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EACEA National Policies Platform


4. Social Inclusion

4.7 Youth work to foster social inclusion

Last update: 28 November 2023
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  1. Policy/legal framework
  2. Main inclusive Youth-Work programmes and target groups
  3. Youth work providers in the field of social inclusion for young people
  4. Training and support for youth workers engaged in social inclusion programmes
  5. Financial support
  6. Quality assurance

Policy/legal framework

Youth work is regulated by the Decree of 6 December 2011 governing the funding 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 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 Youth Council of the German-speaking Community (Rat der Deutschsprachigen Jugend, 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.

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 account of their interests and needs.

Main inclusive Youth-Work programmes and target groups

Youth Strategy Plan

The decree foresees the adoption and implementation of a cross-sectorial youth strategy 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 and young people in drawing up the strategy. Article 4 of the Decree reads:

For each legislative period the Government will adopt and implement a multidisciplinary Strategy Plan. It will document the environment of young people in the German-speaking Community and lay down targets and tasks which will contribute to improving the situation of young people. [...] The Government will involve the supported youth centres and the Youth Council of the German-speaking Community as well as young people in drawing up the Strategy Plan. This will also include the results of the analysis of the current situation and evaluation of the previous Strategy Plan to be carried out once in each legislative period by the Government as well as the social space analyses to be drawn up by the Open Youth Work agencies [...].

The Youth strategy Plan provides the framework in which, thanks to the cooperation with strong partners from the youth and social sector, practicable, future-oriented and sustainable projects can be developed. Nevertheless, it is open enough to enable interested organisations to develop relevant projects. The Youth Strategy Plan not only involves creating new approaches but also continuing already existing measures or directing them to the youth sector.

Decisive for the successful implementation of the Youth Strategy Plan continues, however, to be thinking holistically and keeping an eye on the multidisciplinary approach for all projects. The political environment has committed itself to creating appropriate general conditions for the best possible implementation of the Youth Strategy Plan. For this, however, it needs the support of all organisations and people involved in the development of the Youth Strategy Plan. They should be deliberate in their authorship and breathe life into the Youth Strategy Plan jointly with the Government.

The Youth Strategy Plan aims to identify actual need, in order to improve the situation of young people in the German-speaking Community. Here concrete action is to be taken in four stages:

  1. Analysis of the current life situation of young people in the German-speaking Community.
  2. Identifying the need for improving the life situation of young people and planning appropriate measures.
  3. Implementing measures.
  4. Evaluation.

The first Youth Strategy Plan bore the title “The Future for all Children and Young People – with the Focus on Disadvantaged Children and Young People” and was devoted to two central themes:

  • Planning actions aimed at the target groups for children and young people with a range of problems
  • Propensity to violence among children and young people.

On these two central themes an action plan with seven concrete projects has been drawn up.

In 2014 the 2nd Youth Strategy Plan (YSP II) covering the period 2016-2022 (originally 2016-2020) was drawn up. The second and actual Youth Strategy Plan 2016-2022 "Acting respectful" foresees 11 actions in 4 categories:

  • "Strong against Addiction",
  • "Promoting diversity",
  • "Political education",
  • "Emotions and self-perception".

These actions include cross-border action days, developing networking, promoting projects, building awareness, offer trainings and supporting mechanisms for young people and youth workers in order to develop e.g. new approaches for drug-prevention, for social inclusion, democracy, political education and participation in the youth field.

Young people with disabilities

  • The “Mowglis” are a group of the St. Martin scout troop in which mentally and physically impaired persons are given the opportunity to take part in scouting life. It was set up in 1983 by Johann Pitz the then troop leader. It contains an average of 15 people, age being of no importance.

The leaders are young volunteers who are particularly passionate about supporting, supervising and integrating people with disabilities. Ideally they also have appropriate training. The group organises woodland and meadow games, they cook and do crafts together or go on excursions such as visiting wildlife parks.

  • The rock group Exchange consists of eight musicians - with and without disabilities. The band arose from a project of the Inside Eynatten youth club. The young musicians play by ear and each individual can bring in his own ideas and suggestions. So far the band has 5 compositions of its own of which 2 songs can be found on the second RockInside CD. There is a rehearsal every other week. For the young people it is important to appear at concerts with other bands. This facilitates getting to know each other and gives everyone the opportunity to approach each other.

In the summer holidays the Inside youth club organises summer workshops aimed at young people with or without disabilities. From one of these a new rock band was formed in which a young blind girl and two boys play.

