21st European Social Services Conference: Workshops

Investing in young people was among the key concerns at the 21st European Social Services Conference. In the opening plenary, Jan Truszczyński, Director General for Education and Youth in the European Commission, reminded the audience that 1 in 7 young people faces an increased risk of unemployment, poverty and poor health. Juan Menéndez Valdés, Eurofound Director, highlighted that the biggest concern in Europe today was the amount of young people not in employment, education or training. Workshops from Ireland, Germany and the Netherlands drew attention to specific aspects of social services for young people.

Crosscare Teen Counselling presented the preliminary research outcomes of its positive systemic practice model to counselling for marginalised young people and their families. This is a non-clinical treatment process that aims to redress the negative stereotyping of adolescents and places their behaviour within a normative developmental framework. It does this by focusing counselling services on the young person’s social system and aims to locate the problematic issues within the client’s family and social relationships. The model has been developed over 40 years under the supervision of the Health Service Executive in Ireland and is currently being implemented across six centres in Dublin. Control trials conducted by University College Dublin have shown that in 3 out of 4 cases that completed at least 9 sessions over a 16 week period there has been an improvement in family functioning, as well as in adolescent emotional and behavioural problems. 

The German Federal Employment Agency presented how youth employment agencies are developed and what outcomes they have achieved so far. They emphasised that employment agencies, local job centres and social services offer young people tailored assistance to facilitate their professional and social integration. Youth employment agencies are now implemented in 14 German cities. Four key issues were identified as essential for the structure of youth employment agencies: transparency regarding the young people in need of assistance and the offers of the institutions; data transfer/exchange of information in accordance with data protection legislation between the different partners; harmonisation processes between the participating institutions; close cooperation between services (under the same roof, if possible, i.e. one-stop-shops). The outcomes of the first youth employment agency in Hamburg were presented and discussed: in 2010, 30% of early school leavers were unknown by the employment agency, whereas in 2012 the percentage had dropped to just 1%.

The workshop presented by the Quality Institute of Dutch Municipalities (KING) centred on the fictional case study of a disabled 24 year old man who had so far cost the state 1.6 million Euro in welfare services and benefits, and asked delegates to consider what they would do if given responsibility for Edgar’s welfare. Participants responded that they would have wanted to start working with Edgar at a younger age. They would look at his family, identify his capabilities rather than disability, and see what he could do with the right help. The context for this case study is the impending transfer of responsibilities for children and youth services (among other social services) to municipalities in the Netherlands from January 2015. 

ESN’s spring seminar in 2012 looked at young people in care and early school leavers and their transition into adulthood in a seminar, where we explored programmes across Europe to promote their autonomy and successful transition into adulthood. 

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