Involve Youth services, with a head office located in Monksland, Athlone, were part of a somewhat envoy-like visit to the European Parliament in recent times.
Involve, formerly known as the National Association of Travellers Centres, have been running an employment initiative for young members of the Traveller community following on from the success of a 2016 Youth Employability Initiative (YEI ).
The Department of Children and Youth Affairs (DCYA ) secured additional funding through Dormant Accounts Funds to launch a new Youth Employability Initiative in 2018-2019. The initiative was needs-driven, as identified by Education and Training Boards (ETBs ) throughout the country.
The initiative took into account, in particular, the needs who could be at risk of being ‘left behind’ because of their respective personal circumstances. The specific aim was to target young people between 16 and 24 years of age who were not in employment, education or training, in order for them to attain a level of confidence and agency to engage in currently available programmes or services, for example, Youth Reach.
Projects were expected to engage with identified young people, with a view to developing their personal and social competencies from the 2014 Value for Money Policy Review (VFMPR ) and ultimately prepare them for onward progression in their employment lives.
Participation was on a voluntary basis, and as such therefore it was critical to have youth workers on board as they were best placed to identify, motivate and engage the young people to participate in any programmes being offered.
Twelve young people have participated to date, engaging in various activities, including personal development, behavioural competencies (work ethic ), job searching, networking, and CV and interview skills training.
Angela Lennon (Athlone Head Office ), who co-ordinated the programme, visited Brussels during the summer and had the opportunity to meet and speak with Maria Walsh MEP.
Angela invited Maria to visit the youth project, an invitation she willingly accepted and spent a number of hours with the young people and staff of the project.
Maria invited the group to visit the European Parliament and thirty people from Involve youth projects and the Athlone Head Office availed of the informative opportunity afforded on what was a successful and enlightening occasion. Involve Athlone was represented by CEO, James O’Leary and Strategy Co-ordinator, John Madden.
Over the course of the three day visit, the group had the opportunity to visit the world-famous Atomium as well as spending a day within the European Parliament discussing the issues that face young members of the Traveller community in Ireland in relation to discrimination, mental health and the difficulties many face when doing their level best to acquire a job for the betterment of their lives.
Once the young people found their voice on a European stage, the discussions flowed and points that rarely ever enter political discourse around the challenges that young Travellers in modern Ireland were laid bare by the young delegates.
The young people spoke of the barriers to employment that they face, often being disregarded based solely on their second name. Maria Walshe MEP was present throughout the event and gave her full attention to the group during the entire trip. The group were also given an audience with Mairead McGuinness MEP and the newly appointed Frances Fitzgerald MEP who was especially receptive to the group as her own employment history is grounded within social work.
“It was great to share the few days with all those who were part of the trip. The representation by the Traveller community members to our MEPs was really powerful and well delivered.
“Overall, the trip was a tremendous success and it is hoped that the event will lend itself to future successes for Traveller employability programmes across Ireland,” Involve CEO, James O’Leary, remarked.