Effective youth work helps young people to identify their social and development needs and involves them in shaping the services designed to meet those needs to impact both their own skills and life chances in order to create a better future for themselves and their communities. Unlike school, participation in youth activities is voluntary.

Functions of the Department of Education

The Department of Education invests in youth work to support and encourage children and young people as they mature and reach their potential as valued individuals and responsible citizens. The Department has overall responsibility for the Youth Service. Specific duties include:

Structure of the Youth Service

The Youth Service is composed of a voluntary sector and a statutory sector. The statutory sector is under the control of the Education Authority and consists of a number of youth clubs and outdoor education centres, the voluntary sector is by far the larger sector and is composed of many different organisations.

There are approximately 147,000 young people who are registered participants in the Youth Service. There are almost 1,800 registered youth service providers, the regular running of which is reliant on a workforce of 22,606, of whom over 90% are volunteers.

Uniformed organisations make up 50% of the total number of youth units and account for 36% of the young people who participate in youth service activities on a regular basis. (Source: A Statistical and Geographic Report of the EA Registered Youth Service in Northern Ireland 2015 Data Cycle)

The statutory provision for the YouthService is contained in the Education and Libraries (Northern Ireland) Order 1986 and the Youth Service (Northern Ireland) Order 1989

Priorities for Youth

Priorities for Youth, Improving Young People's Lives through Youth Work is the Department's policy for Youth Work in Education, which sets out the overarching policy framework for the delivery of the youth service. The policy can be accessed via the following link:

Equality Impact

The Priorities for Youth was subject to an Equality Impact Screening, which showed that the policy would have no adverse impacts that would require a full Equality Impact Assessment.

The Equality Impact Screening document is available below:

Implementation of the priority actions in the policy are being progressed in tandem with the Education Authority and the Youth Council. The Department led on the development of the Regional Advisory Group which has recently published the first action plan - The Regional Youth Development Plan 2015/16 (RYDP). For further information and to access ther RYDP, please visit the Education Authority website via the following link:

The Youth Council

The Youth Council for Northern Ireland (YCNI) was established under the Youth Service (NI) Order 1989. YCNI has the status of  'Non Departmental Public Body' and operates at arm's length from the Department of Education (DE).

Functions of The Youth Council

As set out in the Youth Service (NI) Order 1989 and in accordance with arrangements approved by the Department, the Youth Council shall:

  • advise the Department of Education, the Education Authority and other bodies on the development of the Youth Service.
  • encourage the provision of facilities for the Youth Service and facilities which are especially beneficial to young persons.
  • encourage cross-community activity by the Youth Service.
  • encourage and assist the co-ordination and efficient use of the resources of the Youth Service.

The Shared Education Act (NI) 2016 also instructs YCNI to:

  • encourage and facilitate shared education and to consider shared education when developing, adopting, implementing or revising policies, strategies and plans; and designing and delivering public services.

The Youth Service Liaison Forum

The Youth Service Liaison Forum (YSLF) which is made up of representatives from DE, YCNI, the Education and Training Inspectorate, the Northern Ireland Youth Forum, Youthnet, and the Education Authority, exists "to assist DE in formulating and implementing youth service policy proposals and strengthen the effectiveness of the provision of services to young people through improved coherence between the major stakeholders".

The YCNI acts as secretariat to the YSLF.

For further information on the YCNI please follow the link below to visit their website.

Inspections of youth centres/organisations

Youth centres/organisations are inspected and visited regularly by Inspectors from the Education and Training Inspectorate (ETI). Detailed information on the inspection process can be accessed via the following link

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