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EACEA National Policies Platform


1. Youth Policy Governance

1.2 National youth law

Last update: 22 January 2021

LAST MODIFIED ON: 13/08/2020 - 11:43

On this page
  1. Existence of a National Youth Law
  2. Scope and contents
  3. Revisions/updates

Existence of a National Youth Law


There is no youth law in Northern Ireland. Youth policy-makers and service providers operate within the general legislative framework as regards, for example, health and safety, employment and equality.

The more specific legislative framework is contained in the:

Other relevant legislation includes:

Scope and contents

Education and Libraries (Northern Ireland) Order 1986

This Order sets out the requirements for the statutory provision of youth services.

The Order provides that the Education Authority shall secure the provision of adequate facilities for recreational, social, physical, cultural and youth service activities and for services to ancillary to education and for that purpose may, with the approval of the Department of Education:

  • establish, maintain and manage any such facilities
  • organise any such activities
  • assist, by financial contributions or otherwise, any person to establish, maintain and manage any such facilities or to organise any such activities
  • provide, or assist by financial contribution or otherwise in the provision of, leaders for such activities
  • defray or contribute towards the expenses of any persons taking part in any such activities.

Recreation and Youth Service (Northern Ireland) Order 1986

This Order sets out the constitution and functions of Sport NI, including the provision of advice on matters relating to sport and physical recreation to government departments, the Education and Library Boards (replaced by the Education Authority in 2015), district councils and other bodies interested in sport and physical recreation. The Order also sets out the conditions for district councils to provide facilities for recreational, social, physical and cultural activities.

Youth Service (Northern Ireland) Order 1989

This established the Youth Council for Northern Ireland (YCNI), a non-departmental public body, with the following functions, in accordance with arrangements approved by the Department of Education:

  • to advise the Department of Education, Education Authority and other bodies on the development of the youth service
  • to encourage cross‐community activity by the youth service
  • to encourage the provision of facilities for the youth service and facilities which are especially beneficial to young persons
  • to encourage and assist the co‐ordination and efficient use of the resources of the youth service.

The Youth Council remains a legal entity and will be required to undertake its statutory duties until The Youth Service (Northern Ireland) Order 1989 is repealed. The Board of the Youth Council, supported by a small secretariat, will remain in place in the interim period (see the article ’Current debates and reforms’).

Children (Northern Ireland) Order 1995

This Order imposed general and specific duties on authorities regarding children in need and their families and looked-after children, replacing previous legislation. It brought child welfare legislation into a single coherent statutory framework.

Commissioner for Children and Young People (Northern Ireland) Order 2003

This established the office of the Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People (NICCY). The primary remit of the office is to safeguard and promote the rights and best interests of children and young people and specifically to keep under review the adequacy and effectiveness of:

  • law and practice relating to the rights and welfare of children and young persons
  • services provided for children and young persons by relevant authorities.

The Commissioner uses the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) as a guiding principle.

Children's Services Co-operation Act (Northern Ireland) 2015

This Act requires children’s authorities (defined in the legislation, but including all government departments and the Education Authority) and other defined bodies, to cooperate to contribute to the well-being of children and young persons. The Act requires the Northern Ireland Executive to adopt a children and young person’s strategy, setting out what is to be done to achieve this.

The Act aims to support government departments and public bodies to tackle shared problems in a more coherent fashion and to mitigate the compartmentalisation which departmental responsibilities could cause.

Shared Education Act (Northern Ireland) 2016

This Act makes provision in relation to shared education. The purpose of shared education is: 

  • To deliver educational benefits to children and young persons 
  • To promote the efficient and effective use of resources 
  • To promote equality of opportunity 
  • To promote good relations 
  • To promote respect for identity, diversity and community cohesion

Shared education means the education together of:

  • those of different religious belief, including reasonable numbers of both Protestant and Roman Catholic children or young persons; and
  • those who are experiencing socio-economic deprivation and those who are not, which is secured by the working together and co-operation of two or more relevant providers.


References to the ‘education and library boards’ (ELBs) in The Education and Libraries (Northern Ireland) Order 1986, the The Youth Service (Northern Ireland) Order 1989 and The Children (Northern Ireland) Order 1995, have been replaced by ‘Education Authority’ under the Education Act (Northern Ireland) 2014, which established the new single authority in their place from 1 April 2015.