4.7 Youth work to foster social inclusion
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In Sweden, there is no national level policy framework for youth work aimed at fostering social inclusion.
Generally speaking, youth work in Sweden takes an inclusive position, aiming for to reach all young people, from a positive standing point where they are seen as carriers of resources and possibilities rather than of problems. At the local level, most efforts are made to reach to a diverse youth group from socially more deprived neighbourhoods. This is done because of existing economic restrictions, but also based on requests from and the needs of young people.
Youth work is a municipal responsibility, both when it comes to outreach activities and to youth centres and youth clubs. The work may be carried out and/or governed by different entities though, such as municipalities, CSOs, faith communities or schools. Youth work takes place in different localities, such as youth centres and clubs, sport facilities, schools, churches, etc.
The Swedish Government has also initiated a number of comprehensive programmes and actions, where the target group consists of young people in a more vulnerable position, such as NEET, young people at risk for violence and radicalisation, young people with a migrant or ethnic minority background, young LBGTI-persons, young people with disabilities, and latterly, newly arrived young migrants. See section 4.4, Inclusive Programmes for Young People, for more information.
These government actions usually target professionals working in health care or in schools, in social work, in the police force and in organised leisure, including both youth centres and sports. Even volunteers active in CSOs and in faith communities are targeted.
The Swedish Agency for Youth and Civil Society (MUCF) has since 2017 a government assignment to function as support for young people's open leisure activities and to offer training for local level actors. The support is to be based on the needs and demands of young people.
Young people who neither work or study - NEET
The Swedish Agency for Youth and Civil Society (MUCF) has since 2019 the government's mandate to support municipalities and regions in their work with young people who neither work nor study (NEET). The purpose is to provide help to young people in an effective and coordinated manner.
An interim report from 2020 drew attention to following obstacles and practical problems in municipalities and regions:
- Lack of focus on preventive measures.
- Lack of a holistic perspective when the responsibility is divided between a number of actors.
- Insufficient welfare resources.
- Problematic gaps at young people's transitions, for example from compulsory to upper secondary education.
- No actor is responsible for promoting young people's health within the municipal responsibility for young people under the age of 20 who have not completed upper secondary education.
In November 2016, the Government launched a National strategy to prevent and combat men’s violence against women. The strategy has a clear focus on violence prevention and addresses professionals in schools, youth care, institutional care and social and health care, as well as the research community and government agencies responsible for improving the knowledge base.
In 2023 the government has started the process of producing a new action programme to combat men's violence against women and honour-based violence.
Youth work addressing LGBTI youth
The Swedish Agency for Youth and Civil Society (MUCF) has since 2014 a task of implementing measures for an open and inclusive environment in schools for young LGBTI people in consultation with the National Agency for Education (Skolverket). MUCF offers the training material "Open school!" to professionals who work within the upper primary or secondary education. The material focuses on norms concerning sexuality, gender identity and gender expression. In 2021, MUCF has developed digital training tools for reaching out to schools throughout the country. Previously, MUCF has conducted training on LGBTI issues in a small number of schools.
In 2019, the Swedish Agency for Youth and Civil Society (MUCF) was tasked with improving the conditions for safe meeting places for young LGBTI people. The interim report (2021) discusses the significant role of safe spaces, both in form of physical meeting places and digital channels, for LGBTI youth.
The report presents results from a survey that has identified 66 meeting places for young LGBTI people in 2020. The meeting places were situated in 16 of Sweden's 21 counties and in 43 of Sweden's 290 municipalities. The number has slightly increased compared to the 2019 year's survey that identified 50 meeting places. The survey has shown continued shortcomings in geographical accessibility, as a large part of Sweden's municipalities and counties still lack meeting places for LGBTI youth. A majority of the identified meeting places are in the metropolitan areas. In this survey, MUCF has not succeeded in identifying any meeting place in a rural municipality. Therefore, the government renewed the assignment to MUCF in 2023.
The Government has an on-going dialogue with the Swedish Sports Confederation (Riksidrottsförbundet) about the situation of transgender people in sports. Current topics of conversation are for example how sports movements can combat discrimination and how to create more deliberately norm-critical approaches that can challenge the dominating conceptions of masculinity and femininity. The Swedish Sports Confederation has also started to work for removing barriers for transgender people to engage in sports.
Youth work is a municipal responsibility in Sweden, both when it comes to outreach and to youth centres and youth clubs. The work may however be carried out and/or governed by different entities, such as municipalities, CSOs, faith communities or schools, and take place in different localities, such as youth centres and clubs, sport facilities, schools, churches, etc.
Training for youth work is mainly provided by Swedish folk high schools (folkhögskolor). The folk high schools provide a two-year study programme (fritidsledarutbildning), leading to a diploma in youth work. There is a common training plan/curriculum that all folk high schools follow. Information on the study programme is made available at the youth work website.
Youth work network KEKS
Quality and expertise in cooperation, KEKS (Kvalitet och kompetens i samverkan, KEKS) is a network for youth work. The network exists since 2005 and is built on common goals and a common system of quality assurance. The network has about forty members, municipal administrations in charge of youth centres, youth houses, and youth projects.
Swedish Inheritance Fund
If a deceased person has no spouse or close relatives and has not left a will, their property goes to the Swedish Inheritance Fund (Arvsfonden). The Fund supports non-profit organisations and other voluntary associations wishing to test new ideas for developing activities for children, young people and people with disabilities.
