4.3 Strategy for the social inclusion of young people
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Flanders has no separate strategy plan on the social inclusion of youth but several separate strategies all catering towards social inclusion and children/youth. Below, we describe some of the strategies at the regional level (Flemish level).
Relevant legislation within the domain of Culture, Youth and Media:
The Participation Decree entered into force in January 2008. The Participation Decree is a mixture of structural and project-based support, of initiatives aimed at the participation of a broad audience and of specific underprivileged groups, of existing measures and new initiatives, of financing for public and private initiatives… Through subsidization via the Participation Decree, the Flemish government wishes to promote the active participation of vulnerable groups in culture, youth work and sports. The decree focusses inter alia on (young) people from disadvantaged neighbourhoods, newcomers and (minor) refugees, people with an ethnic-cultural diversified background, disadvantaged groups in the youth care, (young) people with disabilities and families with children.
This Decree offers:
- policy instruments to stimulate the participation of the various groups
- subsidies for projects that encourage participation. This particularly concerns initiatives related to socio-cultural work, communication, circulation and dissemination of artworks, financial obstacles, and physical access; and
- grants for large scale cultural events.
Flemish Youth and Children’s Rights Policy Plan
The Flemish Youth and Children’s Rights Policy Plan outlines all the concerns regarding children and young people and their rights which the Flemish Ministers will pay attention to in their policies during the policy period 2020-2024. It is the fifth time that the Government of Flanders presents a youth policy plan to parliament. As decreed by Flemish Parliament Act, this must be done one year after the start of the Government’s term of office.
The plan pursues five large priorities: (1) Wellbeing and positive identity development, (2) Healthy and liveable neighbourhoods, (3) Commitment to society through voluntary action, (4) Leisure activities for all, and (5) Media education.
Relevant legislation within the domain of Equal Opportunities:
Framework Decree on equal opportunities and equal treatment policy
The Framework Decree on Equal Opportunities and Equal Treatment Policy (Decreet houdende een kader voor het Vlaamse gelijkekansen- en gelijkebehandelingsbeleid) of 10 July 2008 sets up a general framework for the implementation of a proactive and preventive policy on equal opportunities. The Flemish equal opportunities policies simultaneously take into account differences between social groups (diversity), the need for personal development (emancipation) of these groups’ members, with no one being excluded (non-discrimination) and everyone feeling responsible for mutual well-being (solidarity). It seeks to counteract discrimination, whether it is based on gender, disability, sexual orientation, inaccessibility or ethnicity. This decree doesn’t focus on young people but is also relevant towards them.
Action Plan ‘Prevention of processes of radicalisation which may result in extremism and terrorism'
On 16 January 2015 the Flemish Government approved a concept note on radicalisation (Conceptnota over preventive van radicaliseringsprocessen), followed by the Action Plan ‘Prevention of processes of radicalisation which may result in extremism and terrorism', (Actieplan ter preventive van radicaliseringsprocessen die kunnen leiden tot extremism en terrorisme) which was approved on 3 April 2015 by the Government. At the beginning of 2017, a profound revision and update of the action plan was prompted by, among other things, a changed policy context, new insights and changed threat. This resulted on 2 June 2017 in the updating of the existing action plan to the 'Flemish Action Plan for the prevention of violent radicalization and polarization' (Actieplan ter preventie van gewelddadige radicalisering en polarisering). The note and action plan contain twelve concrete policy priorities which are applicable to many (local) Flemish actors: youth work, community sports, assistance, Flemish Employment Services and Vocational Training Agency, education, community development, welfare, Integrated Youth Support and integration. These actors must prevent, detect and remedy radicalisation. The note assigns an important role to local governments in their cooperation with local actors.
