‘Role of youth work in bringing our communities together more important now than ever,’ conference told
NYCI National Conference 2023 launches 10 year ‘Vision for Youth Work’
The National Youth Council of Ireland (NYCI) has unveiled a new Vision for Youth Work, at its National Conference today (08.12.23).
Speaking at the conference NYCI CEO, Mary Cunningham said: “The Vision for Youth Work, developed together by stakeholders across the youth sector, sets out a vision for the future direction of youth work in Ireland over the next 10 years, where ‘All young people living in Ireland have access to high-quality, well-resourced youth work services, which meet their expressed needs, delivered by paid professionals and well-supported volunteers.’
“The saddening recent events in Dublin highlight how, now more than ever, we need to work towards this vision and invest in young people in communities right across the country. We must foster closer connections, a shared understanding of the challenges facing our society, and a sense of belonging for young people. That journey begins with youth work.
“The youth work sector operates within very challenging contexts, often providing a lifeline to young people experiencing social and economic exclusion, at risk of poverty and the adverse long-term implications of this. This means the role of youth work in bringing our communities together is more important now than ever,” added Ms Cunningham.
Personal stories of how youth work changes lives
Reflecting on the impact that youth work can have on communities and individuals, Dr. Katriona O’Sullivan, lecturer and best-selling author of ‘Poor’, shared how youth work changed her life:
“My mum and dad were heroin addicts and we lived a chaotic life. I ended up pregnant at 15 and dropped out of school, but Mel at my youth club encouraged me to go back to school, to believe in myself. Eventually I found my way back to education as a mature student and graduated with a Phd.
Having a youth worker who was consistent, who was kind and who could listen without judgement changed my life. I felt less alone! And when times were hard I knew there was someone on my side, someone who believed in me. Not all children have my experiences at home, but all children need to feel heard and youth workers provide this in a different way to family.”
Need to invest in supporting young people in our communities
“The unveiling of the ‘Vision for Youth Work’ represents a galvanising moment for young people and the youth work sector at an important moment for Irish society. Over the next ten years, we must see increased recognition of the significant role youth work plays in fostering social cohesion and community resilience and, importantly, we need investment to make sure this can continue.
“This ambitious vision signifies a commitment not only to individual growth but also to the social fabric that binds us together. It is a rallying cry for policymakers, funders, and youth work organisations to work together to ensure the necessary investment, support, and strategic initiatives are in place to enable youth work to thrive and to translate the vision into a reality for all our young people,” concluded Ms Cunningham.
Minister O’Gorman launches ‘Vision for Youth Work’
Officially launching the ‘Vision for Youth Work’ Roderic O’Gorman TD, Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth said: “I am delighted to be here today to mark this publication of NYCI’s Vision for Youth Work and to support this important opportunity for people across the sector to come together and to discuss how to realise this vision in practice. My Department is committed to creating a fair, equal and inclusive society where rights are respected, and where everyone can reach their potential. Youth work is a key lever in that mission, providing spaces, supports and opportunities for young people of all backgrounds to develop their personal capacity, to connect with and positively shape their communities and wider society and to thrive. I welcome the leadership of NYCI and the input of everyone involved in developing this shared vision for the sector.
The National Youth Council of Ireland (NYCI) is a membership-led umbrella organisation that represents and supports the interests of voluntary youth organisations and uses its collective experience to act on issues that impact on young people.
Dr Katriona O’Sullivan is an associate professor in Maynooth University, a psychologist and memoirist. Her first book, Poor, debuted at #1 on the Irish Non-Fiction bestseller list. The book, a memoir of growing up in extreme poverty, describes the far-reaching impact of childhood poverty. As one of 5 children in a home shaped by her parents’ heroin addiction, Katriona’s story chronicles her journey from poverty, teenage pregnancy, homelessness to graduating with a PhD from Trinity College Dublin and becoming an award-winning lecturer whose work challenges barriers to education. Poor is her stirring argument for the importance of looking out for our kids’ futures. Of giving them hope, practical support and meaningful opportunities. She has been invited speaker at the World Education Forum, the European Gender Action Workshop on Women and Digitalization and most recently at the UN gender equality workshop.