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Social inclusion of vulnerable young people is not exclusive a youth policy theme (or any other policy area). To combat social exclusion, the Flemish government works via both horizontal and vertical consultation and planning.
Most relevant policy domains are:
At federal level:
- Employment policy (Federal Public Service Employment, Labour and Social Dialogue)
- Social security policy (Federal Public Service Social Security)
- Social Integration, Poverty & Social Economy policy (Federal Public Planning Service Social Integration, Fight against Poverty and Social Economy)
At regional (Flemish) level:
- Youth Policy and the wider policy domain of Culture, Youth, Sports and Media
- Equal opportunities policy
- Educational policy
- Welfare, public health & family policy
In the following we focus at the regional level and describe for each of the domains the relevant actors (Minister, Departments and Agencies) and legislation.
Each policy domain consists of a department and one or more agencies.
- Departments are responsible for policy preparation and policy support. They work under the direct authority and under the responsibility of the minister.
- Agencies are primarily responsible for policyimplementing tasks and have a greater degree of autonomy.
Top level authorities
Policy domain of Culture, Youth, Sports and Media
- Minister in charge of youth: Flemish Minister of Brussels, Youth and Media, Benjamin Dalle (term: 2019-2024)
- Commission on Culture, Youth, Sport and Media of the Flemish Parliament
- Department of Culture, Youth, and Media (Departement Cultuur, Jeugd en Media)
Equal opportunities policy
- Minister in charge of social : Flemish Minister for Home affairs, Administrative affairs, Civic integration and Equal opportunities, Bart Somers (term: 2019-2024)
- Commission for Home affairs, Equal Opportunities and Civic Integration
- Agency of Home Affairs, responsible for Equal Opportunities (Afdeling Gelijke Kansen) and Integration (Afdeling Integratie en Inburgering)
- Agency on Integration (Agentschap Integratie en Inburgering)
- Agency for Accesible Flanders (Agentschap Toegankelijk Vlaanderen)
- Flemish Minister of education, Ben Weyts (term: 2019-2024)
- Commission on education in the Flemish Parliament
- Administration: Department of Education and Training (Departement Onderwijs en Vorming)
Welfare, public health & family policy
- Flemish Minister of Welfare, Public Health & Family: Wouter Beke (term: 2019-2024)
- Commission on Welfare, Public Health & Family in the Flemish Parliament
- Department of Welfare, Public Health & Family (Departement Welzijn, Volksgezondheid en Gezin)
- Agency of Youth Wellbeing (Agentschap Jongerenwelzijn)
- Flemish Agency for Persons with Disabilities (Vlaams Agentschap voor personen met een handicap)
Main non-public actors taking part in the regulation and implementation of social inclusion of young people
Actors in the domain of youth policy
Flemish Office of the Children’s Rights Commissioner
The Flemish Office of the Children's Rights Commissioner detects (warning) signs from children, young people, their immediate environment and professionals. It mediates, investigates complaints and provides policy advice - always with a view to compliance with and the application of children’s rights in Flanders. The Children's Rights Commissioner is appointed by the Flemish Parliament. A consultative and advisory board provides support to the Office of the Children's Rights Commissioner in the performance of its duties. It is composed of representatives of the political groups in the Flemish Parliament and representatives of civil society and the scientific world.
The Office of the Children's Rights Commissioner translates structural problems into dossiers, advice, opinions and reports on bottlenecks for the Flemish Parliament. It studies certain issues related to children’s rights and the underlying problems in depth in order to provide information and advice to the Flemish Parliament. It also indicates possible ways to translate these into Flemish regulations. It tests policy initiatives, such as draft of Decrees and proposals, against the Convention on the Rights of the Child. They for instance formulated advice and reports on:
- Advice on inclusive education (Advies over inschrijvingsrecht voor kinderen met spcifieke onderwijsnoden, 12 March 2018)
- Advice on young refugees (Kinderen op de vlucht: van crisis naar nieuwe toekomst, 2015-2016/01)
- Report on children’s rights for specific groups in Flanders (on young refugees, traveller children, young Roma and children with disabilities)
- Advice ‘With(out) a home. Homelessness from a child's perspective'
- Advice on the Flemish action plan against poverty
- Advice on Early School Leaving (Schooluitval Advies, 2015-2016/07)
The Knowledge Centre on Children's Rights (Keki) 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 Children’s Right Coalition (Kinderrechtencoalitie) is an umbrella organisation of non-governmental organisations for the preparation, editing and distribution of a report on the way in which Flanders puts children's rights into practice.
Uit De Marge (UIt De Marge) - Flemish Centre for youth work with disadvantaged children and young people. ‘Uit De Marge” actively contributes to the realization of the rights and equal opportunities for disadvantaged children and young people in Flanders. They focus on building a high quality youth work with disadvantaged children and young people and guide and support local and regional youth initiatives that (among others) work with disadvantaged children and young people. Uit De Marge also supports youth work in general in his efforts towards socially vulnerable children and young people and other social sectors in their relation to socially vulnerable children and young people.
