Date Released: 17 February 2014
Youth workers are a constant presence on the frontline in communities that have had to bear the devastating impact of cuts to services. In response, SIPTU members working in youth groups across Dublin came together a year ago to form the Dublin Youth Workers’ Committee to represent not just themselves but also the young people they work with.
Aishling Golding, a youth worker in SWAN youth centre in Dublin, told Liberty: “The committee was brought together the day after we held a protest outside the City of Dublin Youth Services Board (CDYSB) offices, the funding body
for youth projects in Dublin.”
“We had a meeting in Liberty Hall and each youth project was asked to nominate a representative. Since then we have met regularly.”
Ray Corcoran, of the Poppintree Youth Project, who chairs the Dublin Youth Workers’ Committee, recalled the lack of co-ordination before the committee was set up.
He said: “Projects often didn’t do very much together. For instance there are three youth projects in Ballymun and we would only really co-ordinate our activities when organising the local Hallow’een festival.
“People were generally busy running their own projects and didn’t have time to discuss shared employment issues.
“Since the committee has started meeting, the benefits of working together are obvious.”
This is a view echoed by Tracey Hickson, of the Ballymun Regional Youth Resource. She told Liberty: “The committee has helped the coordination of things. Before, we were all sort of operating in a vacuum. Although we were going
through the same things, we were all going through them separately. The really good thing about this committee is that we can all come together and communicate things frankly.”
Since its formation, the committee has organised several protests to highlight the effect of cutbacks in the sector and become involved in direct negotiations with Government.
“We have met the Minister for Children, Frances Fitzgerald,” said Aishling. “We sat down with her along with our SIPTU reps in Dáil Éireann and had a very frank discussion.
“We told her what was happening on the ground, that the needs of young people were not being met, the stress that was being felt by staff. Since then we have had a couple of other meetings with her Department.” The committee’s work is resulting in growing interest within community projects about the union. Ray said: “More membership is coming into the section and we are getting project administrators joining now as well.”
Paula Mooney, of the Ballymun Women’s Resource Centre, pointed out that cuts in funding projects have had stark consequences on the ground.
She said: “Our project was cut 5% in 2013 and we’re getting a further cut of 5% this year. We are now just using the materials that have been left over from before. What youth projects can do is being severely damaged.”
The young people attending the projects are acutely aware of the impact of cuts.
“They know what is going on, simple things like no hot meals, no Christmas dinner for some of our groups this year,” said Tracey. “I told them this is the hard face of the recession, these kids are 10 up to 21. We had to make some hard decisions over who was going to get food and we said the 10 to 12-year-olds are the priority.”
The work of the committee in helping present a united opposition to the cuts agenda has been key.
Ray added: “We all work for local boards of management and the CDYSB say its relationship is with those boards.
“What they have been doing is talking to the boards separately and saying you’re just getting a 4% cut and you’re getting a 20% one. It is a divide and conquer approach, so we have decided we have to stand in solidarity to fight the cuts.”