4.7 Youth work to foster social inclusion
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The Public Interest in the Youth Sector Act (Zakon o javnem interesu v mladinskem sektorju) defines youth work as an
organised and targeted form of operation of young people and for young people, where young people, based on their own efforts to contribute to their own integration in society, strengthen their skills and contribute to the development community. Implementation of various forms of youth work is based on the voluntary participation of young people, regardless of their interest or cultural, ideological or political orientation. (Article 3)
The Public Interest in Youth Sector Act also specifies that state and local government represent the public interest in the youth sector (Article 6). The Council of the Government of the Republic of Slovenia for Youth is a consultative body that assists in deciding on matters of youth and the youth sector.
Two public policy approaches inform youth work in Slovenia: a vertical perspective and the more recently emphasised horizontal perspective. The development of youth work and expansion of the youth sector in general has been consolidated in recent years, enabling the introduction of legislation in 2010. Within the vertical view, the Youth Council Act was adopted; the horizontal perspective includes the Resolution on the National Programme for Youth, which is under the jurisdiction of a number of ministries (the Ministry of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities; the Ministry of Education, Science and Sport; the Ministry of Culture; the Ministry of Health, to name just a few) and ensures that youth matters are included on the policy agenda.
Because there was no formal educational requirement or award to become a youth worker, the Office for Youth introduced an initiative to prepare the vocational standard and a catalogue of professional knowledge and skills standards for youth workers, based on the Resolution on the National Programme for Youth. On 2 June 2017 the Council of the Republic of Slovenia for Vocational Education and Training (Strokovni svet RS za poklicno in strokovno izobraževanje) confirmed the Catalogue of standards and skills (Katalog standardov strokovnih znanj in spretnosti) that recognizes a national vocational qualification certificate for youth workers (Nacionalna poklicna kvalifikacija Mladinski delavec/Mladinska delavka; NPK). The aim is to make the NPK a formally recognised qualification, gained as follows.
- Completion of programme for vocational or professional education
- Verification and validation of NPK
Prior to the appointment of the group that worked on the NPK initiative, a professional group was established as an initiative of the National Youth Council of Slovenia and the Social Academy to consult on the relevant standards. The aim was to provide professional support during the process of NPK development. The group comprised a number of youth organisations, including representatives of the Social Academy, Youth Network MaMa, Trade Union Youth Plus, Youth Association Without Excuse and the National Youth Council. In this case, it becomes clear that youth organisations can play a powerful role in the creation of public policy related to young people.
The institute NEFIKS is a youth organization, which advises young people in Slovenia to consider non-formal education as a reference when searching for employment. The institute offers counselling and tutoring in this field targeting also "young people with fewer opportunities".
The existing youth work programmes generally target all youth, however, the inclusion of "young people with fewer opportunities" is encouraged in the Office for Youth’s public calls for co-financing youth work programmes (through which youth work in Slovenia is financed by public authorities). "Young people with fewer opportunities" generally refer to socio-economically disadvantaged youth (including refugees) and young people with disabilities. The inclusion of such youth into youth work programmes is encouraged, however, it is not obligatory in order to obtain funds.
The main youth work providers in Slovenia are organisations and NGOs working with youth. As these have the status of organisations operating in the public interest, they have access to a range of instruments in the youth sector that includes financial instruments. These youth work providers are responsible for
- spreading information about the needs of young people with fewer opportunities and
- advocating the interests of the socially excluded. Some of these organisations and their projects include:
- Young Street Network (Mreža Mlada ulica) by the non-governmental non-profit organization BOB Institute (Zavod BOB) offers young people in Ljubljana alternative ways of spending their time than simply gathering in public spaces. With young people and local communities, the project creates new solutions that improve the quality of coexistence. The objective of the Young Street Network is to foster social inclusion of young people through action, giving them a voice and shedding light on the issues from their perspective.
- The Youth Information and Counselling Centre of Slovenia (Dnevni center za otroke in mladostnike – MISSS) is a non-governmental non-profit national youth information and counselling service, collaborating with 16 regional and local youth information and counselling centres throughout Slovenia. Applying European standards and principles of generalist youth information work, local centres disseminate information in their local space and provide counselling and assistance in choosing appropriate information.
