4.7 Youth work to foster social inclusion
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The work of local governments with young people plays a significant role in the development of the youth policy. According to Paragraph one Section 5 of the Youth Law: “A local government, in executing the functions thereof, shall implement work with youth in compliance with the basic principles of the youth policy and state youth policy development planning documents. A local government plans work with youth, elaborating local government's youth policy development planning documents. A local government ensures the institutional system for the work with youth.” As the youth policy at a national level is a comparatively new policy field, the youth work at the level of local governments is also at its initial stage of development. The Ministry of Education and Science pays particular attention to the development of youth policy at the local level, developing recommendations to local governments for youth work, providing methodological support to local governments, as well as supporting the elaboration of the local government youth policy development planning documents.
However, the information collected annually by the Ministry of Education and Science shows that youth policy is not always as an independent direction of strategic planning in all local governments of Latvia – not all local governments have appropriate strategic planning documents in place and not all of them have an institutional system established to ensure the work with youth (though, it has to be emphasized that the number of local governments which focus on the youth policy and work with young people increases annually). In 2019 “Midterm Evaluation of the Youth Policy Implementation Plan 2016-2020” was done. The main conclusion of the evaluation – during last years there are positive changes in the development of the youth work system in local governments of Latvia.
There is an increase in the number of local governments with at least one youth work specialist (in 2018 in 109 local governments, in comparison in 2016 - 105), funding is allocated for youth work (in 2018 in 98 local governments, in comparison in 2016 - 86). Youth policy planning documents are developed in most of the local governments of Latvia (in 2018 – in 89 local governments, in comparison in 2016 -74).
Unfortunately, there are no changes in the number of youth centres in Latvia – in 2017 in 87 municipalities at least one youth centre existed (the same number as in 2016). There is a decrease in the number of non-governmental organisations implementing youth work (in 2016 in 93 local governments there were at least one NGO working with youth, in 2018 only in 81 local governments).
Main challenges of the youth work system indicated in the evaluation:
- lack of stable, long-term financing system for youth work;
- insufficient human resources, frequent staff changes;
- insufficient cross-sectoral co-operation;
- insufficient infrastructure for youth work.
The Youth Law establishes that “youth work is a set of planned youth-oriented practical measures, which ensure implementation of the youth policy, development of values of young people and strengthening of human values in general.”
The basic tasks for youth work are as follows:
- to support and foster youth initiatives, creating favourable conditions for their intellectual and creative development;
- to provide young people with an opportunity of acquiring the skills, knowledge and competencies necessary for life through non-formal education;
- to ensure young people a possibility to spend their free time efficiently;
- to provide young people with access to information necessary for their development needs.
When assessing the existing practice of youth work in Latvia, it has to be concluded that the existing model is closer to the model of decentralisation when different youth work-related policies and activities are not planned, implemented and coordinated within a single institution, but they are implemented in the institutions responsible for the specific fields, and the Ministry of Education and Science as an institution in charge of the youth sector operates more as an institution that summarizes information and defines strategic development directions. Which of the approaches is more efficient – unfortunately, there is no single opinion regarding it.
In 2015, the Ministry of Education and Science established a workgroup “Work Group for Elaboration of Youth Development Model”, the main task of which is to develop a certification system for youth affairs specialists and youth workers that would also envisage the evaluation of skills and competences. The introduction of such a system in Latvia could serve, as a significant investment in the quality improvement of the work of youth affairs specialists and youth workers, and it would also clarify differences between the roles of youth affairs specialists and youth workers and the differences between the names of professions. In 2021 it is planned to renew the work of this workgroup.
To address issues regarding fostering of social inclusion, young people have an opportunity to get involved in the projects of the “Erasmus+: Youth in Action” Programme, implementing the following types of projects:
- Youth exchange projects – these projects are based on a thematic idea that the youth groups wish to jointly implement, and the idea may be directly related to the daily experience of young people. A youth exchange project has to be based on non-formal education principles and implemented through the methods of non-formal education. During youth exchange, participants with the support of group leaders jointly implement a work programme (a combination of workshops, practical assignments, debates, role-plays, simulations, outdoor activities and other arrangements) that they have developed and prepared before the exchange. The youth exchange provides young people with an to develop their skills, be informed about socially significant issues / thematic fields, to get to know new cultures, habits and lifestyles, mainly in the form of mutual learning, to strengthen such values as solidarity, democracy, friendship, etc. Youth exchange is based on transnational cooperation between two or more involved organisations from different countries of the European Union or beyond it;
- Mobility of staff projects – see information under Sub-chapter 3.8.
In 2019 agreements on the financing of 89 projects under the “Erasmus+: Youth in Action” programme were signed. A number of supported projects on social inclusion – 35. The number of young people with fewer opportunities who participated in projects – 1480 (27% from the total number of project participants), young people with special needs – 199 (3,6%).
There is an opportunity to realise the following types of projects under the European Solidarity Corps programme:
- Volunteering – individual Volunteering is a solidarity activity of a duration of 2 to 12 months. This type of solidarity activity provides young people with the opportunity to contribute to the daily work of organisations in solidarity activities to the ultimate benefit of the communities within which the activities are carried out.
Volunteering teams are solidarity activities that allow teams of participants coming from at least two different countries to volunteer together for a period between 2 weeks and 2 months.
- Traineeships and Jobs – provide young people with opportunities for work practice or employment (in line with the national regulatory framework), helping them to enhance their skills and experience thus facilitating their employability and transition into the labour market.
