Inner city project fears for future despite ‘good value’ report

Targeted Response Youth programme linked to ‘reduction in anti-social behaviour’

The Targeted Response Youth (TRY) programme, managed by the Donore community drug and alcohol team (DCDAT), is based in St Teresa’s Gardens, Dublin. File image: Bryan O’Brien

The Targeted Response Youth (TRY) programme, managed by the Donore community drug and alcohol team (DCDAT), is based in St Teresa’s Gardens, Dublin. File image: Bryan O’Brien

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A south inner-city project working with some of the most hostile, angry and marginalised young people in Dublin, achieved significant increases in their engagement with education, addiction and health services in the year to November 2020.

Despite this, the Targeted Response Youth (TRY) programme, managed by the Donore community drug and alcohol team (DCDAT) in St Teresa’s Gardens, says it faces closure in coming months due funding uncertainty.

An independent evaluation of the project, published on Thursday, finds that since TRY began “there has been a reduction in anti-social behaviour in the St Teresa’s Garden’s flat complex” and describes it as “very good value”.

The project, operating since 2017, engages in intensive outreach with young people up to the age of 25, to build trusting relationships and “bridge” them into services including addiction treatment, mental health and education. A total of 39 young people have achieved “positive outcomes”.

Funding for the project - most of which comes from the Sláintecare Integration Fund - is due to end in June 2021 and without a firm commitment to funding for the next three to five years it will have to begin winding down in coming weeks, says Fearghal Connolly DCDAT manager.

The evaluation describes the Donore Avenue area as “a socially deprived community with complex needs” and “characterised by high levels of intergenerational adversity and toxic stress.

“Early school leaving, unemployment, mental health problems and drug addiction are commonplace.”

Evaluation author Jane Mulcahy, interviewed TRY staff and participants. She heard participants were typically “very hostile and angry people” prior to engagement, but who could be engaged “if you try”. They were “extremely marginalised people who are not liked in the community and people do not want to work with them,” she was told.

They tended to be “early school-leavers, as were their parents” often with “a lot of historical stuff” in their backgrounds including “a lot of emotional and psychological abuse, some physical abuse.”

Many had experienced bereavements of a parent or close family member; addiction within the family was “commonplace”, and, parental incarceration “a social norm”.

One interviewee said many had “no soft skills, such as self-worth” and had “often been failed by institutions and met with lots of barriers.”

Another described the young men as “a group who are extremely vulnerable and fearful” - never leaving their area, not minding their own health, but who carried “a lot of pain which they act out on”.

Some of the young women participants have “a prison within themselves” and are “held back by low self-esteem and brittle confidence which restricts their hopes for themselves and their openness to personal development opportunities”.

Peer mentors, spend time with the young people, often hours chatting and hanging out, to initially help them with unmet needs, particularly around mental health and addiction, and then supporting them access services such as education and housing.

Between October 2019 and November 2020 there was an average 20 per cent increase in attendance into mainstream services and training, in engagement in drug rehabilitation programmes and in school attendance among under 18s.

Comparing the costs of TRY - about €100,000 per year, with that of detaining one young person in Oberstown (€385,000 ) or imprisoning an adult (€75,350) the report says: “In terms of criminal justice savings alone, the TRY project since its inception has been very good value indeed.”

Among its recommendation are that TRY’s core funding be allocated for a three to five years and that it be expanded into the nearby Basin Lane and the Oliver Bond flats.