse. For example, the national youth health programme, which is a partnership between the youth affairs section, the National Youth Council of Ireland and the health promotion unit of the Department of Health, provides, throughout the youth service, a broad based, flexible health education programme for young people incorporating information, training and programme development. Furthermore, a number of special projects for disadvantaged young people, supported by the youth affairs section, operate specifically in the drugs education area. In addition, most of the almost 200 projects supported under the grant scheme for [876] special projects to assist disadvantaged youth and operated by youth organisations and community groups throughout the country deal with a range of drug related issues.

The effectiveness of our youth work interventions in the drugs area, as in so many other spheres, will be enhanced by the provision of a legislative framework. In that regard, I remind the Seanad that a long consultative process has been undertaken with all concerned in formulating the provisions of the Youth Work Bill. There is no doubt in my mind that the consultation undertaken has gone a long way towards improving mutual understanding among all of us involved in youth work. It has also undoubtedly promoted an increased awareness of the huge importance of partnership, co-operation and consensus.

The Youth Work Bill represents a job well done. It will not only give a legislative basis to the provision, co-ordination, monitoring and evaluation of existing youth work services but also give a statutory framework to the further development of these services. Above all, the Bill provides opportunities to show the benefits that young people, and especially disadvantaged young people, can derive from participation in youth work. The Bill should greatly assist us in meeting future challenges and help us to secure a continued increase in funding for youth work.

I wish to express my appreciation for the work done by the youth organisations, my officials and the Department in formulating the Bill. The legislation is the product of consultation and agreement and I pay tribute to my officials who worked long and hard on the Bill. I also thank my special adviser, Mr. Tom Daly, who was very involved in the preparation of the Bill. His expertise, knowledge and contacts in the youth services were invaluable.

Question put and agreed to.

Agreed to take remaining Stages today.

Bill put through Committee, reported without amendment and received for final consideration.

Question proposed: “That the Bill do now pass.”

Mr. Farrell: Information on Willie Farrell  Zoom on Willie Farrell  I thank the Minister for bringing this Bill before the House. I have no doubt it will assist in our efforts to prevent crime in the future and help the marginalised and neglected in our society.

Mr. McDonagh: Information on Jarlath McDonagh  Zoom on Jarlath McDonagh  I concur with everything Senator Farrell said. I compliment the Minister for bringing this Bill before the House. It will have a favourable impact on society in the future. I thank the Minister and his staff for a job well done.

Minister of State at the Department of Education (Mr. Allen): Information on Bernard Allen  Zoom on Bernard Allen  I thank Members for their [877] positive contributions. I pay tribute to the organisations and volunteers who will be encouraged to continue their good work under this Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

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