Call for action seeks to improve youth work situation in Europe

At the Youth Work Recovery Conference (13 to 16 June 2022) policy experts, practitioners and researchers from 28 countries came together to discuss how the Covid pandemic has affected youth work in Europe and neighbouring partner countries. In line with the strategic framework set out in the European Youth Work Agenda, the conference produced a call for action designed to ensure the recovery and development of youth work as the world emerges from the pandemic.

The outbreak of the Covid pandemic was the beginning of an unprecedented period that has had a major impact on the youth sector. Young people and youth work experts have suffered considerably both personally and psychologically. The youth work system has been shaken to the foundations in many countries. The restrictions on transnational mobility have resulted in significant constraints on European and international cooperation in particular.

Even before the pandemic, youth work faced systemic challenges such as the lack of comprehensive recognition of the field and adequate, long-term and stable funding at all levels and in all countries. Those challenges have now been compounded.

What support youth work needs now

The Youth Work Recovery Conference sought to respond to this challenging situation by bringing together policy, practice and research stakeholders to discuss what support the field needs and to draw up clear recommendations on how best to promote youth work recovery and development throughout Europe as the pandemic wanes.

Ensure youth work has access to funds and programmes to facilitate post-pandemic recovery

The conference thus took its cue from the priority areas and objectives defined in the European Youth Work Agenda –with regard to both the immediate post-pandemic situation and specific steps to be taken in the medium and long term. It drew on relevant research concerning the post-pandemic youth work situation, mainly produced by the RAY Network. RAY is shorthand for “Research-based Analysis and Monitoring of European Youth Programmes”, which describes the work done by the network, specifically in relation to the Erasmus+ and European Solidarity Corps programmes.

Five recommendations

The conference’s recommendations focus on

  1. action to ensure youth work has access to funds and programmes to facilitate post-pandemic recovery;
  2. low-threshold mental health support for youth work experts and young people so they can overcome personal challenges during the pandemic;
  3. future pandemic preparedness through good-quality digital infrastructure and enhancement of youth work experts’ digital skills;
  4. adequate, long-term youth work funding, including both stable structural funding and imaginative project funding; and
  5. an intelligent combination of recovery measures and relevant youth policy strategies (particularly implementation of the European Youth Work Agenda) to promote coherent development of the field in Europe and stronger lobbying for youth work.

The European RAY Network coordination team has published the conference outcomes in a Beyond Recovery Call for Action. The aim of the call is both to improve the current situation and to make the youth sector resilient to future crises. In an ongoing process, the conference participants have distributed it to policymakers at all levels across Europe, calling on them to implement the actions it presents and to take the necessary steps to ensure youth work recovery and development following the Covid pandemic.

The Youth Work Recovery Conference thus set out to follow the lead of the Final Declaration of the 3rd European Youth Work Convention, engaging the Community of practice in efforts to bring about concrete action building on the Bonn Process.

The conference was planned and implemented by the National Agencies for the EU youth programmes in Croatia, Finland, France, Germany, Portugal and Slovenia along with the RAY Network coordination team. To see the conference outcomes, including the call for action, click here.