#SluggerSoapbox: The impact of Stormont’s cuts on young people

Cuts being made at Executive level have not been thought through to community level – and the consequences could be significantly worse than Ministers anticipate argues Paul Smyth, Chief Executive of the youth focused charity Public Achievement.

According to DETI, the unemployment figure in Northern Ireland (August to October 2014) was 6.3%. However the youth unemployment figure (18 – 24 year olds) is more than 3 times that level at 21.2% and is likely to continue to rise over the coming months.

With freezes to recruitment in much of the public sector (including the PSNI), and widespread cuts to the voluntary sector, young people’s employment options are becoming increasingly limited, and student places are being reduced.

In applying cuts the Executive has taken a blunt axe rather than a surgeon’s scalpel to budgets. So for example in Education a blanket cut of 8.4% in the Department’s budget has been passed on as a £3 million cut to the Youth Service (the collection of statutory and voluntary organisations that administer and deliver youth work) – which already had a very constrained budget. Similar cuts are being made to schools.

And Minister John O’Dowd has also completely removed the Department’s community relations budget for schools and youth organisations – more on that shortly.

As all youth work funding from Education is administered through the Education and Library Boards (soon to be Education Authority) or the Youth Council for Northern Ireland, those bodies have seen their budgets cut – the former by £2 million and the latter by £1 million. This equates to a 7.7% cut to the youth service in the ELBs, and nearly a 20% cut to the Youth Council budget.

It seems highly unlikely that a significant part of these cuts will not be passed on to front-line youth work. Front-line youth organisations tend to operate with a tiny administrative cost – and they also tend to involve large numbers of volunteers (22 for each work according to Youth Council figures) and even larger numbers of young people.

Many organisations are also involved in bringing in funding from a wide variety of sources. For example – last year for every £1 Public Achievement brought in from the Department of Education, we were able to lever in an additional £8.17 from other sources. Using a crude calculation, if our funding from the Youth Council is cut by 20% (a reduction of £14,400) this could cost us over £117,600 in match funding.

We could employ at least 3 full-time qualified youth workers for that (including overheads), working with over 60 volunteers and well over 600 young people. What looks like a fairly minor cut in the grand scheme of things, could impact on the lives of hundreds of young people and volunteers through just one organisation.

O’Dowd’s predecessor, Catriona Ruane cut the Departments community relations budget by 70%. This was after a widespread consultation responded to by hundreds of groups and thousands of young people that was overwhelmingly telling the Department that the cross-community and inter-school work that was going on was important.

The O’Dowd cut – £1.1 million is the final nail in the coffin of such work sponsored through education, in spite of over 3 decades of development and research. Given the Executive’s supposed commitment to a joint ‘Together Building a United Community” strategy it is staggering that education – where much of the community relations practice was developed in youth groups and schools – is cutting this budget.

However the current budget is so small, and spread so thinly that not many will notice.

It is however very odd that two of the key actions in TBUC – the United Youth programme and the Summer Camps scheme are being administered by DEL and the Councils (via OFMDFM) respectively – when neither department has any track record in supporting youth work.

So here are 5 reasons why I think cutting front-line youth work provision at this time is just plain stupid!

  • Young work is an important – and sometimes the only – support mechanism to many vulnerable young people
  • Youth organisations provide significant added value by training and supporting thousands of volunteers who give a colossal amount of their time to working with young people. A small cut has a huge impact.
  • Youth workers are needed more than ever as youth unemployment is the highest in the UK and set to increase, and families and young people who are already squeezed, get squeezed further.
  • Youth work often provides a compensating effect for other deficits (lack of family support, poor experience of school etc.) in their lives. Young people can become prey to more negative influences in the absence of support. One young person in juvenile detention costs £88,181 per year. Young people being drawn into paramilitary organisations can have much more serious consequences for all of us.
  • It doesn’t make economic sense. The costs of not doing youth work are likely to be vastly more significant than the costs of effective youth work. Youth workers are trusted by young people in ways that most other professionals – teachers, probation officers, social workers and so on – are not.

Paul Smyth is the Chief Executive of youth focused charity Public Achievement. Many readers will know their WIMPS (Where Is My Public Servant?) project and website, and they also work with young people on policing and violence in their communities.

