Two South Kerry mothers are pleading with Kerry ETB to reinstate a vital youth programme on the Iveragh peninsula to give young people secure a better future.
Youthreach is longer available in Cahersiveen or Killorglin so any teenager wishing to avail of the programme would have to travel to Killarney or Tralee, which is not feasible.
Youthreach offers those who have left secondary school without qualifications an opportunity to study further concentrating on core subjects, life skills as well as more creative subjects. Kerry Education and Training Board (ETB) run the programme across the county.
Elaine Deinum whose daughter attended Youthreach said that the benefits cannot be underestimated.
“It is a travesty that it has been pulled. It is a phenomenal programme I can’t make sense of why it was pulled,” she said.
“What will happen our young people who have mental health issues?”
“I know young people who were expelled from school and whose life chances would have been scuppered except for Youthreach. I saw young people who were struggling with school and smoking cannabis and they were diverted to Youthreach and it really helped.
“I believe wholeheartedly that several young people were diverted from drugs and low-level crime because of Youthreach. It is an avenue for young people that could fall through the net.”
Elaine said her daughter who has autism and suffered mental health issues couldn’t face school.
“She had a traumatic experience in school but this was more holistic, not just academic. There is an emphasis on life skills. It is much more founded and prepares you for life. She has now gone on to college. She never missed a day at Youthreach which was unheard of it in school.”
“I can’t explain the difference it made to my child. She thrived and became a different person.”
Elaine who works for Resilience Care disability services and was formerly involved in youth work in South Kerry says she continues to recommend the programme to young people with whom she works and she feels there is a strong demand for the programme.
“If this is a financial exercise you can’t quantify the long-term savings in terms of the life-chances it provides,” added Elaine.
Parent Lucy Henehan from Cahersiveen is also campaigning for the service to continue. She knows first-hand just how important support services for young people are and she wants no other parent to suffer as she has trying to access services.
“Young people with mental health and anxiety in school have blossomed in Youthreach,” she said.
“If it is for financial reasons we can’t quantify the social cost of having these services in place rather than the financial cost. This service is so badly needed. It does not make sense.”
Lucy has started an Uplift Campaign online to have the service restored again and both women are calling on TD’s and the public to back it.
“You don’t realise how badly it is needed until a family member needs this.”
Kerry ETB said the Youthreach service was ended due to the lack of numbers.
“A restructuring of our full time provision in Cahersiveen and Killorglin took place in 2019. At the time there was only one under 18 years of age learner on the Youthreach programme in Caherciveen and two under 18 years of age in Killorglin. This was not a viable number to continue with Youthreach in the area,” said Director of Further Education and Training Owen O’Donnell.
“Kerry ETB has regularly monitored the potential demand for Youthreach in the area and are currently undertaking a review to establish if there has been an increased demand in 2021.”
The petition can be found at https://my.uplift.ie/petitions/reopen-youthreach-in-iveragh-southwest-kerry.