LAST MODIFIED ON: 28/12/2020 - 13:40
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The Department of Education (DE) is the lead department with responsibility for youth work in Northern Ireland, ensuring that children and young people are supported to reach their full potential as valued individuals and responsible citizens. The Department is supported in delivering its functions by a range of Arm's Length Bodies, each of which is accountable to the Department, including the Education Authority and the Youth Council NI.
The Department sets overall youth policy and strategies, while delivery of youth work and opportunities for young people’s non-formal learning in line with the policy is the responsibility of the Education Authority.
The Youth Service supports young people to engage positively in their communities, particularly those individuals who are most disadvantaged in society. It is comprised of two strands:
● a statutory strand, which is under the control of the Education Authority (EA) and comprises youth centres and outdoor education provision
● a voluntary strand, which comprises a large range of diverse organisations that operate at a local and regional level across Northern Ireland which have registered with and receive funding from the EA.
A number of Regional Voluntary Youth Organisations (RVYO) operate in Northern Ireland that provide support and services to their member organisations. RVYOs can access funding from the EA.
Requirements for the statutory provision of youth services were set out in the Education and Libraries (Northern Ireland) Order 1986. The duties it placed on the five regional Education and Library Boards transferred to the Education Authority in April 2015. These duties are to secure the provision of adequate facilities for recreational, social, physical, cultural and youth service activities and for ancillary services to education. With the approval of the Department of Education, the Education Authority may establish and manage any such facilities; organise any such activities; and assist (financially or otherwise) any persons to establish or manage any such facilities.
Financial assistance from the EA is available for regional and voluntary youth service organisations which register with it. As part of the registration process, such organisations must have appropriate governance and safety measures in place, including a constitution, a child protection policy and insurance.
General distribution of responsibilities
The Regional Youth Development Plan is to be informed by stakeholder engagement in the form of the Regional Advisory Group. This comprises government department representatives, young people, youth organisation representatives and other stakeholders. In March 2020, a Regional Youth Development Plan for 2020-2023 was published by the Education Authority, following consultation with the Regional Advisory Group and with representatives of Local Advisory Groups (LAG). Terms of reference for the Local Advisory Groups state that the membership includes 6-8 local young people. There are a range of other policies which are key in the development of this plan and the Education Authority Youth Service including the Children and Young People’s Strategy 2019 – 2029 which states:
The Department of Education invests in youth work to support and encourage children and young people to mature and reach their potential as valued individuals and responsible citizens. Non-formal education, in the form of youth work, encourages children and young people’s participation to develop their personal and social skills, encouraging them to engage or re-engage in positive learning within a non-formal setting.
The Regional Youth Development Plan is reviewed regularly and progress reported in line with the EA Business Plan 2019-2029. The resources provided for the EA Youth Service by the Department of Education are deployed in accordance with the plan to achieve specific outputs and outcomes. Local Advisory Groups (LAGs) work in partnership within their locality to inform respective Local Area Development Plans. The purpose of the Local Advisory Group is purely advisory.
Final decisions in relation to the Regional and Local Area Development Plans are undertaken by the Education Authority as the accounting body in line with the overall framework, priorities and budget established by the Department of Education. All education policy remains the responsibility of the Minister for Education.
There are no established legislative frameworks to ensure cross-sectoral cooperation between all youth work stakeholders in Northern Ireland. However there are various cross-departmental working groups and programme boards which span specific programmes and initiatives.