  • The project “What I never tried before” is an international youth exchange scheme. It originated at the Kettenis youth centre.

    With their supervisor groups of 8 young people between 15 and 25 visit a country participating in the project for a week. Among the group there are always some people with physical or mental disabilities. The young people of the host country prepare a programme of visit with a varied mix of culture, creative activities, sport and fun. Here the young people are the actors as they plan the activities themselves and also run individual programme items. Everyone can bring their own strengths where they feel comfortable. During all activities team and confidence building are essential prerequisites.

    The experiences from the exchange visits and the workshops are integrated into the “No Barriers, No Borders” guidelines. In it there are also a lot of suggestions, ideas and concrete implementation steps for projects in which people with and without disabilities can take part.

Youth work providers in the field of social inclusion for young people

The Youth Council “Council of the German-speaking Youth”

The Council of the German-speaking Youth is an association representing the young people of the German-speaking Community domestically and abroad. It is composed of representatives of youth organisations, Open Youth Work agencies, youth information centres, young parties, youth advisory committees and individual young people and thus unites many different views. The representatives give their opinion (report) on resolutions of the youth policy and advise the minister in important decisions. Here they make sure that youth work retains an important role and is constantly further developed.

Projects by young people for young people are developed in various working groups. Projects and initiatives give members the opportunity for active involvement, self-realisation and further development.

The Youth Commission

The Youth Commission's main aim is to further develop training and further training in the youth area of the German-speaking Community. The conception of a further training programme for young people, volunteers and youth workers is an important aspect.

In addition, the Youth Commission writes reports for funding applications for training and further training in the youth area as well as on general themes in the area of the training and further training of young people.

The Youth Commission is composed half each of members of the youth organisation and the Open Youth Work.

The Ministry

The Department of Youth and Culture of the ministry handles the files on the funding of function costs, staffing costs, material procurement, special projects, training and further training, etc. In addition, the ministry also provides support such as consultations, information events, etc.

At the material loan department of the Ministry organisations can borrow technical equipment and tents for their events.

Youth organisations

Out of school youth work takes place in youth centres and in youth organisations. Similar to the Flemish Community youth organisations such as the Scouts, Patro and Chiro are important stakeholders in youth work. Eight youth organisations are acknowledged in the German-speaking Community – beside Patro, (St. Raphael and St. Nikolaus), Chiro, the Scouts and the Girls Guides, there are the Catholic Rural Youth (Katholische Landjugend), the Royal Rangers and Jugend und Gesundheit.

They provide group sessions for children and young people two to four times a month in the individual localities of the German-speakign Community. The young people are registered as members of the organisation.

Youth organisations such as Jugend & Gesundheit (Youth & Health) offer sporadically events and camps on various subjects and are open to all children and young people.

Youth Information (Jugendinfo)

Young people’s access to information is provided and fostered by the two youth information points: the youth information in Sankt Vith which also serves as EURODESK in the German-speaking Community and the Youth Information in Eupen. The latter is also a member of the ERYICA network, and both work according to the European Youth Information Charter. Both structures are independent non-profit NGOs according the Belgian law. The Youth Information Eupen covers the north of the Community, while Sankt Vith is in charge for the south. Both follow an outreach approach since young people’s personal mobility is a major issue – especially in the south. Therefore the youth information workers visit schools and try to cooperate with youth organisations, open youth work and the Youth Office (Jugendbüro). Furthermore the youth information provision offers a newsletter which now has 1,100 subscribers.

Moreover, youth info is also sending organization for the European voluntary service (EVS). In both information points, access to the internet is provided for young people as well as individual information and consultation.

The youth information centres provide information in the areas of study abroad, employment, leisure opportunities, sexuality, the rights and obligations of young people and media.

The information and activity provision of the youth information centres is free of charge and is regularly updated. The youth information centres are independent of any other interests and are bound to confidentiality. The privacy and anonymity of the visitors is respected.

Open Youth Work – OJA

Youth centres exist in nineteen villages (spread over 8 municipalities), and there are two youth information centres, in Sankt Vith and in Eupen.

Music, internet café, table football, etc. - the youth clubs in the German-speaking Community offer these and much more: The “Open Youth Work” involves young people experiencing community, involvement, taking responsibility. The youth clubs are open to all young people.

The club is a leisure and meeting place where young people are given a communal experience. The Open Youth Work gives the young people a communal experience and shows them ways into the adult world. It teaches them that the acquisition of rights also involves taking on obligations.

