The European Commission and the Council of Europe have signed a new youth partnership for the period 2014 – 16 to foster synergies between the two organizations. Specific themes for 2014 – 16 are: participation/citizenship; social inclusion; recognition and quality of youth work. For reaching the specific objective of better knowledge and evidence-based youth policy and practice, there is wide range of activities carried out for providing information through publications, on-line databases, meetings and training sessions.
ENIL has been involved in a project called ‘Mapping of Barriers to Social Inclusion for Young People in Vulnerable Situations’. Its main aim is to take a closer look into the barriers to inclusion faced by young people, analyzing the relations between these barriers and giving recommendations for changes in youth policy. One important message of the project is the paradigm shift – from ‘vulnerable young people’ to ‘young people in vulnerable situations’ – a shift from labeling an individual to identifying the situation that is hindering an individual from social inclusion.
Therefore, one expected outcome is a report reflecting the findings of the project as a tool for policy makers, aiming for positive change in the future youth policy.
ENIL prefers the term ‘marginalised’ rather than ‘vulnerable’, but ‘vulnerable’ is the term that is used by many international and European organisations. In Wikipeda, ‘vulnerable’ is defined as referring to “the inability to withstand the effects of a hostile environment”. Most people could withstand the effects of a hostile environment or an environment of inequality if the structure allowed them to. Vulnerability can be compared to handicap – the hand in the cap. We, disabled people, would not have our hand in the cap, if we accessed our right to equal education, equal health services, employment, etc. Disability lies in the structure of society that puts us in an excluded situation, a marginalized situation.
Mari Siilsalu from Estonia represented ENIL at the expert seminar in Strasbourg from 30 September to 2 October 2014, along with some 30 other experts. One of the main purposes of this seminar was to gather the initial feedback to the first draft of the report, to be produced by three experts in the field of youth research. It was a great pleasure to see that some issues around accessibility and equal participation of young disabled people have now been included in the mapping exercise work.
Unfortunately, the draft report so far failed to make a clear distinction between ill-health and impairment, and there is still a lack of understanding on what meaningful participation in community life should look like. Therefore, having the input from ENIL allowed for an emphasis on the need for de-institutionalisation (with many young disabled people still living in institutions), tackling hate crime and the importance of not confusing ill-health with disability issues. This is important in order to be able to explore the wide range of solutions related to these issues.
Karina Chupina, an independent expert from Russia, gave a presentation on Independent Living, the social model of disability and ways to include young disabled people in the community life. These inputs are reflected in the meeting report available on the youth partnership website.
The Strasbourg seminar was followed by a conference on the importance of youth work, which took place in Malta on 26 – 27 November 2014. Once again, Mari Siilsalu took part on behalf of ENIL, along with 130 other experts with very different expertise, from research to practical experience in youth work. The main purpose of the conference was to discuss the importance of youth work and the needs of young people. The second draft of the report on the barriers to social inclusion was presented, with the aim to gather feedback from an even wider range of experts. The ENIL representative sent a clear message about the importance of including young people in vulnerable situations as equal partners in all stages of youth work, research and policy making. Her contribution at this conference has led to contact with some other organisations in the field of youth that ENIL hopes will lead to future cooperation.
Please stay tuned, as other updates will follow with the new developments of the ‘Mapping of Barriers to Social Inclusion for Young People in Vulnerable Situations’ project.