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EACEA National Policies Platform: Youthwiki
Italy

Italy

10. Youth work

10.3 Support to youth work

Policy/legal framework 

Regional level

Various youth work practices are included in regional legislation. 

For example, the socio-educational function of the oratories in recognized by Emilia Romagna, Liguria, Umbria, Campania, and Trento, in line with the provisions of national law 206/2003.  Emilia Romagna is the only Region that explicitly recognizes the role of scout associations, indicating scouting as an educational model based on experiential learning and community service (R.L. 14/2008, art. 14, c. 4).

The Regions also include socio-educational work with adolescents as an inter-sectoral practice between education, social-care and leisure activity. Specifically, the main forms of youth work with adolescents mentioned in the regional legislation are the following:

  • Youth Aggregation Centres (“Centri di Aggregazione Giovanile-CAG”) and other spaces for adolescents: promoted mainly by the Law 285/1997 ("Provisions for the promotion of rights and opportunities for children and adolescents") as a form of "Recreational and educational services during the leisure time" with the aim of "enhancing the participation of children (…) in aggregation experiences, as well as opportunities for reflection on issues relevant to civil society” (art. 6); most of the Youth Aggregation Centres (mainly operating in the Northern and Central Regions) have been funded by this law, although they have involved a wider age group over time; 
  • after-school groups mainly involving at risks boys and girls (i.e., R.L. Emilia Romagna 14/2008, art. 14, c. 6).  
  • street work understood as "activities with spontaneous groups of adolescents and young people aimed at building a meaningful relationship among them and with educators", with specific attention to the prevention of risk factors and the mitigation of social discomfort (R.L. Emilia Romagna 14/2008, art. 14, c. 7; art. 38, c. 2, R.L. Liguria 6/2006)
  • outdoor education carried out in Summer camps and centres (R.L. Emilia Romagna 14/2008 and R.L. Liguria 6/2009)
  • the Civil Service for Adolescents, provided by the Puglia Region (art. 5, R.L. 14/2020) as an educational experience based on the involvement in voluntary activities, in close collaboration with schools and the regional school office
  • the Information Centres for Adolescents, as an information service aimed at the needs and interests of adolescents within the existing Youth Information Centres (art. 8, R.L. 14/2020)

Other socio-educational work with adolescents have been supported by L. 285/97 until 2007 and, subsequently, by the National Social Policy Fund (L. 328/2000), both in the educational area (e.g. toy libraries, laboratories, aggregation centres and summer day centres) and the social care area (e.g. day centres for at-risk adolescents).

Aimed at a wider age group that includes adolescents, young people and young-adults, the Youth Information Centres (“Informagiovani”) were created between the 1970-80s at a local level. In 2007, 1200 centres were operating throughout the country (Anci-Pogas, 2007). The original purposes remained substantially unchanged, namely to provide useful information to youths, to act as an information hub of a network of services, to develop collaborations at local, regional, national and European levels; and to invest in the training of operators. A group of eight Regions recognize the Youth Information Centres on a legislative basis, in particular in the Centre-North (Marche, Umbria, Emilia Romagna, Friuli Venezia Giulia, PA Trento, Piemonte) and in only two regions in the South (Sardegna, Basilicata). The Region takes on the role of promoting regional coordination among the centres, also through the sharing of tools and methodologies. 

Since 2007, the regional youth policy programs supported by the National Youth Policy Fund have promoted the dissemination and development of Youth Centres, which mainly involves young people and young adults (age range 18-25 and 26-35). These categories include different types of facilities that in the regional laws are mainly called "Youth aggregation spaces" (Emilia Romagna, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Campania, Umbria, Piemonte, Sicilia), or "Youth Spaces" (Bolzano, Trento, Liguria). In the regional laws, the Youth Centres are expected to include various activities, such as active citizenship, volunteering, training, games, entertainment, art, culture, multi-culture, and sport. The Region can put in place measures to support the creation of new Youth Centres, their upgrading and structural adjustment, the purchase of equipment and maintenance, as well as the implementation of projects within them. 

Although in different ways, the regional laws and policy initiatives tend to frame Youth Centres according to the principles of open-access youth work, i.e., spaces with free and voluntary access in which youth work integrates recreational activities and learning opportunities, educational work focused both on the individual as well as the group, accompaniment to youth initiative projects, prevention of risk and promotion of experiences of autonomy. The same approach is generally adopted also in aggregation centres for adolescents (see above).

In the last ten years, also at a national level, several public programs aimed at the refurbishment and re-use of public buildings for activities designed and managed by young people. These programs include, for example, 

  • Youth for the Valorization of Common goods” ("Giovani per la valorizzazione dei beni pubblici") and "Youth for the Social” (“Giovani per il sociale”) implemented by the national Department for Youth Policy
  • the program  Resources Confiscated from the Mafia” (“Beni confiscati alla mafia”) by the Ministry of Defence
  • the program Creative Youth Re-generation (“Giovani ri-generazioni creative”) by the National Association of Italian Municipality (ANCI).

