In the course of their transition to adulthood, young people have to make certain decisions that will have a significant impact on their lives. Therefore, having equal access to quality and free information is a prerequisite for them to make use of their rights, to make responsible decisions and to participate in society in its social, economic and political dimensions. This is why the right to information is widely recognised in major legal and political documents at national, European and International level, and this is the role that Youth Information plays across Europe.
Youth Information can describe a range of different activities and be set in various frameworks as well as provided by many different "information actors".
Youth Information is a continuously changing field. In the past, information was often static, came from fewer sources and was controlled and provided by a few information providers. Today the nature of producing information has changed dramatically: information changes and updates very quickly, and there are thousands of information sources and channels. As new formats are continuously being developed, the reliability of information is often hard to assess. In this context, young people must grow and find their place in society; they themselves are not only information users but also producers and multipliers. Youth Information plays a crucial role in assisting young people to identify and evaluate reliable information.
At the very core of ERYICA's activities, we collect and analyse data from our member organisations, partners, and stakeholders. We gather, update and disseminate data on youth information and youth trends in Europe. One of our latest projects, the Future Youth Information Toolbox, will help us to identify the role of Youth Information today, and adapt our services and those of our members accordingly.
Youth information aims to:
- provide reliable, accurate and understandable information;
- give access to different sources and channels of information;
- give an overview of the options and possibilities available on all relevant topics;
- help young people sift through the information overload they face today;
- ensure that young people are aware of all the rights and services available to them and how to access them;
- provide support in evaluating the obtained information and in identifying its quality;
- guide young people in reaching their own decisions and in finding the best options open to them;
- offer different channels of communication and dialogue in order to support young people in their search for information and knowledge; and
- contribute to the media & information literacy of young people.
GENERALIST YOUTH INFORMATION
The generalist youth information approach has been adopted by ERYICA partners, and has been tried and tested since the late 1960s in a number of countries, used in more than 30 European countries.
Essentially, it is a user-centred approach. That is to say that the youth information centre (or service) adopts as its starting-point the questions and needs of the young people who are its users. As these cover a wide range of issues and problems, the centre (service) is organised either to respond directly to a large number of topics (hence the term "generalist", as opposed to other specialised information services on careers, health, Europe, etc. - see "Specialised information services" below), or to refer the user to an organisation or service which is competent in the desired area.
The centre may provide other services which are complementary to its basic information and counselling role, such as youth discount cards, tickets for concerts and transport services, cheap accommodation, rooms or equipment for youth activities, and help in organising youth projects. It may also make available information and information materials from a wide range of sources (official administrations, associations, commercial services) which promote activities and opportunities aimed at young people. But in its contact with each individual user, the primary concern of the centre (or service) is to respond to the question or need raised by the user, irrespective of any other external interest. It seeks to do this in a way which enables the user to have a maximum of choice, and which respects her / his autonomy and anonymity.
Therefore, "generalist" youth information and counselling centres (and services) have the following characteristics, which are based on the European Youth Information Charter or on a national set of standards or national Charter where these exist:
- they are specifically designed to respond to the needs of young people;
- they are open to all young people without exception, without an appointment;
- they provide information on a wide range of subjects, in a variety of forms, prepared both for young people in general and for groups of young people with special needs;
- the information that they provide is practical, pluralistic, accurate and regularly updated;
- they operate in a way which personalises the reception of each user, respects confidences and anonymity, provides a maximum of choice and promotes her / his autonomy;
- when necessary, they refer the user to a specialised service.
SPECIALISED INFORMATION SERVICES
In addition to "generalist" youth information centres (or services) that inform young people on a wide range of issues (see "Generalist youth information" above), there are specialised national and European bodies in different areas which inform young people (and the general public) about their area of competence.
The following topics fall under "specialised information services":
- careers guidance
- studies and scholarships
- jobs and training
- general health matters
- relationships and sexuality
- social security benefits
- rights of young people
- consumer rights
- legal advice
- European opportunities for young people
- youth activities and exchanges.
An important function of a "generalist" youth information centre (or service) at local level is to develop and maintain good knowledge of the local and national specialised information services, in order to allocate material useful as resource when dealing with enquiries of young people. Furthermore, the centre (service) continually develops contacts and co-operation with relevant youth-related services in its locality to be able to offer the best possible and most comprehensive service to its users.
MORE INFORMATION AND LINKS
Council of Europe
Commission's Working Paper on Youth Participation and Information (2003)