1.4 Youth policy decision-making
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The German-speaking Community took over some competences from the Walloon Region – for broad-based youth policy, this has been an important development, especially regarding the competence in the labour market, so the German-speaking Community is now responsible not only for the administration of unemployment benefits and the training concepts but also for checking the efforts of the unemployed to get a job.
The Minister for Culture, Employment and Tourism is responsible for youth policy in the German-speaking Community. This Minister's responsibilities, besides youth policy, are in the fields of culture, tourism, media, sport, employment, adult education, preservation orders, sustainable development, and community centres. Youth policy in the German-speaking Community deals with education out of school for organised and non-organised youth and with youth participation.
Looking at “youth policy” in broader conceptual, and less administrative, terms however, other important youth policy topics, such as school education, are in the portfolios of other ministers, in this case the Minister for Education, Vocational Training and Employment, whereas themes like youth aid and rights of the child fall under the duties of the Minister for Family, Health and Social Affairs.
Although the competences on the political fields that have a lot of influence on young people’s lives are allocated at two different ministers (belonging to different political parties) the youth policy approach in the German-speaking Community is transversal, even if the connection with culture and employment is definitely closer than with other fields of policy for youth.
The Decree of the 6 December 2011 on the Promotion of Youth Work (Dekret vom 6. Dezember 2011 zur Förderung der Jugendarbeit) regulates the development of young people, provides support for youth work, youth organisations and the Council of the German-speaking Youth (Rat der Deutschsprachigen Jugend, RDJ) as well as for the organisation of education and training for young people and youth workers.
Youth work takes place in out-of-school settings and within the scope of particular leisure time activities. It is based on non-formal education and informal learning processes and achieved through voluntary participation.
With suitable offers, youth work promotes the individual, social and cultural development of young people, taking into account their interests and specific needs.
Due to the complexity and variety of young individuals and their personal situations, youth work is a very complex field of work. Consequently, the function of a youth worker and the actions of those active in youth work are reflecting this complexity too. For that reason, the quality of youth work is closely linked to the quality of its youth workers.
The integrated Decree of 2011 puts the young person in the centre and focus on their specific capacities. Moreover, this decree also organises training for youth workers and youth leaders. It allows for evaluation which allows for the Government to establish a Strategic Plan on Youth (Jugendstrategieplan). The decree allows for:
- a more transversal and a better cross-sectorial approach, which puts young people in the centre (of all efforts) and deals with them more holistically;
- increased participation of young people and the youth sector (also in the design of youth policy and in other decision-making);
- funding based on quality and not only quantity - this comes with quality criteria and quality standards for training and for the evaluation of concepts and work plans, etc.;
- contribution of municipalities to the impact of youth policy;
- the development of instruments and methods to come to a comprehensive and high quality youth policy based on knowledge and information.
Besides the above mentioned youth organisations, youth centres, information centres and the Youth Council, the Youth Office (Jugendbüro) is one of the most important support structures for youth work in the German-speaking Community. The Youth Office is in some way the “technical bureau” for youth work in the German-Speaking Community. It is an NGO steered by a general assembly and an administrative board, in which the majority is held by youth organizations and youth centres. The collaboration with the Government of the German-Speaking Community and the funding received are regulated by a management contract between the Government and the Youth Office. This convention runs generally over five years and foresees amongst other things the principle of funding by donation, the allocated amount and the mission of the office.
This mission implies:
- the coordination of the Youth Council;
- pedagogical and administrative support for youth organisations;
- the coordination and development of open youth work and outreach youth work;
- the promotion of national and international cooperation in the youth field (cross-border cooperation, inner Belgium cooperation and management of the Bel’J programme, promoting the participation on Quebec-Wallonie-Bruxelles);
- National Agency of the German-Speaking Community for the European programmes Erasmus+ in the fields of education, training and youth and European Solidarity Corps
The Youth Office receives annual funding proportional to its staffing, running and activity costs, agreed upon in a management contract between the Youth Office and the government. In 2022, the Youth Office was granted approx. 740.000 Euro annual funding.
Open youth work, outreach youth work, youth info (Jugendinfo) and youth organisations relay on so called performance contracts, that are agreed upon between the government, the local authorities and board members of the youth organisation. These performance contracts specify how their activity plan, that has been approved by the government and assures the funding of the organisation, has to be implemented on the field.