The Agency of Home Affairs coordinated this Action Plan, but the actions related to different policy areas. With the concept note and action plan the Flemish Government aimed amongst others at centralising and disseminating the expertise which exists in a number of Flemish cities, at developing training packages for people on the ground such as youth workers, imams and teachers, and at filling the gaps which exist in the study of radicalisation. For education the aim was set to decrease the number of early school leavers. Parents who notice first signs of radicalisation may turn to the pupil guidance centre for answers to their questions. These centres must also be an important partner for the teachers: when they notice signals of radicalisation, they can refer a pupil to the pupil guidance centre.
Strategies within the domain of Education:
Flemish parliamentary act on pupils with special educational needs (M-decree)
On 1 September 2015 the parliamentary act on pupils with specific educational needs (SEN-pupils), also called M-decree, became fully operational. Since that date every child in Flanders has the right to enroll in a school for mainstream education, on the condition that reasonable adaptations are made. Inclusive education is now the first option. The aim is that more pupils with special needs can enroll in mainstream education and that less pupils are referred to special schools. The implementation of the parliamentary act also allows to maintain a high-quality special needs education for those pupils for whom no reasonable adaptations are possible within a mainstream school. In 2019, however, the Flemish coalition agreement 2019-2024 stated that the M-decree will be replaced by a new guidance decree, which will enter into force on 1 September 2022 at the earliest.
Education Decree XXIV
New regulations on synchronous internet education were integrated in Education Decree XXIV, which was approved by the Flemish Government on 23 April 2014. The parliamentary act determines that from September 2015 on internet education becomes a right for all ill children. Since 2007-2008 distance learning for ill children is organised by Bednet. The NGO offers synchronous internet education to long term or chronically ill children in Dutch speaking schools in Flanders and Brussels. It allows pupils to keep up with the subject material and avoids social isolation as a result of their illness. The services offered by the NGO are free of charge for both the children and the schools.
The Parliamentary Act of 28 June 2002 on equal educational opportunities
The Parliamentary Act on Equal Educational Opportunities (Decreet Gelijke OnderwijsKansen GOK) guarantees the principle right for enrolment in a school of choice, independent of colour of skin, national or ethnic origin, religion or gender, unless of course if the school is full, if the pupil was expelled in a previous year or if the parents do not accept the pedagogical project and school regulations. Local Consultation Platforms watch over the implementation of the equal opportunities policy at the local level.
Action plan ‘together against school drop-out’(Actieplan Samen tegen Schooluitval)
On 26 June 2015 the Flemish Minister of Education presented, together with her colleagues from Welfare and Work, the concept note ‘Together against school drop-out’ (Conceptnota Samen tegen Schooluitval) to the Flemish Government. The concept note contains a comprehensive plan (Actieplan Vroegtijdig Schoolverlaten) with more than 50 action points. The goals of the note are to reduce the number of early school leavers, to push back truancy, and to guarantee study entitlement. A focus is put on prevention, together with actions against pupils playing truant.
With this concept note Flanders responds to the European recommendation to address in an integrated manner the problems of early school leaving and truancy by use of the European frame of reference. For this reason, measures are elaborated within the four domains of monitoring, identification and coördination; prevention; intervention and compensation.
The policy domain of education organises also specific provisions for migrant pupils and pupils of whom Dutch is not the mother tongue:
- Reception classes for non-Dutch speaking newcomers (onthaalonderwijs voor anderstalige nieuwkomers OKAN) are organized in primary and secondary education
- The Brussels Curriculum provides extra support for the language of instruction in the 1st stage of Dutch speaking secondary education in Brussels. Additional measures support the Dutch speaking elementary schools and the integration of not-Dutch speaking children in the Brussels peripheral municipalities, in the municipalities along the language border and the neighbouring municipalities
Strategies within the domain of Welfare, public health & family policy
Decree on Integrated Youth Care
On March 1, 2014 the Decree on Integrated Youth Care (Decreet betreffende de integrale jeugdhulp) came into force. This decree entails a far-reaching cooperation between all anchors sectors involved in youth. The main objective is that every young person with a problem finds as quick as possible the appropriate help. By intervening in the organization and functioning principles of the existing youth care, the new landscape will be much clearer. The new act puts the young central. The inherent strength of children and young people and their immediate surroundings are considered the main source of assistance. The act anchors this principle and translates it into practical assistance to all amenities. They are also encouraged to cooperate across sectors and action is taken to ensure that there are 'no gaps' in youth care. When first aid is insufficient, social workers always point the way to more specialized or more substantial help. Therefore, the Act installs the intersectoral gateway for "non-directly accessible help”. In total there are six sectors involved:
- Flemish Agency for Persons with Disabilities (VAPH)
- Youth Welfare
- Child and Family (K&G)
- General Welfare Work (AWW) with the Centres for Integral Family Care (CIG)
- Mental Health Centres (CGG)
- Centres for Educational Guidance (CLB)
Decree on Poverty Reduction (2003)
Within the Flemish Government the fight against child poverty is a top priority within the general fight against poverty. It is the priority focus of the Flemish Action Plan for Poverty Reduction 2020-2024 (see below). In this fight against child poverty, also a strong emphasis is laid on young adults as they are crucial agents as (future) young parents.
