4.7 Youth work to foster social inclusion
Programmes that support youth social inclusion in Italy do not flow into the establishment of a real "youth work" as they are transversal to the different ministerial competences (par. 4.1, 4.2 and 4.3). Although there is no unified legislation on youth work (chapter 10), there are many initiatives promoted and managed by the world of associationism, volunteering and the so-called Third Sector (Chapter 2).
Key inclusive youth work programmes and target groups
Several structures of the Italian Government and, in particular, the Department of Youth Policy and Universal Civil Service (DPGSCU), support programmes for youth inclusion through funding schemes for the third sector. The most significant and recent examples are:
- Fund to combat child educational poverty: it is intended to support experimental interventions aimed at removing economic, social and cultural obstacles that prevent children from fully participating in education. A memorandum of understanding between the Government and a number of banking foundations allows them to finance selected projects through periodic calls. The projects are aimed at young people of different age groups, usually from disadvantaged social backgrounds (e.g. suburbs) or with complex life paths (e.g. orphans of victims of domestic crimes) (par. 4.3).
- Bando Fermenti: this call gives financial and technical support to youth business initiatives that have the potential to improve the living conditions of young people (18-35 years) and the surrounding communities. Adopted in 2019, the call funds projects that deal with a range of social issues such as gender equality, inclusion and participation, culture, environment and welfare. The call provides free incubation services for participants, who are helped in the design of their proposals through the involvement of experts. The call is aimed at third sector associations, but also informal groups can participate.
- Youth for the Social: the call funds projects that aim to promote social cohesion in the less developed regions (Calabria, Campania, Apulia, Sicily, Basilicata) through youth inclusion (14 -35 years). The funded actions involve the direct and active involvement of young people on the issues of legality, participation, educational training, and the enhancement of cultures and traditions. The call is promoted by the DPGSCU and funds actions realised by the third sector (par. 4.6).
- Prevention and contrast to youth hardship: adopted in 2015, the call funds youth hardship prevention and projects promoted by third sector organisations. The funded actions aim for the social reintegration of young NEETs (Not in Education, Employment or Training), but also to prevent risky behaviours (use of psychoactive substances, alcohol, driving while intoxicated) amongst youths. The call is promoted by DPGSCU in collaboration with the Department of Drug Policy.
Youth services providers in the field of social inclusion for young people
The main providers of youth services in the field of youth social inclusion are third sector organisations which, in collaboration with local authorities (Communities and Regions) or through European and national funding, promote different projects and interventions in the context of youth inclusion.
Although each third sector organisation has its own specialisation and approach, the interventions promoted are based on the involvement and direct activation of young people in projects aimed at enhancing their employability, at promoting their social, educational and work integration, and at fostering their civic and political participation.
Informa Giovani and the Youth Centres can be listed as the facilities that most commonly provide services for the social inclusion and protection of young people at a local level.
- Informa Giovani are municipal services that mainly target young people between the age of 14 and 29 providing them with information on training, work, leisure, and sport. Each Informa Giovani develops its activities independently, in relation to the needs of the local territory. Since 2007, a national coordination network has been established. In connection with the European Youth Information and Counselling Agency (ERYCA), the network defines common standards and objectives for the local services.
- Youth Aggregation Centres (CAGs): services run by the third sector in collaboration with local authorities that cater to adolescents and young people offering opportunities for free aggregation, school support activities and training workshops. The centres are often located in the suburbs of the biggest Italian cities. The professionals employed in CAGs are mainly educators.
Training and support for youth workers engaged in social inclusion programmes
In Italy, the youth worker is still not recognised as a professional role (Chapter10). However, the management of youth social inclusion programmes is often attributed to social workers and educators.
Training activities for these professionals are promoted by private institutions in coordination with universities and local institutions. Training courses for educators combine classic lectures with practical activities and internships and lasts about 1000-1500 hours. At the end of the training courses, national and European vocational qualifications are issued (Chapter 10).
In 2018, the Italian Youth Agency also hosted the first pilot training course for youth workers. The course was based on the ETS Competence Model for Youth Workers Working International model developed in the context of the European Training Strategy. Directed at socio-educational operators, the course aimed to provide useful skills for those working in contact with young people in different local and national socio-educational contexts.
In this regard is also worth mentioning the start of a multistakeholder process for the national recognition of youth workers, that in 2019 passed through the translation into italian of the Recommendation CM/Rec (2017) of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on Youth Work adopted on 31 May 2017.
Italy also participated to the 3rd European Youth Work Convention in Bonn, which produced the so called “Bonn Declaration”, part of the Bonn Process, “Designed to strengthen and further develop youth work throughout Europe, [...] wants to bring the commitment of the different stakeholders of the youth work community of practice into line. [...] It aspires to facilitate connections and cooperation within and between all levels of the community, ensure a more strategic and co-ordinated approach, and improve the framework conditions for youth work.”
This participation and the consequent efforts by several organisations and professional youth workers, led to the birth of NINFEA - National Informal and Nonformal Education Association, to conduct scientific, social intervention and pedagogical-educational research activities to contribute to the professional development of youth leaders, also known as youth workers, youth trainers and socio-educational operators.
Such initiatives are currently reinforced by several policies and activities by regions that support youth workers with specific youth policies and actions, most notably in regions like Piemonte or Toscana.
The actions promoted in this field are financed through different budgets: the amount and how to finance initiatives that support youth social inclusion vary depending on the programmes and the actors involved (state institutions, local authorities and associations).
Regarding the programmes mentioned, the financial support is distributed as follows:
- The Child Educational Poverty Fund is funded by the banking foundations (in the three years 2016-2018: EUR 360 million) and through the 2019 Budget Act (55 million for the three years 2019-2021).
- For the Bando Fermenti, DPGSCU has provided a total of EUR 16 million in funding.
- The resources allocated to the Youth For Social 2018 call amount to EUR 9 million.
- For the Youth for Public Goods call, the DPGSCU has made available EUR 5 million.
- PNRR MISSION5: Inclusion and cohesion, 19,81 billion to be spent between 2021-2026 along three main axes.
-LABOUR POLICIES 6.66 billion
-SOCIAL INFRASTRUCTURE, FAMILIES, COMMUNITY AND THIRD SECTOR 11.17 billion
-SPECIAL INTERVENTIONS FOR LOCAL COHESION 1,98 billion.
Quality control systems vary depending on the specific project/activity as there are different authorities responsible and funding lines.
With regard specifically to the Child Educational Poverty Fund, a dedicated Steering Committee defines the strategic use of the fund. The government, the banking foundations, third sector organisations, and representatives of the National Institute for Public Policy Analysis (INAPP) and of the Einaudi Institute for Economics and Finance (EIEF) participate in the steering committee. Moreover, the INAPP and EIEF have drawn up guidelines to assess the impacts of educational poverty programmes funded by the Fund.