Applications that may be supported come in most cases from non-profit organisations engaged in voluntary work, but even municipalities may be granted the right to implement a project. In such case, the project should be innovative and conducted in close cooperation with a non-profit organisation. A project can be granted funding from the Inheritance Fund for three years.
In 2022, 741 million Swedish kronor (70 million euros) were distributed in project grants. About 155 million Swedish kronor (15 million euros) for projects with target group children and about 379 million Swedish kronor (36 million euros) for projects targeting youth (Annual Report 2022).
The Swedish Agency for Youth and Civil Society (MUCF) is the government agency for matters relating to youth policy and civil society. The agency shall, according to its ordinance, work to ensure that the objectives of youth policy and of civil society policy will be achieved by:
- presenting, gathering and disseminating knowledge;
- contributing to the coordination of government efforts concerning youth policy;
- cooperating with government authorities, municipalities, county councils and civil society organisations;
- distributing state grants to civil society organisations.
In 2022, 330 million Swedish kronor (31 million euros) were deposited as a state grant to youth organisations. See section 1.7 Funding youth policy for more information.
There are no national level evaluations on local youth work in Sweden. There are no national registers on youth work providers either.
In general, all government tasks result in a final report to the government, where the main actions, management of the actions and practical examples of the local work are described. Evaluations in the form of effect studies are more seldom. In case a comprehensive evaluation takes place, the work is commonly done by a research institution specifically appointed for the task.
The Swedish National Audit Office (Riksrevisionen) is part of the central control power of the Swedish Parliament. Their task is to contribute to the efficient use of resources and efficient management of the state through an independent audit of all government operations. The agency audits both government agencies accounting, as the effectiveness in the state's commitments.
The Swedish Agency for Public Management (Statskontoret) has the government’s task of analysing and evaluating state-funded activities. The agency has conducted a large number of studies, for example on the Public Employment Service's work and the labour market programmes.
But there are interesting local initiatives for quality tools taken within the KEKS-network, and for providing a better knowledge base for youth work within the Research and Development Centre for Youth Work.
Quality tools for youth work, provided by KEKS network
The KEKS network has developed a quality system that is used by all members in order to develop youth work. This is done both by benchmarking, peer learning, exchange of best practices and other forms of cooperation within KEKS. The quality system consists of five different tools centred on the core principles of participation and non-formal learning:
- a digital logbook where all youth work is systematically documented through both statistics and written comments
- an annual survey of young people visiting the youth centres. The survey consists of two parts; one with questions about the respondent (age/sex/background, etc.), and one with questions about safety, participation, accessibility, etc. (in 2014 over 7 300 young persons answered the survey)
- a group survey answered by young people who take part in creating activities for themselves and/or others, answering questions about how and to what extent they have participated,
- ELD (Experience, Learning, Description) – a method for documenting and making visible non-formal learning
- statistics regarding the number of visitors, number of activity hours, costs, etc.
The logbook for Continuous Documentation of Youth Work is a web-based system for documentation of youth work within youth centres, youth projects and informal groups. Through it, statistics are compiled on:
- number of visitors and gender balance
- opening and activity hours
- hours and participants in spontaneous activities, planned open activities and group activities
- type of activities carried out (culture, sports, etc.)
- extent of young people’s participation.
Statistics from the logbook are annually put together with results from KEKS annual meeting-place survey of young people, KEKS on-going group activity survey of young people and economic information in order to give a complete picture of how well they reach their aims. This in turn is the basis for the developmental support (competence, methods, organisation) that KEKS provide to its members.
Survey for follow-up of youth centres
The survey is annual and web-based survey, directed towards young people visiting youth centres, youth houses, etc. All questions relate to common aims regarding the target group, youth participation, etc. All answers are stored and made searchable in a database.
The aim is to study how well youth centres and municipal administrations meet central indicators on youth work quality, in order to be able to take adequate measures for quality improvement. The main indicators are the following:
- target group
- safe environment
- youth participation, influence and responsibility.
The survey instruments are directly linked to the over-all aims of inclusiveness, safety, participation, influence and attractiveness. The results from the survey are combined with results from continuous group surveys and quantitative figures from the logbook and other statistics into an annual results presentation for each youth centre and local department within KEKS.
Group-survey for follow-up of group activities
The group survey for follow-up of group activities is a web-based survey directed towards young people taking part in group activities (e.g. international youth exchanges, creating cultural events, etc.). The survey focuses on ways of participating and how young people have perceived their participation.
Results are handed out continuously as soon as the group members have completed the survey as a basis for reflection and evaluation in the group. All answers are stored and made searchable in a database. The results are compiled for groups, units and municipal administrations and disseminated centrally, by KEKS. General trends are presented to all staff, heads of municipal administrations and politicians.
Research and development centre
Research and development centre, R & D (Kunskapscentrum för Fritidsledarskap) is for youth work in youth centres in the capital area (Stockholm and surrounding municipalities). The Research and development centre develops and evaluates methods and leadership for youth work at youth clubs and recreation centres. The focus is on a promotion approach and empowerment and not on social work.
The aim is to seize and restructure both youth leaders’ skills, and existing research in the area, and to produce efficient systems for the development, documentation and evaluation of activities. R & D strives for to connect research to youth work. The Centre also networks in order to contribute to the development of open leisure and recreation leader profession.
The R & D is based on regional collaboration between Skarpnäck Folk High School, youth work education (fritidsledarutbildningar) and a number of municipalities around Stockholm.