- Solidarity Projects – an in-country solidarity activity initiated, developed and implemented by young people themselves for a period from 2 to 12 months. It gives a group of a minimum of five young persons the chance to express solidarity by taking responsibility and committing themselves to bring positive change in their local community.
In 2019 agreements on the financing of 71 projects under the “European Solidarity Corps” were signed. A number of projects on social inclusion – 19. The number of young people with fewer opportunities who have participated in projects – 95 (41,9%), young people with special needs – 8 (3,5%).
Likewise, youth social inclusion issues are being dealt with under the programme “KNOW and DO” (see Chapter 3.6).
One of the quality indicators for the youth work is the number of persons involved in the work and consequentially the relative indicator of the number of young people on average for one person engaged in work with the youth.
Within the framework of the project “KNOW and DO”, a youth worker:
- profiles young people identifying their skills, interests, acquired education, as well as determines the directions for development;
- in cooperation with each young person, develops a set of individual measures based on the profiling results consisting of four mandatory components (learning pillars elaborated by UNESCO): personal growth, inclusion in society, “value of work”, lifelong learning competencies;
- enters into an agreement with a young person from the target group regarding implementation of the individual support programme within the project;
- implements the individual support programme for a young person within the time period until 9 months, ensuring the measures envisaged therein; the measures may include the following activities:
- individual support of a mentor on a regular basis (not less than 20 hours per month), where the mentor provides support to the young person of the target group in the implementation of the individual support programme;
- formal and informal learning;
- professional counselling (psychologist, career counsellor, etc., except for medical staff);
- participation in events (camps, seminars, sports activities, cultural events);
- volunteering activities;
- engagement in the activities, events and projects of non-governmental organisations and youth centres;
- familiarisation with professions, including visits to enterprises to choose a professional field or a craft to be acquired with a craftsman;
- engagement in local community activities;
- specific measures for target group youth with disability (with the help of a sign language interpreter, assistant, specialised transport).
A mentor of a young person in the target group within the project “KNOW AND DO” is a person of major age who acquires a training programme prepared by the beneficiary and provides support to a young person in the target group in implementing the individual support programme.
In the Latvian-Swiss cooperation programme (06/2011 – 03/2017) following training courses have been implemented within the framework of the Project:
- training for visually impaired youth about non-formal learning;
- training for persons involved in youth work about social inclusion.
The representatives of renovated multifunctional youth initiative centres take care of accessibility for disabled persons, as well as provide different activities for reducing the social inequality among young people.
The Agency for International Programmes for Youth participates in a long-term Strategic Partnership on Inclusion working with organisations that deal with young people with health issues and diverse abilities as well as providing activities for organisations working with young people in NEET situation. A range of international and national training and partnership building activities are implemented each year. In 2019 an informative seminar focusing on special schools and NGOs was organised. In February 2019 the Agency for International Programmes for Youth hosted an international networking seminar for organisations working or willing to work with young people with health issues or disability “Obstacle-opportunity”. In June 2019 an international Project Lab was organized for experts working with young people in NEET situation and 2 days of national training for experts who work with young people in NEET situation.
In October 2019 the Agency in cooperation with SALTO Inclusion & Diversity organised a training course “Mobility Taster for Inclusion Organisations” which focused on Youth Exchange and Volunteering projects.
In March 2019 Power – Project Factory for Empowerment of Young People in and after Imprisonment was organized. This was an international training course for staff members of closed institutions (detention services, prisons), probations services and NGOs to explore non-formal education and to develop a project involving young people in and after imprisonment.
In 2020 two national Project Labs were organized for organisations working with young people with fewer opportunities. A cycle of 4 webinars for youth workers was organized on how to work with young people with disabilities and health problems. 2 days online training course was organized for youth workers how to work with young people in NEET situation.
In 2020 in the sub-section 2.2.2. “Support for youth activities aimed at inclusion of young people into society by reducing violence and promoting the mental health of young people” of the National Youth Policy programme 6 projects were supported, the total amount of funding – 14 136,05 EUR.
In 2019 agreements on the financing of 89 projects under the “Erasmus+: Youth in Action” programme were signed, total funding amount – 2 527642 EUR. In 2019 agreements on the financing of 71 projects under “European Solidarity Corps” were signed, total funding amount – 1 231134. The source of the funding is the EU budget.
The total funding of the project “KNOW and DO!” during 2014 – 2021 is 7 560 330 EUR, including the funding of the European Social Fund of 6 426 280 EUR and the funding from the national budget – 1 134 050 EUR.
The main principles and tasks of the youth work are defined by the Youth Law. Specific targets, actions and indicators were defined in the Youth Policy Implementation Plan for 2016 – 2020.
Local governments develop Youth policy planning documents (strategies) and monitor the implementation of these documents.
The Ministry of Education and Science provides training to youth workers and youth work specialists. Each year the ministry sends a questionnaire to monitor the implementation of the youth work at a municipal level.
Since 2016, the Agency for International Programmes for Youth participates in a long-term project “EUROPE GOES LOCAL – Supporting Youth Work at the Municipal Level”. The aim of the project is to raise the quality of local youth work through enhanced cooperation between various stakeholders that are active at the municipal level. In the framework of the project “A European Charter of Local Youth Work” was prepared in 2019. The Agency for International Programmes for Youth has translated the document into Latvian and distributed it to municipalities. The project online toolkit “Changemakers Kit” includes good practice, policy documents, and an interactive tool for self-assessment that helps to raise the quality of youth work at the municipal level.
To support youth workers at local governments supervisions for 11 youth workers/ youth work specialists were provided during the project in 2019. Supervisions will be continued in 2021.