Young People, Youth Work and Inequality in Austerity Ireland
We explore the circumstances of diverse young people in Ireland and how long-established inequalities are persisting while new ones are emerging. Case studies of youth work responses to class, gender, ‘race’ and ethnicity, disability and sexuality show contrasting levels of attention to, and action on, different forms of inequality. A focus on LGBT issues has increased greatly while gender rarely features prominently either in policy and practice fora. Despite examples of excellent work with ethnic minorities, a comprehensive intercultural strategy for youth has never been adopted at national level. Action relating to disability remains poorly developed within generic youth work organisations; and class inequality continues to be addressed (if at all) primarily through the prism of ‘disadvantaged youth’. On the other hand, recent policy statements relating to youth place a greatly increased emphasis on human rights, equality and diversity as compared with those of the 1980s and ‘90s. A forthcoming national youth policy framework and a number of developments in Europe, if combined with appropriate initiatives both in youth work practice and worker training and education, hold out the possibility of a more concerted and coherent youth work response to inequality.