10.8 Current debates and reforms
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Estonia has implemented some major changes in relation to youth work and youth policy in recent years, incl.:
- Diverse and long-term process with debates and developments of the national youth strategy for the period 2021-2035 in synergy with the national umbrella strategy „Estonia 2035“. As result, the Youth Field Development Plan 2021-2035 (Noortevaldkonna arengukava 2021-2035) was adopted 12.08.2021.
As result, the main changes to be highlighted are:
- Development of a youth talent policy
- Systematic implementation of a youth sector monitoring and analysis system
- Introducing the transfer to compulsory professional qualification
- Strengthening youth-oriented solutions (including support and safety networks)
- Forming the state level operational institution, as of 1 August 2020 the Education and Youth Board. In 2019, the Ministry of Education and Research commissioned a study on the administrative agencies under the ministry, services offered and finding solutions to reorganize the services and functions. As there were numerous institutions implementing the same or similar policies (however according to the study was not the case for the youth field), it was proposed that the institutions would be merged into one joint agency, on the basis of the services of former Innove Foundation, Archimedes Foundation, Information Technology Foundation for Education and Estonian Youth Work Centre.
It is evident that such major changes provoke further attention and development work on the operational level to design the implementation measures as well as to build up new approaches, cooperation networks, etc. These also form an important part of ongoing debates.
As elaborated above, as the next steps, operational programs are to be developed as a follow-up of the national youth strategy (tbc), also some further developments are under attention related to public sector priorities in Estonia, such as innovation initiatives to further develop the client-centered design of services, e-services etc. Some interesting initiatives to increase cross-sectoral approach are in place in Estonia, e.g. stronger tides between youth and talent policy, policy research on better recognition of NFL and youth work in formal education, cooperation in the area of restorative justice with the Ministry of Justice, e-participation developments, implementation of joint programs together with different ministries to increase social inclusion, cooperation to help NEETs, co-operation to help Ukrainian refugees, etc. These initiatives led always to debate on what is the role of youth work and the level of partnership on this topic. Youth work is an equal partner and own best experience provider rather than an operational tool for others.
According to COVID19 impact on young people issues of mental health and youth workers' competencies arose. The question of qualification of youth workers is on the table and renewal of the professional standard has started to approve new version in 2022. Approaching National Parliament elections in 2023 many organizations in the youth field discussed their expectations of politicians. So the Estonian Association of Youth Workers issued its own platform for Parliament election and claims for better involvement of young people and co-ordination of youth policy including lowering the voting age to 16 on national and European elections, bringing co-ordination of youth policy to prime-minister's office. Claim for better financing of youth work and social guaranties of youth workers. Association initiated social guarantee negotiations with local municipalities.