1.2 National youth law
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Youth work is regulated by the Decree of 6 December 2011 on the Promotion of Youth Work (Dekret vom 6. Dezember 2011 zur Förderung der Jugendarbeit) which sets out the essentials of the youth policy of the German-speaking Community.
The Decree includes definitions for “youth work”, “youth workers” and the various categories and types of youth work that are eligible for funding from the Government of the German-speaking Community (Regierung der Deutschsprachigen Gemeinschaft). The Decree was a first step towards an integrated and holistic youth approach as well as transversal cooperation between the different sectors regarding youth issues as it foresees the adoption and implementation of a cross-sector Strategic Plan on Youth (Jugendstrategieplan) by the Government for each legislative period. It is explicitly mentioned in the Decree that the Government engages funded youth NGO’s, the Council of the German-speaking Youth (Rat der Deutschsprachigen Jugend, RDJ) and young people in drawing up the Strategic Plan on Youth.
The Decree provides regulated funding, a legal framework for youth work and ensures anchorage of youth work within youth policy, which offers a certain level of security for the sector.
The target group of the decree are all young people aged 10 to 30. It also specifically takes into account issues of children and young people in disadvantaged life situations, of children and young people with a migration background and children and young people with a disability.
The decree governs the funding of
- youth organisations,
- youth info (Jugendinfo),
- open youth work including youth centres,
- outreach youth work
- the Youth Office of the German-speaking Community (Jugendbüro der Deutschsprachigen Gemeinschaft)
- the Youth Commission (Jugendkommission)
- the Council of the German-speaking Youth
Article 2 of the Decree defines youth work as follows:
Youth work mainly takes place out of school and is based on processes of non-formal and informal learning and on voluntary participation.
By providing appropriate opportunities, youth work promotes the individual, social and cultural development of young people, while taking their interests and needs into account.
A main task of youth policy is to enable young people’s participation in policy making. Therefore, multiple consultations with young people have been organised when the 2011 decree was being prepared. Through the whole process, from the preparation to the establishing of the decree and even up to the preparation of the implementation of the decree, participation was a guiding principle. This started with the preparation and the implementation of the P.R.I.M.A. consultations in 2005/2006 where young people and their organisations, youth workers and the Council of the German-speaking Youth contributed. Then came the regular cross-check with the youth sector regarding the pillars of the decree, and the hearings that have been held with young people and the sector in the Parliament of the German-speaking Community (Parlament der Deutschsprachigen Gemeinschaft, PDG) and the official advise giving of the Council of the German-speaking Youth. This was followed by the adaption of the draft decree in accordance with a lot of remarks made by the Council of the German-speaking Youth and continues in the completely independent legal role which the Council of the German-speaking Youth has since the entering into force of the decree.
The main goals of the Council of the German-speaking Youth are strengthening political awareness of young people and supporting young people and their organisations. Its primary task is the representation of the interests of the German-speaking youth. In this regard the Council of the German-speaking Youth is quite active in providing expertise and advice on laws concerning young people and it was also involved in the development of the youth policy in the German-speaking Community.
After numerous debates in the Parliament of the German-speaking Community, the parties then forming the government (ProDG, SP and PFF) collaborated with the opposition parties (CSP and ECOLO) and passed on 23 November 2015 the Decree amending the Decree of 6 December 2011 on the Promotion of Youth Work. This new Decree includes two major innovations:
- The introduction of a new youth report on the living situation of young people in the German-speaking Community;
- Readjustment of the overall agenda and timeline of the Strategic Plan on Youth.
As was the case with the 2011 decree, the Council of the German-speaking Youth has been consulted before the 2015 decree was amended.
The 2011 decree is being evaluated since 2017.
On 14 December 2021, the Parliament of the German-speaking Community passed the Decree on the Amendment of the Decree on the Promotion of Youth Work. The amended Decree on the Promotion of Youth Work entered into force on 1 January 2022, marking the next major revision.
Major changes introduced with this amendment include:
- readjustment of the target group: people between 10 and 30 years of age are now considered as young people, while before it was between 12 and 30 years of age. Accordingly, people are now considered children between 4 and 9 years of age.
- Introduction of a differentiation between different kind of youth workers: they are now divided into youth social worker and youth worker assistant. Youth social workers need to have a Bachelor in the social-pedagogical area, youth worker assistants need to have completed their secondary school education and have to follow 300 hours of further training to be qualified for the specific youth work sector they are applying for.
- Introduction of a new system of organising youth work agencies. Youth work is organised per municipality and can either be implemented by a non-profit-association (Vereinigung ohne Gewinnerzielungsabsicht, VoG), by the municipality itself or by the Government of the German-speaking Community which delegates the responsibility to the Youth Office of the German-speaking Community. This also means there will be an open youth work agency in every municipality of the German-speaking Community, which was not the case before.
- Introduction of digital youth work and sustainability as focal points of youth work.
- Simplification of administrative requirements for funded youth organisations, Youth Info and open youth work agencies: they do not need to write a multi-annual concept anymore, but an annual activity plan when applying for funding. The funding period is five years, the activity plan is updated annually in combination with the effectiveness dialogues, which were already required before.
The youth report will be carried out every five years and will be conducted by a scientific institute. The first one was published in late 2018, so that its results may contribute to defining the main topics of the following Strategic Plan on Youth. The newly defined timeline should allow more time for the evaluation of the Strategic Plan on Youth.
While the social space analyses, carried out by trained youth workers, inform specifically on the situation of young people in each municipality of the German-speaking Community, the Youth Report has been based on a broader scientific study, carried out by the KU Leuven, and focus on the whole German-speaking Community.
Supported youth centres and the Youth Council of the German-speaking Community as well as young people have been involved in drawing up the youth report.
The results of both the social space analyses and the youth report will serve as a basis for defining the key issues for the next Youth Strategy Plan.
The first Strategic Plan on Youth was implemented 2013-2015. The second Strategic Plan on Youth was intended to be implemented 2016-2020, but was eventually prolonged for 2 years, so the final duration of the second Strategic Plan on Youth is 2016-2022. On 1 January 2023, the third Strategic Plan on Youth will start being implemented, its duration being 2023-2027.