The Mayo group piciured at their meeting in Paris.

Mayo teenagers present research findings on Tusla family support services

A GROUP of 14 youth ambassadors have presented their work about family support services operated by Tusla-Child and Family Agency in Mayo at a high-level meeting with senior UNESCO officials in France.

The delegation of teenagers, aged between 14 and 18 years old, delivered their findings to senior members of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in an hour long meeting.

The young men and women of the Mayo Youth Advisory Committee have been trained as youth researchers and their work centres on how their contemporaries perceive support services offered to them in the county, and what they want professionals providing these services to know.

The Mayo Youth Advisory Committee was set up under a Tulsa seed-funding initiative, with Foróige and Mayo Comhairle na nÓg, to promote youth participation in service delivery and development.

A study undertaken by the group with 280 young people in Ballina showed that two thirds of this sample did not know what Tusla is, or the services it provides.

Over the past 18 months the group has worked closely with Prof. Pat Dolan, UNESCO Chair in Children, Youth and Civic Engagement - and his colleagues at the UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre at NUI Galway - to learn how to become youth researchers.

The group has completed two significant pieces of youth research investigating young people’s knowledge and understanding of Tusla family support services, and it was on the basis of this work that they were invited to Paris to present their findings.

Those in attendance to hear about the opinions held by the young people in Mayo included Nada Al-Nashif, Assistant Director-General for Social and Human Sciences at UNESCO, Elaine Ayotte, Ambassador and Permanent Delegate of Canada to UNESCO, Dermot Nolan, Permanent Representative of Ireland to the OECD and UNESCO, Prof Pat Dolan, and Dr Liam Whyte, manager for Prevention Partnership and Family Support (PPFS) with Tusla in Mayo.

The youth group reflected on the results of their research and gave advice to the attendees about how to improve youth participation across the world, and how to factor in cultural differences. They have already produced a film about their research, and have audited Tusla buildings and information literature for the latter’s child friendliness.

Commenting after the highly sucessful engagement with UNESCO leaders in Paris, Dr Liam Whyte said: “The Mayo Youth Advisory Committee made a definite impression on the day with a very clear and articulate presentation by different young people.

“This is an exceptional group of youth ambassadors and clear evidence of what can be achieved when young people are empowered to participate and voice their views.

“They look forward to continuing their work in Mayo as youth researchers and maintaining the connections made in Paris. I want to sincerely thank UNESCO, Prof Pat Dolan and Foróige staff.”

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