In the Act on Poverty Reduction (Decreet betreffende Armoedebestrijding, 21 march 2003) a permanent poverty consultation (permanent armoedeoverleg - PAO) is created to ensure the participation of people in poverty reduction policies in all sectors. This permanent poverty consultation consists of a horizontal and a vertical component. The horizontal consultations ensure an integrated approach. In the horizontal consultations the representatives of the various policy areas collaborate with employees of the Flemish Network against Poverty (Vlaams Netwerk tegen Armoede), The Link (De Link) and the inter-federal department for combating poverty, insecurity and social exclusion (Steunpunt tot bestrijding van armoede, bestaansonzekerheid en sociale uitsluiting). The vertical consultations are organized per policy domain. Main objectives of these vertical consultations are the testing of specific policy initiatives of the policy domain among people in poverty and the proposal of adjustments. The organization of these meetings is the responsibility of every Flemish minister in consultation with the Flemish Network of Associations against Poverty. The vertical consultation takes place at least twice a year for each policy domain.
Flemish Poverty Reduction Action Plan (Vlaams actieplan armoedebestrijding 2020-2024)
The poverty decree (art. 5) and the implementing act (art. 2 and 5) determine the legal basis of the Flemish Action Plan on Poverty Reduction (or VAPA).
The Flemish poverty reduction policy is an inclusive policy. This means that every Flemish Minister, also the Minister of Youth, has the responsibility to devote attention within their policy area to reducing poverty. The Flemish Minister for Welfare, Public Health and Family is responsible for coordinating the poverty policy. The Welfare and Society Division supports the coordinating minister and the Flemish Minister for Welfare, Public Health and Family, each for their competence in the area of poverty reduction.
The Flemish Action Plan on Poverty Reduction (VAPA) provides an overview of the efforts of the various Flemish ministers to fight poverty. The action plan includes specific objectives formulated for each of the fundamental social rights (participation, social services, income, family, education, leisure, work, housing and health).
The VAPA has three focal points: living, poverty reduction in families with young children and employment. Furthermore, it focusses on the impact and measures regarding COVID-19.
Responsible authorities are mentioned in section above where the contents and scope are described:
- Flemish Youth and Children’s Rights Policy Plan 2015-2019: Flemish Minister of Youth and Division Youth
- Flemish Poverty Reduction Action Plan or VAPA (Vlaams actieplan armoedebestrijding 2015-2019): Flemish Minister on Poverty Reduction and the Department for Health, Public Health and Family
- Action Plan ‘Prevention of processes of radicalisation which may result in extremism and terrorism': Flemish Minister of Local Government, Integration, Housing, Equal Oppurtunities and Poverty Reduction and many Flemish actors
- Action plan ‘together against school drop-out’: Flemish Minister of Education and Training, Flemish Minister of Welfare, Flemish Minister of Work and their departments
The strategies on social inclusion of young people have no major revisions/updates. Minor updates of the separate strategies are mentioned in the section above where the contents and scope are described.