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Cork Independent


Two steps back for youth programme

Thursday, 28th November, 2019 8:44am

“We can’t understand why we’d be cut this year. We’ve always delivered a high quality programme, and there’s never been any suggestion that we haven’t been meeting our aims, or doing a good job.”

Those were the words of STEP Deputy National Secretary David Backhouse.

Established in 1989 within the YMCA, the STEP (Support Training and Enterprise Programme) programme helps young people and early school leavers to pursue formal education, and develop their vocational and personal skills.

However members were informed this week that the programme is at risk of losing its funding. The decision is expected to be made in the coming days by the Cork Education and Training Board (CETB).

“A year ago there were five STEP programmes in Ireland. Two in Donegal and Dublin were cut, and three in Cork were merged into two, Cork city and Cobh,” said Mr Backhouse.

The programme focuses on progression options for 17 to 25 year olds through employment and education.

The mission statement states that “STEP aims to provide the opportunity for young people to identify and overcome personal barriers to learning and employment, developing young people in body, mind and spirit”.

“We particularly work well with young people who have had difficulties in their upbringing, who may be struggling with anxiety, drug and alcohol issues. Often young people in STEP have been bullied in the regular system. So they come to us with low self-esteem, and maybe a lack of confidence in their ability to succeed,” continued Mr Backhouse.

“They tell us it’s raised their confidence, they have a sense of their own potential.

“Many go from STEP into St John's College, or somewhere similar. They get the equivalent of their Leaving Certificate with us. Often it’s the first chance for them to succeed. I personally have seen hundreds of young people have life changing experiences in STEP.”

If funding is cut, the current programmes in Cork city and Cobh will end in July 2020.

Advocate for the programme Cllr Thomas Moloney attended the STEP programme in 1993. From there he went on to do volunteer work and completed a degree in Youth and Community Work at UCC.

Cllr Moloney said: “The STEP programme provides huge experience and skills, with over thirty years of working with young people. It is really deserving of support and continued funding, and it would be a great loss to young people if it was cut.”

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