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EACEA National Policies Platform


5. Participation

5.6 Supporting youth organisations

Last update: 22 January 2021

LAST MODIFIED ON: 11/11/2020 - 01:10

On this page
  1. Legal/policy framework for the functioning and development of youth organisations
  2. Public financial support
  3. Initiatives to increase the diversity of participants

Legal/policy framework for the functioning and development of youth organisations

The policy framework for youth organisations is provided by Priorities for Youth and the Regional Youth Development Plans which it introduced (see subheading ‘Existence of a National Youth Strategy’).  

To be eligible for support and grant assistance, youth organisations must register with the Education Authority.

Beyond this, the framework for the operation of youth organisations and their relationship with Government is governed by the general framework of the Concordat. This is an agreement between Government and the Voluntary and Community Sector which outlines the key values and principles and establishes a set of shared commitments on how Government and the Voluntary and Community Sector can work together.

The principles of the Concordat include:

  • Government and the Voluntary and Community Sector have distinct yet complementary roles in contributing to the social, economic, environmental and cultural life in Northern Ireland.
  • The provision of funding and other forms of support by Government is an important means of strengthening the capacity of the Voluntary and Community Sector and enabling it to contribute effectively to the attainment of Government objectives.
  • Effective partnerships between Government and the Voluntary and Community Sector bring added value to their efforts to improve quality of life in Northern Ireland.
  • Successful partnerships must be based on openness, trust and recognition of the constraints on other partners.
  • It is realised that creative partnerships are open to change and provide opportunities to work in flexible and innovative ways which can help to promote a socially cohesive society that respects difference and welcomes diversity.
  • Active citizenship [should be encouraged] through volunteering, community involvement and self-help initiatives within all sectors of society and by all age groups.

There is a great variety of youth organisations of different sizes and governance arrangements, although many operate as charities and must comply with duties placed on them by legislation; the Charities Act (Northern Ireland) 2008 and the amendments made to it by the Charities Act (Northern Ireland) 2013. The legislation sets out how all charities in Northern Ireland are registered and regulated. (See 'Financial accountability').


Public financial support

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 was 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’). 

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 sub-heading 'Formal mechanisms of consultation' in the article 'Young people's participation in policy-making') and those of greater risk of social exclusion/marginalisation.


Initiatives to increase the diversity of participants

Youth organisations operate within the context of the Government’s Community Relations, Equality and Diversity (CRED) policy (see ‘Main themes’ in ‘Youth policy decision-making’.)

The Northern Ireland National Citizen Service (NI NCS) (see ‘Non-formal and informal learning’) was established with a view to creating a more cohesive, responsible and engaged society.

See the subheading 'Information on the extent of youth participation' in 'Young People's Participation in Policy-making' for further information about increasing the diversity of participants.