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 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.

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

Specific duties include:

  • Policy development and implementation for the Youth Service
  • Governance and accountability of the Education Authority - Youth Service
  • Governance and accountability of the Youth Council for Northern Ireland (currently non-operational)

Youth Work Policy Team

The Youth Work Policy Team sits within the Qualifications, 14-19 Strategy and Youth Work Policy Directorate. Key areas of responsibilities of the team include:

  • Youth Policy development
  • Implementation of current youth policy - ‘Priorities for Youth’
  • Management of EA Youth Service resource budget
  • Sponsorship of YCNI (currently non-operational)
  • Implementation of Tackling Paramilitarism programmes, aimed at promoting lawfulness through youth work, and oversee EA delivery of the programme
  • Liaison with TEO to secure funding for T:BUC Camps and Planned Interventions and oversee EA delivery of both programmes
  • Accountable Department role for Peace Plus 3.1 Shared Learning Together (non-formal) and 3.3 Youth mental health and wellbeing
  • Identifying opportunities for international youth work and sharing knowledge in this area
  • Ensure effective process are in place for the North/South Education and Training Standards (NSETS) committee
  • Engagement and sharing knowledge with youth policy teams in each of the regions in the UK and the ROI
  • Oversight of Safeguarding within the Youth sector

You can reach the Youth Work Policy Team via Youth.Services@education-ni.gov.uk

The Youth Service in NI

The Youth Service in NI is composed of a voluntary and statutory sector.

In 2022/23 the Youth Service engaged with 130,802 registered young people across 1403 registered youth organisations. This is rising each quarter due to verification visits taking place with groups seeking registration.

The statutory youth sector is under the control of the Education Authority and offers a wide range of provision and support services including youth centres, the CADI, FLARE and Horizons programmes, and outdoor education centres. Further information on EA Youth Service can be found at the following link: Youth Service | Education Authority Northern Ireland

The EA Youth Service manages and operates a range of funding programmes to support the delivery of youth work practice, the Youth Work Curriculum - Youth Work: A Model for Effective Practice (Youth Work: A Model for Effective Practice ) and to improve outcomes for all our children and young people. Further details on these funding opportunities, which are available to the voluntary youth sector, can be found at the following link: Funding – EANI Funding

The voluntary sector offers a broad range of youth provision and support to young people and is composed of different organisations including regional, full and part-time local youth centres, uniformed organisations, faith-based and specialists youth organisations. The voluntary sector works with a wide range of young people who are supported by volunteers, part-time and full-time staff. Voluntary sector organisations can register with EA at the following link: Register with EA – EANI Funding

Priorities for Youth (2014 – currently under a Policy Cycle Review)

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: Priorities for Youth. The Department has initiated a policy review cycle relating to Priorities for Youth. 

Priorities for Youth Policy Review

Implementation of the priority actions in the current policy are being progressed with the Education Authority. The Regional Youth Development Plan (RYDP) is a 3-year, strategic Regional Plan, developed following publication of the Regional Assessment of Need 2023 and focuses on outcomes to address the priorities and actions identified in Priorities for Youth.

For further information and to access the RYDP, please visit the Education Authority website via the following link: Regional Youth Development Plan – EANI Funding and for further information on local youth development plans please visit: Local Youth Development Plans – EANI Funding

For further information and to access the Regional Assessment of Need, please visit the Education Authority website via the following link: Regional Assessment of Need – EANI Funding

The Youth Council (*currently non-operational)

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).

* A further explanation of why they YCNI is currently non-operational can be found on the following link: An update on the Youth Council for Northern Ireland

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: ETI Inspection Reports – youth

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