Other NGO’s (non-governmental organisations)
A brief selection of some of the most important NGO’s in Flanders working on social inclusion (including substantial focus and work with children, youth and young people):
The Flemish network of associations against poverty (Also called Flemish Network of associations where the poor have a chance to speak - Vlaams netwerk waar armen het woord nemen)
In the Flemish Network against Poverty 59 associations work together with the ultimate aim of eradicating poverty and social exclusion. In the participating associations people living in poverty have a central role. For their functioning these associations can rely on the support of the Network team. The mutual exchange of experiences, visions, success stories and learning between the organizations is an important task for the Network. Based on the experiences and opinions of the people the associations and the Network construct dossiers on and communicate them to the government, the relevant departments, the broad society and public opinion. The Network Against Poverty is also working to improve the image of people in poverty and the elimination of prejudice.
Up until 2010, issues related to youth, such as youth care, family, youth unemployment, youth work, education ... were followed by the respective consultative groups within the Network Against Poverty. These consultative groups composed exclusively of adult people in poverty who participate in associations to the theme groups. The result was that the positions of the Anti-Poverty Network on youth-related themes were determined primarily by adults (parents) and not by young people themselves. Since 2011, a group of young people in poverty has been meeting on a regular basis. Within the 59 associations linked to the Flemish network against poverty, there are now 8 associations with a specific youth working.
The Link (De Link)
De Link provides training to become an expert by experience in poverty and social exclusion, with the support of the Welfare and Society Division.
Minorities Forum (Minderhedenforum)
The Minorities Forum represents ethno-cultural associations in Flanders and Brussels and provides people with a migration background a voice. Within the Minderhedenforum specific actions are set up, e.g.: actions with the ethno-cultural associations in Brussels, contacts with the local consultative platforms and actions around the target Travellers and Roma. The Minorities Forum works also on a number of projects on specific subjects: “Work Up”, poverty, culture, youth and sports.
Démos is a non-partisan public research and advocacy organization. Démos' role has been embedded in the wider cultural field of Flanders by the Participation Decree. They focus on social and policy developments in culture, youth work and sports. Within this focus they:
- publish books and a magazine, organise symposia, work shops, cafés and other gatherings.
- do research and advise organisations and governments
- contribute to the development of policy and practices that focus mainly on groups and practices that are underrepresented and underexposed in our society.
Consultation of young people
The Flemish Youth Council (see chapter 5 for more information on the Flemish Youth Council)
The Flemish Youth Council which is the official advisory body of the Flemish Government on all matters concerning children and young people, has formulated advice on e.g.:
- Young people on the run (may 2016)
- Positive development of identity (with regard to the action plan on radicalization) (march 2016)
- Youth and Children’s Rights Policy Plan (see 4.3: The youth and children’s rights policy plan is as an example of participatory policy with a strong involvement of children and young people)
- Living in poverty (January 2015)
- Social inclusion in school and work (February 2014)
Next to the advises that the Youth Council formulates, also the following initiatives within the Youth Council are noteworthy with regard to the social inclusion of young people:
- The working group ‘work’ discusses and examines the towering unemployment among youth in Flanders, Belgium and Europe
- About 25 young people between 16 and 26 years old work on the subject 'social inclusion' as a Youth Ambassador. They reflect on barriers for young people to participate fully in society. Together they formulate recommendations to combat social exclusion. The youth ambassadors shed light on social inclusion within the spheres of education, work and leisure. The youth ambassadors gathered input from 250 young people through focus groups and 500 youth through an online survey. They also went into dialogue with experts and policymakers. Based on this study a report was written.
 A commission is a group of Flemish representatives, who are specialized in a particular subject, such as education, welfare or economy. A commission has fifteen permanent members and fifteen alternates, divided according to the strength of the political groups. Commissions prepare the decrees, check the Flemish government policy (e.g. through questions or interpellations to the Minister).
In Flanders, social inclusion is a joint responsibility of the Flemish Minister of Health, Public Health and Family, the Flemish Minister of Education and Training and the Flemish Minister of Youth and its administration and agencies.
As mentioned in 1.5 Cross-sectorial approach with other ministries, youth policy is a transversal policy. It is envisaged that each ministry takes its own responsibilities and defines tasks linked to the implementation of specific goals within the Youth Policy Plan, while the Minister for Youth is in charge of overseeing the process and reporting on the Plan’s implementation to the government.
Besides the Flemish Policy Plan, the Act on Flemish Youth and Children’s Rights Policy envisages three more instruments of youth policy:
- Impact study of new legislation on children and youth (JoKER)
- Contact points for youth and children’s rights and a coordinating administration
- Youth Progress Report