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EACEA National Policies Platform


10. Youth work

10.3 Support to youth work

Last update: 22 January 2021

LAST MODIFIED ON: 28/12/2020 - 13:41

On this page
  1. Policy legal framework
  2. Funding
  3. Cooperation


Policy/legal framework 

Priorities for Youth sets youth work in the context of the overarching goals of the Department of Education, as follows:


  • raising standards for all
  • closing the performance gap, increasing access and equality.

It also sets youth work in the context of three enabling goals for the education sector:

  • developing the non-formal education workforce
  • improving the non-formal learning environment
  • transforming the governance and management of non-formal education.

In support of the Department of Education vision of ‘every young person achieving to his or her full potential at each stage of his or her development’, Priorities for Youth states that the strategic aims of youth work are to:

  • contribute to raising standards for all and closing the performance gap between the highest and lowest achieving young people by providing access to enjoyable, non-formal learning opportunities that help them to develop enhanced social and cognitive skills and overcome barriers to learning
  • continue to improve the non-formal learning environment by creating inclusive, participative settings in which the voice and influence of young people are championed, supported and evident in the design, delivery and evaluation of programmes.

Achieving the overall aims requires:

  • alignment of youth work policy with the strategic priorities for education, which will help shape and modernise provision in order to produce more equitable outcomes for young people.
  • the proportionate targeting of services based on need with a clear focus on those most in need of additional support to achieve their potential, embrace diversity, and overcome disaffection.
  • a clear focus on the provision of measurable, quality learning experiences for young people (p.12).

Examples of the types of groups to be targeted include, but are not limited to, young people who:

  • are disadvantaged, vulnerable, or at greater risk of social exclusion
  • are engaged in risk taking behaviour
  • live in areas of deprivation or in interface areas
  • are not in, or who are at risk of disengaging from education, employment or training
  • have special educational needs or disabilities
  • are newcomers or have English as an additional language
  • are in care
  • are young carers and young parents
  • are gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender
  • come from the Traveller Community
  • live in rural isolation.

The strategy was developed by the Department of Education in consultation with key stakeholders, including the Youth Council for Northern Ireland; the Youth Services of the five former Education and Library Boards (which were replaced by the Education Authority in April 2015); Regional Voluntary Youth Organisations; and the Northern Ireland Assembly Committee for Education.

Note that the Youth Council NI, while remaining a statutory body, is currently not able to operate as the term of office for Board members expired on 31 March 2019 and new members cannot be appointed in the absence of a Minister.


There are several funding opportunities available to support youth work in Northern Ireland. Public funding for youth organisations comes mainly from the Department of Education and is channelled through the Education Authority. This funding is to support local delivery, maintain statutory units or programmes and to provide funding to local voluntary youth units who satisfy registration criteria and are eligible for funding.


A new funding model is currently being developed. Under this model, the Education Authority will only consider funding youth organisations who can demonstrate that their services are required in order to implement the Regional Youth Development Plan.

Youth organisations may also apply for ad hoc grant funding from the Department of Education, the Education Authority or other government departments.

The Small Grants Programme is a Youth Service initiative supported by Education Authority full-time youth work staff. The programme has been set-up to enable young people to administer grants to other young people, and aims to strengthen the participation of young people as decision-makers within the local and wider community. The Programme is a key action in the Department of Education’s policy document, Priorities for Youth and is developed and delivered by the programme's Youth Panel (see 'Other bodies' in the article on ‘Youth representation bodies’).

The Small Grants Programme is open to groups of young people aged up to 25 who are part of an Education Authority Youth Service registered group. Groups can apply for funding of between £300 and £1500 to plan, develop and deliver projects within their youth organisations and/or local areas.

Under Article 7 of The Youth Service (Northern Ireland) Order 1989, the Department of Education can make capital grants for the provision of facilities for the Youth Service.  The Voluntary Youth Capital Funding Scheme can, with grant-aid, assist with the cost of refurbishing premises, improving facilities for people with disabilities, bringing the property up to current health and safety and fire safety standards, child protection measures, or meeting the needs of young people within Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 (see subheading 'Formal mechanisms of consultation' in the article 'Young people's participation in policy-making') and those of greater risk of social exclusion/marginalisation.

The Big Lottery Fund makes grants available under its ‘Empowering young people’ programme. To be eligible, projects must be aimed at achieving at least one of the following outcomes:

  • more young people are ready for education, work and training
  • young people have better relationships with their support networks and communities
  • young people have improved health and well being.


The Children's Services Co-Operation Act (Northern Ireland) 2015 was introduced to improve the well-being of children and young people by enhancing cooperation amongst public sector organisations designated as ‘children’s authorities’. These include Northern Ireland government departments, district councils, health and social care trusts, the Education Authority, the probation board and the police service. The Act sets out eight general characteristics that contribute to the well-being of children and young people, of which includes the 'enjoyment of play and leisure', ‘learning and achievement’, and ‘the making by them of a positive contribution to society’, all of which can be applied to youth work.


For details of the cross-sectoral cooperation in the youth sector generally, see the article on 'Cross sectoral approach with other ministries' in the chapter on Youth Policy Governance.