1. Youth Policy Governance
The Netherlands is a densely populated country. It covers a small geographical area (41.543 km²), bordering the North Sea in the West, Germany in the East and Belgium in the South, and accommodates a population of around 17,8 million people (May 2023, Statistics Netherlands). Most people live in the west of the Netherlands in the ‘Randstad’, an area between the four major cities: Amsterdam (capital), The Hague (seat of Government), Rotterdam and Utrecht. The Caribbean islands of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba are part of the Netherlands as special municipalities (since October 2010). The Netherlands is part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands which also comprises the countries of Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten. In the Netherlands, governance is shared between the national level, the provincial level in twelve provinces and the municipalities (345, as of May 2023, Statistics Netherlands). Quite a complicated governance challenge, not only in the field of youth.
Before 2015 services for youth were fragmented, financial streams differed and the system was ineffective. Reforms were needed to better streamline services and approaches and to adapt them to local needs. This led to a transition and transformation of youth services and the decentralization from national and provincial to local policy. The Dutch municipalities have been made responsible for the whole continuum of welfare, support and care for all citizens, including children, young people and families in need of help.
This has been a major opportunity for transforming policies and services towards integrated approaches. The decentralization of national and provincial responsibilities has taken place. Evaluations in 2018 and 2020 showed that more time is needed to also transform policies and services. The transformation continues to be permanently monitored, to see how the system works to benefit all children and young people in the Netherlands. Furthermore, the new Cabinet (2022) was expected to decide about future adjustments to the Child and Youth Act to keep the youth care system manageable, as both the demand of youth care and municipal budget deficits have grown in recent years. On 19 June 2023, client organisations, professional associations, youth care providers, the municipalities and the national government approved the Youth Reform Agenda. It is a package of measures to improve youth care and at the same time make it affordable. The starting point is that children and families should receive help that suits them and that is effective.