It develops in young people the strengths that least to a free, independent and self-reliant personality.

For this the youth clubs have regular opening times and activities for all young people. In addition, the youth clubs and youth centres are supervised by paid youth workers who have a sympathetic ear for the interests, queries and problems of the young people.

Open Youth Work refers to:

  • openness of the content: the activities are from the outset not tied to political, religious or ideological orientations
  • openness of the public sphere, i.e. the activities of the youth centres are transparent to the public.
  • openness to the interests of the young people: Open Youth Work responds to the needs and interests of the young people.
  • openness in the organisation and social form: the activities are directly accessible to the young people and not necessarily linked to registration.
  • openness towards young people who are not visitors to the youth centres: provision of a wide range of activities to the wider public.

Outreach youth work

Four Outreach youth workers look after the detached youth work. They approach young people who mainly hang around on the street and on public squares and have a sympathetic ear for their needs.

Together with them they take actions that improve their life situation and develop future prospects. The idea is to maintain and promote the self-reliance of the individual and to develop joint approaches that also give support and security during future difficulties.

The Outreach youth workers help in a personal consultation or through projects with problems that are as varied as unemployment, jobseeking, housing search or hidden homelessness, drug problems, problems with the justice system, violence, mental health problems right up to problems in the family environment.

MOBY has been deployed since May 2015. MOBY is a mobile home that has been labelled, decorated and redesigned into a mobile youth centre in joint work with young people from the art department of the Robert-Schuman-Institut and young people from several youth clubs. The mobile youth centre adds to the previous provision of the consultations and outreach work in public places. Thus young people can take advantage of help in their living spaces in an uncomplicated and direct way. in 2021, a second MOBY has been designed, so north and south of the German-speaking Community can be taken care of simultaneousy, also showing the effectiveness of the concept.

The Outreach youth work is the task of the Youth Office.

Training and support for youth workers engaged in social inclusion programmes

Youth Council basic training

Among the tasks of the Youth Council is the organisation or coordination of further training provision for young people, volunteer youth leaders and placement supervisors as well as the organisation of the basic training. In this basic training the volunteer youth leaders learn to plan and carry out activities and to lead a group in a responsible capacity and to carry out first aid. A specific part is aimed at the integration of children and young people with impairments.

Programme items such as teaching through play, communication, prejudices and discrimination, conflict resolution, important of youth work, project management and much more are fixed components of the theoretical training.


Financial support

Basically, the subsidies supporting youth policy in the German-Speaking Community are related to structural funding. The decree of 6 December 2011 ensures structural support for youth work facilities at community level. Funding and grants are provided for the staffing costs of professional youth workers, for the maintenance of infrastructure, for equipment, and for the training of youth workers and voluntary youth leaders. The decree sets out funding conditions for community-level youth work and requires that the youth work facilities operate in line with the community-level priorities. The 2020 budget for youth was 2,041,000 EUR, while the total government budget was 523,992,000 EUR.

As mentioned in article 5 of the Decree of 6 December 2011, youth centres have to meet general criteria to be eligible for funding. Those include, amongst others:

  • To be constituted as not-for-profit organisations based in the German-speaking Community;
  • enable young people to gain self-efficacy experiences and learn shaping skills;
  • support the participation of young people in their establishment;
  • offer and provide activities that place the needs of the children and young people at the centre of their actions;
  • ensure that the activities are supervised by youth workers or volunteer youth leaders;
  • regularly inform their members and the population about their activities.
  • take 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;

They also have to implement at least four of the focuses of the youth work defined by the Government, which include

  • socio-political and social education to promote interest in socio-political participation, of the ability to form critical judgements of socio-political processes and of the readiness for active involvement in socio-political processes;
  • cultural youth work to promote creativity and cultural forms of expression;
  • leisure-oriented youth work as a contribution to holistic development through sport, play and movement;
  • media work to promote media skills for critical and conscious media use;
  • intercultural youth work to promote skills and finding one’s identity;
  • gender-differentiated girls’ and boys’ youth work for the promotion of equality of opportunity and breaking down gender stereotypes;
  • cross-community and international youth work to promote understanding within Belgium and internationally, peace-keeping and the European identity.

Quality assurance

Joint committees monitor the implementation and the evaluation of the contracts on performance of open youth work on the local level. Representatives of the German-speaking Community, the respective local authority and the agencies of the Open Youth Work are represented in these committees.

Youth organisations meet annually with the ministry for an effectiveness dialogue during which the implementation of the concept and what has happened in the previous year are discussed.