1.6 Evidence-based youth policy
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Youth Research Platform (JeugdOnderzoeksPlatform, JOP)
The Youth Research Platform (JOP) was created in spring 2003 at the initiative of the Flemish Minister for Home Affairs, Culture, Youth and the Civil Service. The JOP has performed policy-oriented research activities since then. JOP is an interdisciplinary and interuniversity partnership between Ghent University, Vrije Universiteit Brussel and KULeuven.
Knowledge Centre for Children's Rights (KeKi)
The Knowledge Centre on Children’s Rights aims to increase knowledge of children’s rights at national and international level. The Knowledge Centre on Children’s Rights takes an interdisciplinary approach to children’s rights based on scientific research.
The Department of Culture, Youth and Media also commissions in-depth studies on specific topics that are less measurable or specific target groups that remain invisible in surveys or registrations. These studies have for example focused on youth work with children and young people in socially vulnerable situations, young people in residential care, youth work for young people with disabilities, leisure for young people with a migration background.
The ‘Research network on children and young people in Flanders’ was set up in 2011 by the (at that time) Division Youth of the ministry. Today, the Division ‘Knowledge and policy’ organises the research network. It consists of youth policy makers and representatives of all relevant organizations that are involved in research on children, youth and children’s rights.
Furthermore, the policy themes of the Flemish Youth and Children’s Rights Policy Plan 2020-2024 are based on an extensive environmental analysis. The environmental analysis is the foundation and gives an overview of relevant trends, figures and scientific research, such as the JOP-monitor.
The Flemish government has been mapping the youth (work) policy of the local governments in the ‘cijferboek’ (book with quantitative figures). The ‘cijferboek’ appeared every three years. It was a questionnaire, which monitored the policy of local governments concerning youth. This questionnaire resulted in quantitative figures on the local youth policy, such as political responsibilities, youth councils, presence and support of youth work, infrastructure of youth work, youth space, information for youth and communication and cooperation with other sectors (http://statistieken.vlaanderen.be/QvAJAXZfc/opendoc.htm?document=CJSM%2FCJSM%20-%20Cijferboek.qvw&host=QVS%40cwv100154&anonymous=true).
This regularity stopped in 2014. As a result of the introduction of the policy and management cycle at 1 January 2014 the planning and reporting obligations of the local authorities drastically changed. From then on, the objectives of the municipal youth policy were included within a broad municipal multiannual plan. A new ‘cijferboek’ was then developed, based on the situation of the municipalities at the start of this reform. The university KULeuven was given the task to perform a baseline measurement in the local authorities in 2014. The goal was to examine in which manner the local authorities give shape to their youth(work)policy at the beginning of the strategic multiannual planning. This study is not intended as an evaluation of the policy but has to reveal in which manner policy is/was executed, what are opportunities and threats and how the Flemish administration can support the local authorities. The aim is to get a clear view on how the local policymaking evolved after a period of four year.
In 2016 a 1-measurement was done. This 1-measurement – again – tries to gain more insights into the setting up and the execution of the strategic multiannual plan. Themes such as the role of the youth civil servant, participation of children and young people, financial youth policy, … are addressed. Also concrete policy recommendations are formulated. Just like in 2014, an extensive web survey was used and completed by youth civil servants and youth council members.