Finally, all the regional laws recognize the value of youth work experiences supported by EU programs (youth exchanges, volunteering experiences, projects of participation in democratic life, youth initiative projects, mobility of youth workers, strategic partnerships for youth work). More recently, the Regions of Campania, Piemonte and Puglia have recognized at a legislative level the need to launch specific training actions for youth workers (see paragraph 10.5).

With reference to volunteering, some Regions highlight its potential impact on the development and cohesion of local communities, also recalling the Civil Service national program (Trento, Umbria and Piemonte). Regions play a specific role in this program together with the national Department for Youth Policy and Civil Service. Furthermore, Regions can establish specific regional programs for civil service.

National level

At a national level, youth work activities are affected by the framework, guidance and support measures managed by different ministries. The main central interventions include:

  • the funding and national coordination of regional programs in the field of youth policy (National Fund for Youth Policy, art. 19, L. 248/2006), the social and educational work with children and adolescents (L. 285/1997 "Provisions for the promotion of rights and opportunities for children and adolescents") and the socio-educational work with at-risk minors (L. 328/2000, art. 22, c. 2, lett. c);
  • the national program Universal Civil Service with specific reference to the training of local operators that support the educational and training experience of the young volunteers (PLO, Local Project Operators).
  • recognition of the socio-educational function of oratories of different religions (L. 206/2003)
  • the support of youth work activities in projects funded by youth policy programs managed by the central State authority (Youth for Social, Youth for the valorization of public goods, Orientation and placement of young talents, Prevention and contrast to youth discomfort, Youth Camp).

The National Youth Policies Fund (art. 19, c. 2, Law 248/2006) has given impulse and direction to regional programming in the field of youth policies from 2007 onwards, including youth work activities and projects in direct relation with young people. In the last 5 years, for example, the national guidelines shared with the Regions have given priority to the support of cultural and training activities, youth aggregation, orientation and placement, support to young talents, inclusive participation in public policy decisions, and prevention of new addictions.

L. 285/1997 ("Provisions for the promotion of rights and opportunities for children and adolescents"), through the establishment of a special National Fund, has contributed to broadening and diversifying the territorial offer of socio-educational spaces and projects with adolescents, in particular in parent-child relationship support services, recreational and educational services for leisure time, and services for disabled children and their families. In the decade 1997-2007, social-educational work is among the most funded by this Fund (Innocenti Institute, 2017). From 2008 onwards, L. 285/1997 continued to fund projects in only 15 cities (so-called "reserve cities"), while the resources reserved for the Regions have been moved to the National Social Policy Fund (FNPS) (Law no. 328/2000). This fund supports the creation of integrated systems of social interventions and services at a regional level, which also includes services and projects for adolescents (art. 22, c.2, letter c). 

With refence to the Universal Civil Service, a decree law of 2017 (and subsequent operational guidelines issued by the competent Department) provided a more detailed framework of organizational requirements for organizations hosting young volunteers, including the availability of trained staff to accompany volunteers not only as a tutor for their daily activities, but also from an educational perspective closer to youth work (see paragraph 10.5). 

Finally, with L. 206/2003 the State formally recognizes the social and educational function of oratories and other similar structures managed by religious denominations that signed a specific agreement on the basis of art. 8 of the Constitution. This law recognizes the contribution of these structures to the "...development, individual fulfilment and socialization of adolescents and young people of any nationality residing in the national territory" in the field of "sport, solidarity, social promotion and cultural initiatives in leisure time, the fight against social marginalization and racial discrimination, discomfort and deviance” (c. 2, art. 1).

Funding

The work of professionals and volunteers working with young people is funded by different policy sectors. As mentioned in the previous paragraph, the main funding lines are the following:

  • the National Youth Policy Fund (art. 19, Law 248/2006) both through centrally managed programs and through Regional programs;
  • the funds of the Action and Cohesion Plan (“Piano di Coesione Sociale”) intended to support youth policy projects that include youth work activities;
  • the National Fund for Childhood and Adolescence (Law 285/1997) 
  • the National Fund for Social Policies (Law 328/2000);
  • the National Fund for Civil Service (Legislative Decree 40/2017)
  • the support to parish oratories (Law 206/2003).

For the funding lines of the National Youth Policy Fund, see chapter 1.

On the basis of partially available monitoring data (Innocenti Institute, 2017), in its first 6 years (1997-2002) the National Fund for Childhood and Adolescence allocated € 588 million to finance about 6000 projects in different Regions. A specific funding line has been dedicated to 15 so-called "reserved" cities due to the presence of particular problems concerning the well-being and quality of life of children and adolescents. From 1997 to 2017, this Fund allocated € 815,210,000.00 (81 million on average per year) to these cities. From 2018, the Fund has been drastically reduced (28 million in 2018 and 2019).

