A youth social worker is warning that Ireland is “reaping what we have sowed” when it comes to anti-social behaviour among young people.
A shocking attack on a Chinese woman on the Grand Canal in Dublin last week was the latest in a number of high-profile incidents involving young people this summer.
On The Pat Kenny Show this morning, Tiernan Williams from the Reach Out Project at the Kilbarrack Coast Community Programme said youth funding was never restored following cuts during the financial crash.
“In some regards because of COVID and I suppose the restrictions that are in place, it has become more obvious but it is essentially something that has happened over a number of years,” he said.
“Predominantly it is to do with cuts in expenditure for youth services. I think there has been a cut of a third in finances since 2008 and it hasn’t been restored.
“So, there are less intervention services available to youth so we are reaping what we have sowed really in some regards.”
Meanwhile, Dr Sean Redmond, Adjunct Professor in Youth Justice at the University of Limerick School of Law said there was a high level of compliance with COVID guidelines among young people at the start of the outbreak; however, that has begun to slip for people of all ages.
“When you look at general trends in youth crime, the official statistics appear to show that the numbers of young people involved have reduced but that there is a smaller number involved in a higher level of offences,” he said.
“The other thing we see during the summer months is an increase in youth crime in any event.
“Most of the things young people get involved with relate to alcohol and public order crime so the kind of things we are seeing are things we would tend to see when young people are out of school – but COVID obviously adds another dimension to that as well.”
He said youth projects around the country are working to find other ways for young people to spend their time while schools are shut.
“One of the things reported in a survey we did specifically related to COVD was saying that young people’s time cycles had flipped,” he said.
“There was a lot more nocturnal activity, lots more social media activity and a lot less connection with normal day to day activities.”
Mr Williams said young people from disadvantaged backgrounds are bombarded with designer goods on social media – with crime often the opportunity to fund the lifestyle they crave.
He said the Reach Out Project aims to offer them other ways to focus their energies.
“If you have no meaning or purpose in life, you better find a passion,” he said.
“So, what we do is we get people and we divert them away from criminality by finding what they are interested in.
“A lot of people are getting involved in screenwriting and film and going on the further education, university of whatever, with it. Other people might be getting involved in sport, recreation – a variety of different things.
“But our job is to find young people’s passion because without meaning and purpose, which is predominantly the problem in these areas, there is very little meaning in people’s lives and very little purpose in regard to the opportunities that are presented.”