Speaking after Seanad statements on the Youth Guarantee Implementation Plan, Sinn Fein’s Spokesperson on Youth Affairs Senator Kathryn Reilly said that one of her main concerns is the provision that needs to be made to address the needs of young mothers who would hope to find a place on a scheme.
“The current Youth Guarantee Implementation Plan states on page 8 that “Among the inactive NEETS (not in employment, education or training) aged 18- 24, almost 60% are carers – primarily young women aged 22 – 24 who describe themselves as looking after children.”
Young women in constituencies throughout Ireland have told me, repeatedly, that the main obstacle to getting out of the social welfare trap is the lack of childcare support for those who try to avail of further education or job opportunities.
“They are caught in a crazy catch 22 situation; social welfare has been drastically cut, rent allowance has been cut, the Christmas bonus has been cut, and yet they are expected to somehow cover the costs of childcare and travel should they get offered a place on a course or training scheme. It doesn’t take a genius to see that the maths won’t add up.
“Not every young woman has a family member who can take care of a child. More often than not, these young mothers, from disadvantaged communities, are fending for themselves.
“They have full responsibility for their children. As one young woman said to me recently:
‘You try to better yourself but they won’t allow you to because of the restrictive measures they put in place. You’re always caught. It’s so frustrating’
“On top of the cuts that have been enacted and the lack of childcare support available, there is the added complication of education and enrolment fees. Very often these young women feel the Government are happy for them to remain in the circumstances they are in, since there are so many obstacles in their way of progressing.
“Any personalised plans for young people need to take serious consideration of these debilitating obstacles and provide solutions in how Government can assist young mothers in overcoming them. My conversations with youth groups throughout the country have confirmed my belief that young mothers are calling out for positive options to build independent lives for themselves and their children. It is our duty, as their elected representatives, to offer them that chance.”