The definition of young people with fewer opportunities is very broad - on purpose. The realities of the different countries around Europe (and sometimes of regions within these countries) is too diverse to have a very specific definition. e.g. a 'poor' person in Scandinavia might be considered 'rich' in Eastern Europe, a gay person in Cologne probably faces less discrimination than in a small countryside village in the Balkans, and so on.
That's why within the European Youth in Action programme the target group is defined by the obstacles they face. The term "fewer opportunities" means that certain young people have fewer possibilities than their peers. This can be for a variety of reasons:
Social obstacles: young people facing discrimination (because of gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, disability, etc.), young people with limited social skills or anti-social or risky sexual behaviours, young people in a precarious situation, (ex ) offenders, (ex ) drug addicts, young and/or single parents, orphans, young people from broken families, etc.
Economic obstacles: young people with a low standard of living, low income, dependence on social welfare system, long-term unemployed youth, homeless young people, young people in debt or in financial problems, etc.
Disability: young people with mental (intellectual, cognitive, learning), physical, sensory or other disabilities.
Educational difficulties: young people with learning difficulties, early school-leavers and school dropouts, lowly or non-qualified persons, young people that didn't find their way in the school system, young people with poor school performance because of a different cultural/linguistic background, etc.
Cultural differences: young immigrants or refugees or descendants from immigrant or refugee families, young people belonging to a national or ethnic minority, young people with linguistic adaptation and cultural inclusion problems, etc.
Health problems: young people with chronic health problems, severe illnesses or psychiatric conditions, young people with mental health problems, etc.
Geographical obstacles: young people from remote, rural or hilly areas, young people living on small islands or peripheral regions, young people from urban problem zones, young people from less serviced areas (limited public transport, poor facilities, abandoned villages...), etc.
Young people with fewer opportunities are young people who, largely due to their personal situation and sometimes also due to the choices they make, face different and/or more difficult obstacles in their lives than other young people.
In many cases, individuals may fit into several of the categories described above at the same time (e.g. a teenage mother who lives in a remote village and who suffers from alcoholism). This compounds their difficulties still further.
Obviously, an individual should not automatically be included in the "fewer-opportunity" group simply on the basis of one or two characteristics. For instance it would be a mistake to include a young people in the fewer-opportunity group just because they come from an immigrant background. Similarly, it is incorrect to presume all single parents or all young people with disabilities automatically have fewer opportunities.
More info on Young People with Fewer Opportunities and the Inclusion Strategy of the European Youth in Action programme at www.SALTO-YOUTH.net/InclusionStrategy/
Although the examples given here are just the tip of the iceberg, they do show the complex nature of the difficulties facing young people belonging to this specific group of fewer opportunities.
What about (ex-) offenders or those at risk of offending?
When we talk about young offenders or youth at risk of offending, we are on the whole talking about a group of young people on the outskirts of mainstream society. Those not enjoying the accepted normal life experiences of their peers. They may have chosen a different life through the friendships they have built and experiences they have bought into or may have had little support to choose a different lifestyle.
Interestingly when you type Youth Inclusion into a web browser the predominant sites you are led to, all relate to social inclusion & crime reduction, describing how crime figures reduce as young people become more 'included in society'.
There is great importance in promoting inclusion in society for this target group, young people committing crime, on the verge of it or who have a history of committing crime have often got into a situation they feel they cannot get out of. They are often excluded from 'mainstream society' by their own doing, but if and when they wish to re-enter this accepted society, this can be much more difficult, than when they made their exit!
They now have negative stereotypes attached to them,
they have made poor friendship choices and have little social or family support to re-engage with positive activities.
Many of this target group do not know what support networks are available to them, and they would almost certainly be unaware of opportunities available through the Youth in Action programme for example. These areas of education and support may very well be where our job as professional youth worker comes in - to offer knowledge of such programmes which can include such a target group, then to provide the necessary support to engage. Hopefully leading these young people one step closer to inclusion.