A 2-measurement was done in 2021. The focus of this measurement was once again the setting up and execution of youth policy as part of the strategic multiannual plan (2020-2025) of municipal authorities. An extensive web survey on youth policy was sent to the youth civil servants, alderman of youth and chairman of the youth council of all Flemish municipalities. The data from this survey was complemented by 3 interviews with experts from the steering group and 5 focus groups with 28 key stakeholders. Just like in 2016, themes such as the role of the youth civil servant, participation of children and young people, financial youth policy…
Youth Monitor (carried out by the Youth Research Platform or JOP)
The Youth Research Platform (JOP) was founded in 2003 by the Flemish government in response to the identification of several problems and shortcomings in Flemish youth research. Since 2005 the JOP gathers empirical data on Flemish youth on a recurrent basis. Therefore, the JOP-monitor, a standardized questionnaire, has been developed, which monitors the lifeword, perceptions and activities of young people. The content of the survey is based on other research instruments and explicitly aims to document several topics relevant to Flemish youth, such as school well-being, well-being, leisure time participation, political attitudes, etc and relates them to different background indicators (gender, age, education level,…). The first JOP-monitor was conducted in 2005-2006, on a sample of 2.503 Flemish 14- to 25-year-old respondents. Since the administration of the first monitor in 2005, four new versions of the JOP-monitor have been administered, each also in a random sample of Flemish youth. In 2008 and in 2013 respectively 3.710 and 3.729 Flemish young people between the ages of 12 and 30 filled out the questionnaire. In 2018, a first Child Monitor was undertaken on a sample of 1.226 Flemish children between 10 and 13 years old. Besides, also in 2018 a JOP-monitor was undertaken on a sample of 1.411 Flemish young people between 14 and 25 years old. The most recent survey was conducted in 2023 and included 1.650 Flemish young people between 12 and 25 years old.
Next to these general surveys, 3 JOP city-monitors have been administered in the metropolitan cities Ghent, Antwerp and Brussels. These studies aim to bring more insight into the specificity of growing up and living in contemporary urban environments in Flanders. These studies offer more comprehensive and more nuanced insights in the living conditions, attitudes and behaviour of young people growing up in these three cities. The most recent city-monitor has been conducted in 2023 and included 5.744 young people in secondary education.
Based on these studies, the JOP has published several books on the living conditions, attitudes and behaviour of young people growing up in Flanders and in Flemish cities. Also it published four books with a specific focus, one on gender differences, one on the pressure on young people, one on diversity and one on. All information on publications of the Youth Research Platform can be found on: http://www.jeugdonderzoeksplatform.be/nl/publicaties
Research, monitoring, data collection is the basis for a knowledge-based policy and a better insight of children and young people. Next to the JOP-monitor, also other research on specific themes concerning youth is executed ad hoc.
JoKER (Kind en Jongereneffectenrapport – Child and Youth effects report)
Since 1997, the Flemish government is obligated by decree to make an impact report on draft decrees directly affecting the interests of children, persons under eighteen. By decree of July 18, 2008 (decree on the conduct of a Flemish youth and children's rights policy the child impact report (KER) has been extended to a child and youth impact report (JoKER).
The JoKER is also included in the new Youth Decree (cf. article 7). This article mentions that with each draft decree submitted to the Flemish Parliament,
a child and youth impact report, abbreviated to JoKER, is attached if the proposed decision directly affects the interests of persons under the age of 25.
The JoKER is a public document that should include: (1) a description of the impact of the proposed decision on the situation of the child or young person; (2) a description of the impact on the situation of the child or young person in the absence of the proposed decision; (3) alternatives to the proposed decision, in particular a description of the measures envisaged in order to avoid, limit or mitigate significant adverse effects of the decision on the situation of the child or young person.
Children's rights monitor
In the last year of the legislature, a report is prepared which incorporates all available material on children’s rights. This report aims at deepening and consistency and to assist in the environmental analysis of the next policy period, the reporting of the youth and children's rights policy and reporting to the UN Committee. In the monitor data is used of among other the youth monitors, EU-SILC, health survey, and different administrative data (e.g. of the Department of Education, the Department of well-being, …). The monitor portrays the living conditions of children, as well as the context, processes and structures that have an impact on them. It provides materials to develop new or modify existing policies.
The Flemish Government allocates funds to Knowledge Centre for Children's Rights (KeKi) to increase the knowledge on children’s rights on the national and international level.
Furthermore, the Department of Culture, Youth and Media has a line of funding for the Youth Research Platform (JOP) and for research on specific themes concerning children and young people or youth work. This research will be entrusted to a university, college, association or cooperation thereof.