Imagine, through an accident of birth and geography – that you were born into that carnage and chaos of gangland violence on your doorstep? You are still expected to get proper sleep; get up the next morning; have your homework ready; and try to get on with your day and perform like your peers? No child, no matter how resilient, no matter how stable his or her family is, can survive that without harm and hurt. That’s why we exist. And that’s why we’re needed now more than ever. The Covid 19 Pandemic has doubled down on already-vulnerable children. Because of the restrictions, we haven’t been able to be there for them in the way they need it. It breaks my heart. It’s going to take a massive effort – and extra resources – to save this generation of amazing children and young people. We can only do it together.
Leader of the JUST ASK project
The Covid-19 pandemic has not affected people equally. For the healthy and those easily able to work from home the pandemic lockdown was a massive shock to normal life. But for people on low incomes and insecure employment, it precipitated a frightening fall into poverty and stress. For those already in deprivation – the poorest of the poor – it was a nightmare. It meant an ongoing struggle for survival; to keep the basics of life intact; to keep their children in education; to fend off hunger and serious mental health problems; to stay safe from violence and addiction. In extreme cases, it became an issue of life and death.
Among this group, children and young people are more negatively affected; are less resilient to recover; are harder to reach with solutions and are more likely to spiral downwards into further isolation, behavioural problems, mental ill-health and danger.
Children’s lives are now. Childhood can’t wait. Progress made to date towards positive life progressions and transitions in their education, well-being and employment opportunities are being wiped out – in real time – as the post Covid-19 clock ticks on.
10% of our 17 year-olds report that they have no adult they feel they can turn to for advice or help. Re-establishing and strengthening the connection between Youth Workers/supportive professionals and young people is now all the more critical.
Before Covid-19, 10% of our 12 year-olds would have dropped out of education before entering secondary school. A further 10% would have dropped out before Leaving Cert. As a result of this pandemic, these figures will certainly become much more bleak.
70% of Youth Workers are seeing mental and physical health issues developing and worsening among children and young adults – a major crisis is developing before our eyes.
Youth leadership reports that children are falling way behind because of home-based education with little hope of catching up. This generation of children are being referred to as the Invisible Class of 2020.
Some parents do not have the ability to help with remote learning. This is partly due to a lack of resources and suitable technology, as well as their own negative experience of education during their school years.
Leadership in the sector is emphasising that children and young people can’t wait for the economy to bounce back. They need urgent support now.
The depression rate for early school leavers was already at a massive 25%. Youth Workers know it will be extremely challenging between now and the end of the year to pull vulnerable young people out from the cracks they will inevitably fall into in terms of their mental and physical health, their education and training prospects.
The economy is heading into recession. It will be a battle to retain budgets for community services and social care. As in the last recession, the poor and vulnerable will again suffer the brunt of the fallout.
Pre Covid-19, a quarter of 18 to 24-year-olds were neither in employment, education or training. This number has risen hugely since the lockdown – and will continue to worsen.
Two-thirds of Youth Workers are extremely concerned about the inevitable lack of employment opportunities which is already happening because of Covid-19 and will be worsened by the recession that is sure to follow.
He and some of his friends had a big interest in bikes, so we developed the bike project around them, fixing, maintaining and building them from scratch. We found out later he was struggling academically in school so we consciously focused on his obvious mechanical aptitude as we felt this may be a way of supporting his route into the workforce. Subsequently, we noticed he also had untapped leadership potential, so we trained him and his three mates as youth leaders. Darrel really grew in this environment. We put trust and responsibility on his young shoulders and he thrived.
Core Youth Service Worker
To resource effective local solutions nationwide.
We know that by carefully mentoring and guiding a child or young person through the key character-forming transitions in their life, we can help them avoid pitfalls, maximise their potential and build thriving futures. Some of these transitions can make or break a person’s prospects. For instance, the critical move from primary to post primary education, the emotional transition from childhood through adolescence into young adulthood, and the challenge of finding a sure-footed pathway into work or further training and education.
But getting through these vital transitions successfully has just become far more stressful, difficult and uncertain, post Covid-19.
The situation is so grave and urgent for our country’s excluded young, the Irish Youth Foundation must now ensure that we have the necessary funds in place to meet the cost of the extra supports required to undo the catastrophic damage caused by the lockdown of crucial services and supports.
So, this new ambitious €1.5m GENERATION PANDEMIC Recovery Fund has been conceived and built to shepherd our most vulnerable young by:
A. Assisting Youth Workers to identify, reconnect with and persuade young people who have fallen through the cracks to re-engage with crucial services.
B. Funding proven and innovative programmes, facilities and supports across these three carefully- selected, game-changing pillars: