Youth workers say deprivation amongst young people on the rise, as a result of increased cost of living
Over 3,000 people have signed a National Youth Council of Ireland (NYCI) petition calling on the government to provide much-needed funding for youth work in Budget 2023, so youth groups across the country can continue to deliver essential services during a cost-of-living crisis that is affecting their ability to reach young people.
Young people were at Leinster House to present the petition to members of the Oireachtas Committee on Youth ahead of Budget Day, next Tuesday. They shared stories of how their lives were changed by youth work and called for an extra €12 million in Government funding for the youth work sector and young people.
Research into the impact of the rising cost-of-living, carried out by RED C on behalf of NYCI, shows that 2 in 3 people, across all age groups, are in favour of increasing government spending on youth work services in communities as a way of supporting young people.
Commenting on the call for extra funding, Paul Gordon, Director of Policy and Advocacy, National Youth Council of Ireland, said: “The powerful stories shared by young people from all over Ireland show that youth work really does change lives. We’re calling on the Government to make sure young people’s voices aren’t overlooked in this Budget, and our research shows that there is strong public support for them through greater investment in vital youth work programmes.”
“Thousands of young people across Ireland, including many in our most disadvantaged communities, are reliant on the support of youth work organisations. Youth work builds resilience, boosts self-confidence, gives young people a sense of belonging and connection, and makes them feel heard in ways they wouldn’t otherwise be.
However, youth work organisations are struggling to provide the level of services that young people and communities need due to rising cost-of-living pressures. We fear that without sufficient Government support, many will struggle to meet growing demands at a time when young people need support most.”
The impact of the rising cost-of-living on youth work
NYCI, the representative body for voluntary youth organisations in Ireland, working to support over 380,000 young people, has sought the views of member youth organisations on how the rising cost-of-living is affecting their ability to deliver youth work services and the impact they have seen it have on young people in their community.
- 73% agreed they had seen an increase in deprivation amongst young people in the communities they work in, as a result of the increase in the cost of living.
- 72% had experienced an ‘increase in demand for services in the last 6 months’.
Many cited rising costs of electricity, fuel and food as eating into their budgets, which the NYCI fears is affecting youth work organisations’ ability to deliver for young people. One respondent said: “With inflation getting higher we struggle to get food for young people that need it”.
Another responded: “We had to massively reduce our services this year, but most particularly the summer programmes. The cost of buses and activities increased by close to 30% from last year. We absolutely could not turn some young people away, so we chose as a service to do less, but for everyone. We cannot offer as much diversity in what we deliver because we cannot afford the materials. We are spending the majority on just keeping the building running.”
“As a result, the ‘fun’ in youth work has been vastly minimised, and inflation has reduced us to just providing a basic service. Our numbers have increased but the funding has not increased to reflect this. We as employees did not think of our own salaries once, but simply need more funding for our young people.”
Support for youth services needed from government
As part of its pre-budget submission, NYCI is calling on the Government to:
- Invest an additional €10.96m in youth work services to continue the recovery of youth work services post-pandemic, and to manage the impact of rising inflation.
- Establish an additional fund of €1m for youth work services to support the needs of young people fleeing the war in Ukraine.
- Allocate €200,000 to commission a study on the demographic profile of workers and volunteers in the Irish youth work sector.
Further details are available in the NYCI Pre-Budget Submission.