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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. 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 by the government for each legislative period. It is explicitly mentioned in the decree that the government engages funded youth NGO’s, the Youth Council of the German-speaking Community (Jugendrat der Deutschsprachigen Gemeinschaft, RDJ) and young people in drawing up the strategic plan.
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 12 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 organizations,
- youth information centres,
- open youth work including youth centres,
- outreach youth work
- the Youth Office of the German-speaking Community (Jugendbüro der Deutschsprachigen Gemeinschaft)
- the Youth Commission, responsible for basic and advanced training courses for young people, volunteer youth leaders and youth workers,
- the Youth Council
Youth work takes place out of school and during particular leisure activities and is based on the processes of non-formal and informal learning and 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 youth council 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 and the official advise giving of the Youth Council. This was followed by the adaption of the draft decree in accordance with a lot of remarks made by the Youth Council and continues in the completely independent legal role which the Youth Council has since the entering into force of the decree.
The main goals of the Youth Council 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 Youth Council 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 (Parlament der Deutschsprachigen Gemeinschaft, PDG), the parties 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 Youth Strategy Plan.
As for the 2011 decree, the Youth Council has been consulted before the 2015 decree was amended.
The 2011 decree is being evaluated since 2017.
The new 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. The newly defined timeline should allow more time for the evaluation of the strategic plan.
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.
In order to avoid the overlapping of two consecutive strategic plans and to provide enough time for their evaluation, the duration for the implementation of the strategic plan was reduced by one year, meaning the implementation of the second strategic youth plan took place from 2016 until 2019, allowing for evaluation in 2020. Consequently, the third strategic youth plan is planned to be implemented 2021 to 2024, after which the evaluation is going to take place 2025. This should allow the government to carry out an evaluation of this strategic plan one year before the end of its actual timeframe.