The National Youth Monitor has been presenting figures on young people in the Netherlands for years. While this instrument initially dealt mainly with national figures, over the years figures at the municipal level have increasingly been added. As municipalities have been responsible for providing youth care since 1 January 2015, the Monitor also presents figures on the use of youth assistance as well as youth protection and juvenile rehabilitation for the municipalities.
An important objective of the National Youth Monitor is to consider the situation of young people in the light of the use of youth assistance, nationally but certainly also at municipal level. The results of this work serve to help civil servants, administrators, providers of youth assistance, clients, and interested citizens to deal with questions and to provide facts to inform the discussion on the effect of youth assistance provision. To this end, social indicators have been defined which we know are linked to the use of youth assistance.noot1
An important conclusion of this 2019 Annual Report is that the use of youth care rose in 2018, while by far the majority of scores for social indicators show a positive development. At the same time, we learn from the interviews by Jaap van Sandijk that many municipalities find the data in the National Youth Monitor to be too general. They say that they need more detailed information on the use of youth assistance and associated factors, in order to be in a position to plan the range of youth assistance services. This raises two questions. The first is whether the social indicators included in the National Youth Monitor have been well-chosen, or whether, in view of the developments in the use of youth assistance that have been outlined, there is something else going on. This could be a subject of discussion for all those interfering with youth assistance. The second question is how we can provide municipalities with adequate information. In order to answer the questions and conduct the discussion, it is important first of all to examine the scores for the social indicators at national level.
Chapter 2 presents the hard figures on young people. This chapter shows that not only the number of young people is declining but also their proportion in relation to adults. This last development is partly due to the fact that elderly people are living longer. The use of youth care (Chapter 3) rose from 9 to 10 percent of young people between 2017 and 2018, with substantial differences being measured between municipalities. In most municipalities in the Zaanstreek, the percentage was under 7 percent, but in many municipalities in central Limburg and north-eastern Groningen, it was above 12 percent.noot2 Fourteen percent of all youth assistance is provided by the district team and more than 8 percent of this is residential youth assistance. Chapter 4 states that the most important indicator linked to the use of youth assistancenoot3 – the number of children growing up in a family on income support – has again decreased. In Year 3 of secondary general education, students in prevocational secondary education (VMBO) constitute a small majority, at 52 percent. This has not changed much in comparison with 2017. The percentage of young people (15 to 26 years) in employment rose by 2 percentage points to 67 percent (Chapter 6). As regards lifestyle, the figures show that highly educated urban young adults were more likely to use drugs than the rest of their contemporaries (Chapter 7). They also smoked more often, though usually not on a daily basis. Compared to the rest of their contemporaries, relatively few urban young adults with low or medium levels of education consumed alcohol, though the number who smoked daily was higher. The number of young people suspected of a crime (Chapter 8) continued to decline in 2018. A quarter of young people came into contact with the police in their own place of residence. The reason for this contact was more often enforcement in this group than for those aged 25 years and above.
Because the scores for social indicators differ from one municipality to another, in 2019 Statistics Netherlands (CBS) published revised reports that make it possible to compare the scores for social indicators of different municipalities. In this way, CBS, commissioned by the Ministry of Security and Justice (VenJ) and the Ministry of Public Health, Welfare and Sport (VWS), is trying to make the available information related to the use of youth assistance more accessible. It still needs to be shown whether this information is what municipal officials and other civil servants are looking for.
For this reason, Jaap van Sandijk travelled around municipalities to ask them about their data needs and the extent to which the National Youth Monitor, among other publications, provides the required data. It appears that municipal officials need data that are as detailed and specific as possible. This hunger for data is politically driven, particularly in municipalities that are struggling with financial shortfalls. Officials of municipalities with deficits are seeking increasingly detailed data. They use CBS data, which they sometimes supplement or combine with data of their own. When CBS receives data from a youth assistance provider, it sends that provider a ‘spiegelrapport’ (‘mirror report’) – a uniform overview of the youth care and assistance provided to the young people for whom the relevant municipality was responsible. Municipal officials value these reportsnoot4, although they are often not quickly released by providers. However, municipal officials also indicate that they need performance data. For performance, national outcome data are formulated. However, subjective quality assessments, such as client satisfaction and the extent to which clients can manage further without help, are not suitable for organising management at client level – and that is what many officials want. There is a smaller group of municipalities (including Alphen aan den Rijn, Utrecht, Hollands Kroon, Lelystad and, from 1 January 2019, also Heerlen) that practise task-focused funding and opt for lump-sum funding and outline agreements with a principal provider. In these municipalities, the need for information is more general. Disregarding the pros and cons of this form of implementation, the CBS benchmark data show that when this model has been implemented in these municipalities, there is a reduction in residential youth assistance, while non-residential youth assistance predominantly increases.
It is advisable for every municipality and region to examine how the use of youth assistance relates to the scores for social indicators. These scores can be found on the National Youth Monitor site. If there is a mismatch, with positive scores for social indicators accompanied by a rise in the use of youth assistance, it will be necessary to consider why this is happening. And one will also have to consider whether a more detailed study of data on youth assistance, with the associated administrative burden, will provide the solution for the problem of focus and direction.
Significant, Regionale verschillen in gebruik van jeugdhulp met verblijf, 2018 [Significant, regional differences in use of residential youth assistance, 2018]. https://jeugdmonitor.cbs.nl/sites/default/files/2018-06/J-178142%20D_0.pdf.
Significant, Regionale verschillen in gebruik van jeugdhulp met verblijf, 2018 [Significant, Regional differences in use of residential youth assistance, 2018]. https://jeugdmonitor.cbs.nl/sites/default/files/2018-06/J-178142%20D_0.pdf.
CBS processes source data from providers and these providers remain owners, because CBS may not deliver these reports directly to municipalities.