Speaking after today's publication of the Youth Guarantee Plan, Sinn Fein's Spokesperson for Youth Affairs said:
“Since the end of last year, I have been meeting with youth organisations, youth workers, youth groups and various stakeholders with an interest in the operation of the Youth Guarantee. What has been striking so far has been the lack of awareness or indeed the lack of engagement that many groups have had on this issue.
“There is a lot of ground to be covered in terms of public awareness about the scheme. A crucial part of implementation has to be making people aware of it- if the Youth Guarantee is to be a success these groups and young people themselves need to have a stake in it.
“During one of my meetings, a youth organisation in the Ballymun pilot project area explained how it had only been informed on plans underway for the project, as opposed to meaningful engagement and consultation on what best suited the youth it worked with.
“I welcome the commitment on the plan to have a national partnership model, but there is a real need to make sure that we are not just paying lip service to this. It cannot just be a process of information; it needs to be constructive engagement where agencies and youth organisations have a symbiotic relationship.
Of particular concern is how young people under 18 will be registered with the youth guarantee. The plan recommends that community and voluntary groups would play a role in this however, during my consultation meetings, youth groups have had no role in this or discussion on how they can feed into this process.
“Indeed, I was advised that in the pilot scheme, only young people on the Live Register are being included. With 8,000 young people leaving secondary school early each year, this is a cause for concern. The response to develop a referral scheme between post primary schools and Education and Training Boards to follow up with early school leavers is welcome, but the role of youth organisations cannot be underestimated in this regard. There is a substantial space for more involvement.
“Sinn Féin has repeatedly stated that the Youth Guarantee should be an addition to schemes currently in place. Any places and funding to be made for young people under this scheme should complement and enhance the current schemes. It's not clear from the document published today how much announced comes from existing provision, and how much represents new places or resources. It would not acceptable to displace other jobseekers or others on the Live Register, nor is it fair to create competition for places. The Implementation Plan notes that ‘other cohorts will be displaced from access to these opportunities’, something which is inexcusable and short sighted.
“The Youth Guarantee has been highlighted as a way to address youth unemployment. It should not create further unemployment issues in the same instance for other cohorts of people. Unemployment should be tackled in a holistic way- not by pitting sections of society off against each other.”