High level of mental health problems for Youthreach students

High level of mental health problems for Youthreach students

The national second-chance education system is seeing very high, and increasing levels of emotional, psychological or mental health difficulties among young people. A major piece of research estimates that four in 10 learners at Youthreach have such difficulties.

Staff at Youthreach centres described a change in profile of learners, from one with predominantly disadvantaged backgrounds to one with increasing numbers of mental health difficulties. The study, Evaluation of the National Youthreach Programme, conducted by the ESRI, concluded that while the cost of the programme was relatively high, it represented “value for money” for the State.

The Youthreach Programme, set up in 1989, provides a second-chance education for young people who have left mainstream second-level schools before Leaving Cert level. In 2017, 11,104 young people, aged between 15-20, took part in the programme, at a cost of €98.7 million.

The programme runs in two settings, in Youthreach Centres and Community Training Centres. The study said there had been a “remarkable decline” in the prevalence of early school leaving and that the group entering Youthreach had become “more marginalised” over time.

A striking finding related to the increased prevalence of mental health and emotional problems as well as learning difficulties among young people taking part in the programme.

It said managers of the centres report “very high” rates of emotional, psychological or mental health (EPMH) difficulties, with around “four in 10” young people having such difficulties. In addition, around one in four had a learning difficulty.

One in seven learners had committed a criminal offence and 8% were lone parents. One in six were Travellers — hugely disproportionate to their makeup in wider society (1%) — with many of them having “very low levels of literacy and numeracy skills”.

Substance use, either by the young person or a family member, was reported in at least a quarter of learners, with a similar number experiencing trauma. The report found negative teacher and peer relationships was a “significant influence” on early school leaving.

Assessing Youthreach, the study said: “The study findings indicate that the programme works well in re-engaging young people with complex needs, providing them with a positive experience of teaching and learning, fostering personal and social skill development, and equipping many with certification to access further education, training and employment options.”

It said that around 45% of those who completed their programme went on to another education or training course, with a similar number going straight into the labour market.

It said the relatively high costs of Youthreach had to be balanced against the personal and societal costs of early school leaving, which included a greater risk of unemployment, lower income, and higher rates of poverty.

It added: “Crime rates are found to be consistently higher among early leavers, with the cost of a prison place much more expensive than second-chance or alternative education provision.”

The report said: “Investment in second-chance education for vulnerable young people represents value for money for the State.”

More on this topic

Micheál Martin calls for new Department of Higher Education and ResearchMicheál Martin calls for new Department of Higher Education and Research

45% decrease in funding to Irish universities over the past 10 years45% decrease in funding to Irish universities over the past 10 years

Dad of gifted student with special needs appeals for 'invaluable' resource class to stay openDad of gifted student with special needs appeals for 'invaluable' resource class to stay open

Third of parents in debt to cover back-to-school costsThird of parents in debt to cover back-to-school costs

More in this Section

Green light for apartments and housing proposal next door to Pat Kenny's homeGreen light for apartments and housing proposal next door to Pat Kenny's home

Campaigner appeals for neighbours to be vigilant after pensioner who died in Cork lay undiscovered for seven monthsCampaigner appeals for neighbours to be vigilant after pensioner who died in Cork lay undiscovered for seven months

Mixed reaction to College Green's pedestrian-only dayMixed reaction to College Green's pedestrian-only day

Airlines paid out €390k in compensation as number of complaints increaseAirlines paid out €390k in compensation as number of complaints increase


Lifestyle

Pollinators are busy feasting on a tempting selection of flowering plants, says Peter Dowdall.The hedgerows are alive with the sound of insects

Carol O’Callaghan previews Cork Craft Month, when exhibitions, workshops and retail opportunitiesAn insider's guide to Cork Craft Month's exciting exhibitions, shopping opportunities and workshops

With a plethora of culture and content releasing at an incessant rate, finding someone to have that cliched watercooler moment with is getting harder and harder. However, there’s a whole host of pop culture podcasts that do the heavy lifting/watching with you.Trawling through pop culture... so you don’t have to

An exhibition in Skibbereen pays tribute to late photographer Michael Minihane, writes Richard FitzpatrickMichael Minihane has been putting West Cork in the frame for decades

More From The Irish Examiner