Paul is also helping with the current ‘I Love Youth Work’ campaign on Twitter @iloveyouthworkni and Facebook. Follow the campaign on #iloveyw

  • Morpheus

    Unemployment in 18-24 year olds in Northern Ireland is 21.2%…no wonder the next round of Tory cuts include removing their JSA while they scratch around for non – existent jobs

  • SeaanUiNeill

    “Let them eat cake.”

  • Practically_Family

    They’re not really “Stormont cuts”.

  • Turgon

    I do have very significant sympathy for organisations such as this. They seem much more useful and focused on getting practical things done for young people unlike the Children’s Commissioner etc. However, I think it is only fair to ask a direct question.

    Above Mr. Smyth states “Many organisations are also involved in bringing in funding from a wide variety of sources. For example – last year for every £1 Public Achievement brought in from the Department of Education, we were able to lever in an additional £8.17 from other sources.”

    How much of this funding comes from public monies (be that local government, Westminster, Quangos, Europe etc.) and how much comes from outside? If there is a limited supply of public money it has to be prioritised. That said this charity looks a lot more worthy and useful than many of the charities and vanity projects which are still having money thrown at them.

  • barnshee

    We have the republican community boasting about the demographic tide which will sweep away the prods —and then complaining about the surplus of 18-24 year olds on the dole -Some people cannot connect cause and effect

  • Morpheus

    We also have people who make unfounded, and quite frankly weird, statements. Explain the cause and effect for us if you don’t mind

  • Dan

    Another day, another whinge from the public sector as reality begins to dawn….

  • barnshee

    ” Explain the cause and effect for us if you don’t mind”

    Arithmetic

    In an increasing population

    A We have the republican community boasting about the demographic tide which will sweep away the prods Yes/No?

    B It follows that there are then substantially more being born into the”republican community” the “other” -Yes/No?

    D Republican boasting about the majority of pupils in schools being “catholic” Yes/No

    “Unemployment in 18-24 year olds in Northern Ireland is 21.2%”

    The “supply” of 18-24 year olds thus exceeds the current “demand” –while they “scratch around for non – existent jobs” as you put it.

    Where have all these 18-24 years old come from surely not those feckless prods?

  • Mister_Joe

    A whole generation of young people all across Europe especially seem to have had their futures blighted by the current generation of banksters. Spit and damn them all (not the youngsters).

  • Morpheus

    A – No the republican community don’t boast that. Care to show examples?

    B – No, substantially more are being born into the Catholic community, that doesn’t make them republican. Good to know that the terms are interchangeable in your head though, says a lot.

    I think that takes care of D and the rest of the crud as well.

    How’s that arithmetic working out for you now?

    Take off the tin foil hat

  • eiregain

    What has being catholic got to do with there employment status… NI unionists can be archaic at times.

    ok Barshee (I will refer to you as BS as it seems fitting due to your ongoing crusade against Catholicism)…are you suggesting that Catholics are more unemployed simply because they are more numerous? or that population boom is simply to blame… and that Catholics should bite their tongue because there are more of us? and we have some responsibility in causing it?

    or the worst way I could read this is, Unemployment figures are as a direct result of catholic population boom.
    (Cuba is slightly larger than Ireland and has twice the population with a 2% unemployment rate your argument stands on shaky ground) seems more likely this crisis is born of political whataboutery

    You remarks are idiotic, all of these conclusions are effing insane and ignore every other contributing factor to unemployment in NI. We are a far from a meritocracy here, nepotism and sectarianism still play a roll in business and decision making in our towns and cities. (your brand of prejudice is shining through, cementing my point) aswell as austerity, credit crunch, monopolisation, globalisation, stagnation of wages and much more to contribute to these figures.

    Im still unsure as to what your suggesting and what your conclusion is?
    Could you refrain from rhetorical sarcasm and explain simply your cause and effect?

    So we can all understand exactly what you mean instead of feeling unsure as to whether we should correct you for a vague unrelated and incoherent and possibly offensive comment.

  • barnshee

    “A – No the republican community don’t boast that. Care to show examples?”

    http://sluggerotoole.com/2014/04/07/sinn-feins-demographic-war-for-constitutional-change-is-useless-without-middle-class/
    http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09670889508455471?journalCode=cisr20#.VJQVhsgKA

    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0962629897000437

    Think the Arithmetic holds

    If as you appear to concede

    ” substantially more are being born into the Catholic community” ”

    “that doesn’t make them republican” ? Well that not what SF says and who am I to argue.
    i.e more of ussuns than themmuns ” and a UI will come

    Repeats the point you decline to address

    Where have all these 18-24 years old come from– surely not those feckless prods?

