History of Youth Information
Reference: This text has been compiled from two different sources:
"Historical reminder & main achievements", written by Alexandra Cangelosi, copyright of the Council of Europe
"Determinants of the origin of innovative youth information and counselling services", written by and copyright of Willy Faché
Information is a prerequisite for different aspects of democratic societies among which access to citizens’ rights, participation in civil society and freedom of choice are only the most important to mention.
Young people have a special need for information as during their transition phase from childhood to adulthood they have to take numerous important decisions that will have long-lasting impacts on their future lives, not least in areas such as education, employment, independence from parents and personal development.
Whereas adults can always rely also on their own experiences, young people are faced with a wide range of first-time decisions and need to rely on complete and comprehensive information as a basis of their autonomous decision-making.
Specialised youth information emerged rather quickly, starting in the late 1950s, when information offices for internal migrants opened in Finland to support young people who moved from the countryside to the big cities. Already then the underlying idea of youth information was to give orientation to young people when they are faced with complex surroundings and questions.
But it was not until 1961 when the need for specific provisions for young people in problem situations inspired the “Young People’s Consultation Centre” in London. Probably the first ‘walk-in’ centre for young people in Europe, where young people could directly approach a professional with their issues. It was critical to not give adolescencents the feeling of being thought of as having a mental illess when seeking for help. Hence, the centre was designed in a way that young people would feel as little inhibition as possible to enter and receive immediate attention and help in order to prevent serious social and psychological harm in later stages of their lives.
The dawn of the cultural revolution that particularly addressed youngsters in the Western world, focused on rejecting a sterile, excessively consuming, overly technological, and alienating social order and would leave young people facing new somatic and psychological problems. Hence, the gap between the two cultures needed to be bridged by the new alternative services in Youth Information and counselling. During the second half of the 1960s the open door concept stimulated the founders of the Centre for Youth Information and Counseling “Info Jeugd” in Gent and the Advice Centre for Young People (Jongerenadviescentrum) in Amsterdam which was inspired by a fundamental criticism against the then established, traditional youth assistance. Their criticism concerned, among other things, the bureaucratic method (e.g. waiting lists, by appointment only), the official character of the assistance (start the counselling by asking the person’s name, address, age, daily work, etc.), the psychiatric-medical model of assistance, etc. “Release”, a Youth Information centre in London, established in 1967, strived for helping young people who had been arrested for alleged drug offenses and faced with other new social problems that resulted from the shift in youth culture. Other Youth Information centres that offered similar services tailored to their specific realities were soon to follow in various European countries.
During the 1970s and 1980s Youth Information spread all over Europe and developed into an integrated part of youth work in many countries. In the mid eighties, youth information and counselling was an important point of attention of the First European Conference of Ministers responsible for Youth (Strasbourg 1985), which included youth information and counselling among its priorities for future action and co-operation at the European level. As a result of one of the recommendations of this ministerial conference, the Council of Europe established in 1986 the Committee of Experts of Youth Information in Europe. After the first international meetings were held and a dialogue started among professionals in the field, it contributed to the concepts and offers on local and national level, and also led to the creation of a European Network in 1986: the European Youth Information and Counselling Agency, ERYICA.
In 1990 the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers issued a recommendation concerning information and counselling for young people in Europe (Recommendation 90 (7)), which gave the issue of information and counselling for young people a significant new importance and a first European document to rely on and refer to not only for politicians and decision makers, but also for Youth Information workers on all levels. Ever since then, it has been one of the underlying reference documents when discussing the implementation and development of Youth Information services in Europe. In 1993 ERYICA adopted the first version of the European Youth Information Charter which describes the underlying values, principles and working guidelines for a part of youth work.
As a consequence of the development in the youth information field, in 1997 the Council of Europe decided to strengthen its involvement and dedication to the issue of information and counselling for young people in Europe. The specific approach of the Council of Europe towards Youth Information is characterised by the belief in information as a right to all people (as defined in the Convention of the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms in general and the Convention on the Rights of the Child in particular) as well as the insight that youth is a special, partially more vulnerable target group.
Later on Youth Information faced a huge change in its needs and forms when the Internet became a source of information for all. The profession had to redefine its tasks and role (ERYICA adopted the revised European Youth Information Charter, 2004) and transformed even more into a service focusing on orientation and guidance. In 2009, ERYICA adopts the Principles for Online Youth Information as well as a Starter’s Kit for decision makers and NGOs interested in the field was published as a first introduction.
Youth Information centres have acknowledged in the past years that providing an easy to access centre/shop/office is not enough anymore to reach all young people and respond to their needs. Hence, concepts have been developed all over Europe to meet young people where they are as well as involving young people as peers directly in the dissemination of information. Therefore advocacy for the right of young people to have access to all information and support their need for their autonomous decision-making is of utmost importance in today’s society including not only a general debate on nowadays knowledge-society but also ongoing lobbying for the provision of information and counselling tailor-made for young people. In this framework, ERYICA and the Council of Europe have launched the “Information Right Now!” campaign in 2012. Young people have to be aware of the necessity to challenge information they get in the first place and of all possible techniques to evaluate and identify quality criteria. Youth information strives to integrate these techniques not only in its own research, documentation and dissemination of information, but more and more also develops different ways of transmitting the relevant key skills for modern times actively to young people themselves.