Thursday 27 March 2008, by European Commission
On 3-4 March, the European Commission organised a conference in Brussels on the ’Participation of young people with fewer opportunities’. It was the first European event focusing on the category of socio-economically deprived young people in Europe. The conference highlighted innovative ways to encourage the participation of marginalized young people in society and identified key factors for success in projects working in this area. More than 150 participants came from all over Europe, including representatives of 23 umbrella NGOs and national or local NGOs from all Member States, youth workers and policy-makers.
The conference participants’ presented their understanding of good practices in working with disadvantaged young people, and highlighted the importance of several key issues:
The youth workers called for better listening instead of one way monologue from the administrative bodies. They underlined the importance of mutual understanding, cooperation and coordination of activities between the policy makers from the European Institutions, national governments and the people working directly with disadvantaged young people;
participants called for more involvement and empowerment of young people together with an enhanced consultation process with youth workers;
there was recognition of the need for flexibility and a tailor-made approach when looking for appropriate solutions, taking into consideration the particular situation of disadvantaged young people concerned,
it is important to build long-term relationships when dealing with young people with fewer opportunities. Working with youngsters is a long-term process, which does not necessarily bring about quick, short-run outcomes,
the equal engagement by all Member States is absolutely crucial when tackling the problems of social exclusion of disadvantaged young people.
More specific conclusions were drawn up during the conference’s four workshops, which dealt with peer-learning, youth workers, ethnic minorities and migrants, homeless young people.
In the area of peer-learning the participants stressed that dissemination of their activities needs a much higher priority. Peer learning has real value and it helps to keep skills up-to-date. It was proposed to create a special database of good practices. More funds are needed for networking and building relationships, especially for smaller organizations.
The workshop on youth workers prioritised the importance of continuous training and skills for youth workers, and better terms and conditions for them because of their highly skilled and difficult job. A very interesting proposal was to establish a regular forum or congress of youth workers to meet at European level.
In the field of ethnic minorities and migrants it was highlighted that more funds should be earmarked for this issue. The focus should be placed on the social benefit of the projects rather than on just the tangible results. As regards homeless young people the participants agreed on the correct definition of the problem, and called for more data to be gathered, and more research to be carried out, to understand better the range of issues in the area of young people and their housing. Even though a genuine housing policy prioritizing accommodation at a reasonable price is very important, housing is not the only answer. There are a range of life skills, support and assistance that are also needed, which should be provided by many coordinated services.
See also: IP/08/366
Brussels, 6 March 2008