- The Social Academy encourages social responsibility among Slovene citizens through education, research and cultural activities, which are its three constituent units. Its main activities include various forms of education, cultural and educational evenings, production of a number of publications, cultural events and international activities.
- Voluntariat - SCI Slovenia is a non-governmental non-profit organization coordinating volunteering activities and international volunteering camps in Slovenia. It organises trainings for volunteers and volunteer actions across Slovenia, where and when they are needed, in cooperation with local groups, associations and other organisations in areas such as nature preservation, peace education and helping the disadvantaged. Furthermore, it supports the initiatives of groups and individuals engaged in volunteer work. It also provides and disseminates information about volunteering possibilities in Slovenia as well as in other countries and brings together international campaigns that promote cooperation between people of different nationalities, religions, cultures and political beliefs, based on the belief that such mutual understanding can lead to the non-violent resolution of conflicts.
- Slovene Philanthropy is a humanitarian organization, operating in the public interest since 1992. Its programmes seek to enhance quality of life in the community and provide advocacy for the socially weak. The central activity of Slovene Philanthropy is the promotion of volunteering.
- Society of Allies for Soft Landing is a youth non-governmental organization active in the fields of youth culture, non-formal education, contemporary art and social and humanitarian activities. It has recently devoted special attention to projects in the field of media education, film, video and multimedia. The organisation is involved in a range of activities at local, national and international levels to stimulate the active participation of young people through different forms of media.
- The programme ‘For the Health of Youth’ (Za zdravje mladih) aims to reduce and prevent diseases linked to unhealthy lifestyles among young people. It is coordinated by the national youth organisation No Excuse Slovenia. During an eighteen-month programme, No Excuse Slovenia has connected several membership-based youth organisations in Slovenia (Slovenian Catholic Girl Guides and Boy Scouts Association, Youth Network No Excuse Slovenia, National Scouting Association and the Slovenian National Youth Council), the Public Health Institute of Slovenia and the national TV and radio broadcaster in a campaign to alter perceptions of the role of health in youth work.
Youth work was integrated into the Operational Programme of the Republic of Slovenia to deploy structural and cohesion funds to support the development of quality systems in youth work, to provide a professional qualification for youth workers and to build on the education and training of youth workers. No formal education is currently required in order to become a youth worker or youth leader in Slovenia, and the various training and support provisions for youth workers are supplied by different organisations. One of the priority subfields of the National Programme for Youth 2013–2022 is the creation of capacity for quality youth work and the establishment of a national system of education and training for youth workers and youth leaders. Under the auspices of the Office for Youth in collaboration with the youth sector, the Ministry of Education, Science and Sport, the National Education Institute of Slovenia and local communities, funding will be provided within the available budget of the Republic of Slovenia and of local communities.
A number of organisations in Slovenia offer regular training. For example, the Slovenian Catholic Guides and Scouts Association (Združenje slovenskih katoliških skavtinj in skavtov) has a long tradition of regular training since its establishment. Regular training ensures quality development based on the needs of scouts, scout leaders and the organisation. The Scout Association of Slovenia (Zveza tabornikov Slovenije) has a similar regular training system. Its courses facilitate development of leadership and organisational skills and competences, expert knowledge in the scout’s field, and knowledge and skills for implementation of supporting activities. Each course specifies terms for enrolment. Network MaMa combines and represents organisations that run youth centres or are active in youth work in Slovenia. It also provides training programmes for people working with youth and young people. The Institute Voluntariat SCI Slovenia also provides training courses for people working with youth, as well as organising free seminars for volunteers and camps for scout leaders.
Taking European cohesion funds into account, the funding available for youth work activities fostering social inclusion has increased. Since its beginnings, the Office of the Republic of Slovenia for Youth has been co-funding youth work and youth organisation programmes, typically providing between ten and thirty percent of an NGO's budget.
At present, there is no system of quality assurance for the field of social inclusion in youth work in Slovenia. Tanja Pipan highlighted some of the relevant issues in her master paper entitled ‘The role of youth work in the integration of socially excluded youth’ (Vloga mladinskega dela pri integraciji socialno izključene mladine (2014)).