Youth policy is intended to help young people to cope with the various demands made upon them in this phase of their lives. During their search for answers in the process of socialisation, young people need various forms of support. However, they also have to be left to their own to a reasonable extent, and need enough space to be able to experiment with their own abilities and competencies. Youth policy therefore has to be varied and open, and has to recognise and deal with the challenges of a world which is becoming ever more complex. Youth policy should not prescribe, but set targets, moderate and promote.
Youth policy offers support, but also supports institutions and initiatives which are important points of reference for young people.
Competencies in the field of youth policy in Austria
By way of introduction, it should be noted that in Austria, due to the federal structure of the state, the competencies are divided up between the central organ of the state, the federal government, and the “sub–states”, the provinces.
The areas of state activity with regard to legislature and the executive are clearly assigned to the federal government or the provinces.
The competencies of the provinces in the field of youth policy
Youth promotion and youth work outside the school sector is primarily the responsibility of the provinces. The Provincial Youth Departments located in the provincial governments have the task of implementing the youth policy measures of the province in youth work outside the schools sector. Their most important fields of activity are as follows:
- Lobbying measures in the children’s and youth sectors
- Promotion and support of children’s and youth institutions, particularly open youth work. Youth centres, mobile youth work and youth information bodies of the provinces as well as initiatives at regional and municipal levels belong to the latter category.
- Services for children and young people as well as for work with children and youth work etc.
- The training and further training of staff involved in youth work
- Public relations work
- Youth welfare: the tasks of youth welfare include all measures involving maternity-, infant- and youth welfare, which serve the well-being of the child with the aim of strengthening the ability of families to bring up their children
- Youth protection: Risk situations included in youth protection legislature are, for instance: staying in public places, spending the night in hostels or at camp sites, attending public theatre or film performances, visiting public houses, consuming alcohol and nicotine, hitch-hiking etc.
Competencies in the youth sector
At a federal level, the Federal Ministry of Families and Youth is primarily responsible for youth policy, with particular emphasis on the upbringing of young people outside the schools sector. The tasks which have to be fulfilled in this area are:
- Legislature and its implementation in this domain
- Basic legislature in the youth welfare sector
- Expert advice function for draft bills
- UN Agreement on the Rights of the Child
- International agendas including EU youth programme
- The financial support of youth organisations, youth initiatives, associations and youth projects
- Youth information
- Initiation and promotion of youth research and
- Initiating, promoting and dealing with priority themes such as violence against children, health promotion and preventive health care, new media, participation, sects, youth information, training youth leaders etc.