Netherlands Youth Institute

Introduction to Dutch youth policy

This page offers a short introduction to the organisation of the youth system in the Netherlands.

Decentralization of youth care

Before 2015 services for youth were fragmented, financial streams differed and the system was ineffective. Reforms were needed to better streamline services and approaches and to adapt them to local needs. This led to a transition and transformation of youth services and the decentralization from national and provincial to local policy.

Responsibilities on local level

The Dutch municipalities have been made responsible for the whole continuum of welfare, support and care for all citizens, including children, young people and families in need of help. This is a major opportunity for transforming policies and services towards integrated approaches. The decentralization is high on the agenda and is permanently monitored, to see how the system works to benefit all children and young people in the Netherlands.

Child and Youth Act

After the introduction of a new Child and Youth Act (2015), all 393 Dutch municipalities were made responsible for the whole range of care for children, young people and families in need of support and assistance. Smaller municipalities have merged to engage better in their new tasks. In 2019 the amount of Dutch municipalities has decreased to 355.  The Child and Youth Act addresses the needs for preventive and specialized care. The Act was evaluated at the end of 2018. Read more in the report Reform of the Dutch system for child and youth care 4 years later (2019)

Responsible ministries

At the central government level, the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport is responsible for overall youth policy and most specialized services for families and children. The Ministry of Justice and Security is responsible for juvenile justice policy and related institutions. The Ministry of Education, Culture and Science is responsible for all educational matters. The Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment executes labour-related measures, including the Child Care Act for kindergartens and playgrounds in the Netherlands.

Read more about Dutch youth policy for young people aged 15 to 25 years in Youth Wiki, the online platform presenting information on European countries' youth policies.

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