Supporting the Development of Youth Services

Image of person - Paddy Muldoon, Youth Development Officer
Paddy Muldoon, Youth Development Officer.

Did you know that we have legal responsibilities for Youth Work through which we support the development of youth services across the county? In this blog our Youth Development Officer, Paddy Muldoon, tells us more about it.

The Youth Work Act, 2001, defines Youth Work as a planned programme of education designed for the purpose of aiding and enhancing the personal and social development of young persons through their voluntary involvement and which is:

a) complementary to their formal education and training; and,

b) provided primarily by voluntary youth work organisations.

The Act allowed for the provision of a Youth Officer in each Education and Training Board with the aim of developing a planned programme of education designed for the purpose of aiding and enhancing the personal and social development of young people through their voluntary participation.  A number of strategies and frameworks directs the legislative responsibilities of Donegal ETB; these include:

The role of the Youth Development Officer is to support the provision, coordination, administration and assessment of youth work services across the county. This includes sharing information from relevant government departments in relation to such support and assessing the way in which youth work organisations complete their work to ensure it is economical, efficient and effective. This is carried out by administering grants to funded youth organisations, service assessment and financial monitoring to support them to improve their governance structures, funded programmes and related services in the interests of young people.

What does this look like in practice?

Our youth development work is quite wide ranging. An important aspect is supporting the development and enhancement of the capacity of staff-led youth projects and leadership in volunteer-led youth clubs through training.  This includes, for example, providing funding to youth organisations to employ Regional Development Officers to carry out youth worker and volunteer youth leader training in areas such as mentoring, First Aid, Safeguarding/Children First and administration/completing funding application forms and progress reporting.

Our function has a role in recognising and addressing disadvantage experienced by children and young people through the use of the best available data and evidence, and to promote evidence-based practices for all those working with children and young people. Therefore, we also contribute to the development of policies and strategies such the aforementioned Better Outcomes Brighter Futures, National Youth Strategy and National Quality Standards Framework.

Advocating for and obtaining additional and new funding for the youth sector in the county is also an important aspect of our work. Alongside this, reviewing and improving existing funding schemes such as Local Youth Club Grant Scheme and the Capital Grant Scheme has been an important support to the county’s youth services. For example, through various working groups, we’ve  advised the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration, and Youth (DCEDIY) Youth Affairs Unit on how to maximise benefits and positive outcomes for the children and young people of Donegal. This would include continuous communication and consultation with DCEDIY’s Youth Affairs Unit, young people, youth workers and volunteer youth leaders.

We provide reports to DCEDIY and in recent years they carried out an extensive Value for Money and Policy Review of Youth Programmes (VFMPR) which focused on the effective and efficient achievement of policy objectives through youth work programmes, finding that the programmes and their governance arrangements required significant reform – we contributed information to this review and are leading out on the commitment to enhance and advance youth funding schemes. This was the first VFMPR exercise undertaken and the DCEDIY was keen to harness the VFMPR as one of a range of change initiatives designed to rationalise, reform and improve programmes and areas of policy responsibility assumed by the department (from other departments) when it was set up. Donegal and Kerry were chosen as the first ETBs to participate in this process.

Finally, an important aspect of our work is administering a number of grant schemes (some of which are annual) such as UBU Your Place Your Space, Local Youth Club Grant, Youth Information Centre, Youth Employability Initiative, LGBTQI+, Capital Funding and the Targeted Youth Employability Initiative.

How do we inform our decisions?

In recent years we completed an Area Profile, Needs Assessment and Service Requirement of the county by collecting relevant statistics and information, to inform decisions made about funding for generic and targeted service provision for young people under schemes such as the UBU Your Place Your Space scheme. In order to create an understanding of the environment, circumstances and needs of young people in their communities, each funding cycle begins by carrying out a systematic needs assessment. To do this in a consistent way Donegal ETB is required to complete an Area Profile Needs Assessment and Service Requirement (APNASR). This needs assessment supports us in identifying and prioritising the needs of young people who fall within the defined target groups/themes under the UBU Your Place Your Space funding scheme. Over the past year, two new UBU Projects have come to Donegal in Inishowen (led by the Donegal Youth Service) and west Donegal (led by Foróige).

Its purpose was to ensure that all ETBs have a standardised tool to gather and analyse data and information to support the identification of young people’s needs in their functional area.

In future blogs, we hope to expand on some of the initiatives mentioned above.