The endowment of the National Social Policy Fund decreased from around € 1 billion in 2002 to € 297 million in 2014, remaining around € 300 million in the following years until 2019. This fund is divided between the Regions on the basis of an agreement with the central administration (source: Condicio project). From 2014 onwards, the State has requested a specific programming document from the Regions. Monitoring reports are available for the years 2007 to 2011. 

For historical data on the financial resources allocated by the Universal Civil Service, see the report prepared by the competent Department. 

Finally, the law 206/2003 provides some specific support to parish oratories and other similar educational spaces run by religious organizations. Specifically, this law recognizes oratories properties as "secondary urbanization works" for which there is an exemption from payment of municipal property tax (art. 2). In addition, Regions may grant free loan of use of movable and immovable property, without charge to public finance (art. 3). Finally, the Regions that have transposed the national guidelines of this law with their own legislative provision, may grant financial contributions for the restructuring of oratories as well as for the socio-educational activities carried out in them. Examples of Regions that have provided such financial contributions are the Regions of LazioSardegna, Lombardia, and Puglia.

Cooperation

At a national level, the National Youth Council (NYC) is a space of dialogue between its members (associations engaged in the youth sector) and Italian and European institutions, for which the Council plays a consultative role. The NYC cooperate with public authorities to carry out research on youth, as a contribution to the development of knowledge-based youth policy. The National Council supports the already existing Regional Youth Councils and offers counselling and training for the creation of new regional councils. 

Activities carried out by the National Youth Agency (NYA) at a local level also contribute to creating opportunities for networking and cooperative planning. Info days, conferences and training seminars held in different regions have involved both young people and youth work organizations. During 2019, the NYA carried out 88 of these initiatives in all the regions of Italy (source: 2019 report), together with various projects for youth worker mobility funded by Erasmus+ and European Solidarity Corps.

At a local level, the Regional Youth Forums serve as a space for the meeting, comparison and development of collaboration between the different actors of the Third Sector involved in youth work activities. A more direct impact in terms of the development of possible collaborations derives from the action of the Local Youth Forums, since they involve organizations that share the same territory where possible common projects can be implemented. 

The youth division of the National Association of Italian Municipalities (“ANCI Giovani”) has recently called for greater cooperation between schools, youth services and youth work actors at a local level. In particular, the young mayors represented by ANCI have mobilized for the safe return of children and young people to school after the first pandemic wave (#iovadoascuola campaign). 

In the adolescence area, a National Council of associations and experts was set up in 2018 within the Childhood and Adolescence Guarantor. Organized into working groups, the Council has so far played the role of a participatory and advisory body on various issues that call into question the operators and organizations working in the field of youth work, in particular on the right to play for children and adolescents with disabilities, the mental health of adolescents, and the protection of minors in the digital space

At a national level, a National Observatory on Childhood and Adolescence is also active as a cooperation space between central administrations, Regions, Local Authorities, associations, professional bodies and non-governmental organizations. The Observatory makes use of the National Centre of Documentation and Analysis on Childhood and Adolescence, which carries out studies and publications, organizes seminars and training courses on youth issues, and monitors national and international regulations in the sector.

A specific space of participation also open to youth work involved in the field of youth problems is represented by the local consultative platform for the design of social policy (“Piani Sociali di Zona”). They are programming tools framed in the regional social policy and financed by the National Social Policy Fund (Law 328/2000). These spaces of participation and cooperation at a local level are supported by the Regional Observatories on social policies set up by the Regions (e.g. Marche, Toscana, Puglia). At a national level, a specific network action has been promoted by the Cariplo Foundation through the creation of the Welforum Observatory to which other foundations, local authorities (Regions, Municipalities), non-profit organizations (e.g., Caritas, Forum Terzo Settore) and trade unions belong.

National Civil Service activities and projects are carried out in close collaboration with local authorities and possibly also with the involvement of former young volunteers, especially those who are still cooperating in some way with the hosting organization. The National Civil Service is also an opportunity for university students. Several Italian Universities have developed partnerships with third sector associations for the planning and management of Civil Service Projects. The Civil Service Plan 2020-2022 gave a further impulse towards cooperation between the hosting organizations, specifically for the development of partnership projects where to involve young volunteers. In such a way, different organizations cooperate to support the educational and training experience of youth during their volunteering project. 

Finally, school policies recognize in principle and support in different forms the synergy between the learning experience in school and non-formal education spaces/projects. The need to develop an "educating community" has become more urgent during the school break due to the Covid-19 pandemic.  For example, a specific act of guidance by the Ministry of Education in 2020 recognized the importance of relaunching an educational alliance open to all the actors involved in the education and training of young people. In the same perspective, the School Plan 2020-2021 provides for the development of "Community Educational Pacts", i.e. agreements between schools, local authorities, public and private institutions, and non-profit associations to provide spaces for educational activities that are complementary to school teaching. An example is  ScApPaRe, a project carried out by three schools in Rome in collaboration with a wide network of associations involved in out-of-school educational activities.