  • Morpheus

    I ignored the question because it is so moronic that I thought it didn’t merit answering. But hey ho. The 18-24 years are from Northern Ireland and, wait for this, are made up of Catholics, Protestants, Atheists, Muslims, etc. Weird concept I know

    As for your links can you point out where it says that republican community boast that the demographic tide which will “sweep away the prods”?

  • Wiseabap

    Fair question Turgon in the year in question, we generated roughly 20% of our own funding (we make films, provide a live streaming service and do youth engagement activities for a variety of agencies). We received another 35% or so from private trusts and foundations, the remainder (45%) was from UK Government and EU sources. These ratios will vary from year to year. You might also enjoy our WIMPS (Where Is My Public Servant?) project – which many Slugger readers are familiar with http://wimps.tv

  • kalista63

    Unlike the way unionism and Loyalism lay claim to ALL Protestants, I can’t recall republicanism laying claim to ALL catholics.

  • barnshee

    Well bit by bit i(ts all just arithmetic really)

    “What has being catholic got to do with there employment status… NI unionists can be archaic at times.”

    We have an excess supply of labour in NI
    There is large scale unemployment in NI
    How has this imbalance arisen ?

    “are you suggesting that Catholics are more unemployed simply because they are more numerous?”

    If there are a majority of “catholics” in the 18/24 cohort then “catholics” will be a majority in unemployed component of the cohort— It is again my ould friend Arithmetic

    “(Much has been made (see other post ) of the “demographic change” in NI)

    “Cuba is slightly larger than Ireland and has twice the population with a 2% unemployment rate your argument stands on shaky ground) seems more likely this crisis is born of political “whataboutery”

    I have been to CUBA (the weather is certainly better than NI)
    A state where doctors and dustmen are paid the same and the average disposable income is less than £40 a month is unlikely to provide a useful comparison for NI. Unless of course that`s “meritocracy.”

    “We are a far from a meritocracy here, nepotism and sectarianism still play a roll in business and decision making in our towns and cities.”

    We have seriously effective Equality legislation (I swear by if only because it sure helped me) If you have problems in these areas the legislation is there to be used .

    “Im still unsure as to what your suggesting and what your conclusion is?”

    I am suggesting that NI has a serious unemployment problem and its not not new it was present in the 1950`s it is present now. ( Over the years I spent two spells in England when the jobs dried up in NI)

    I am suggesting that the causes of the unemployment are looked at honestly by all concerned. One of the causes is the excess labour supply.

    There are many others

    Inability to attract inward investment
    Excessive dependency on “non job “jobs in the public sector
    Stupid salary levels in parts of the Public Sector
    The reputation arising from the troubles /sectarian division
    Then there are the factors beyond local or national control

    It is used to be “fashionable” to blame the “unionists”
    They have not been in ” charge ” for over 40 years-whose “fault” is it now

  • barnshee

    If I change “boast” to “claim” will that do?

  • Morpheus

    *Sigh*

    Can you point out where it says that republican community claim that the demographic tide which will “sweep away the prods”?

  • barnshee

    “Unlike the way unionism and Loyalism lay claim to ALL Protestants”

    In that case I suggest you wheel out the ” Protestant” republicans– oh wait a minute Billy Leonard has been deselected…

  • Kevin Breslin

    RE: Dustman vs. Doctor argument

    http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/222811/Binmen-earning-45-000-a-year-for-24-hour-week

    http://www.nhscareers.nhs.uk/explore-by-career/doctors/pay-for-doctors/

    “Doctors in the specialty doctor grade earn a basic salary of between £37,176 and £69,325.”

  • barnshee

    Good luck to both esp the Dustmen

  • notimetoshine

    I fear cuts will happen and we will just have to deal with them. I am wary of special treatment for individual sectors I fear the pain will have to be shared.

    Having said that I must say that youth work is one the shining lights of our public sector. I was involved in many youth projects when I was in my teens and they helped me through what was a difficult period in my life. I know of the wonderful work these guys do helping vulnerable and marginalised young people and I have seen the fantastic results they have produced. Also the cross community work I experienced was superb, they just helped people get on without the need of huge expense or complex theories. I hope the youth work sector can cope with these cuts because they do great work.