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What is Youth Work?

YouthLink Scotland is the national agency for youth work in Scotland. They describe youth work as being an educational practice which can contribute to children and young people’s learning and development.
Billy and his youth worker Stephen
© University of Strathclyde
YouthLink Scotland is the national agency for youth work in Scotland. They describe youth work as being an educational practice which can contribute to children and young people’s learning and development.

The following extract from their Statement on the nature and purpose of youth work outlines the approach adopted.

What is Youth Work?

Youth work engages with young people within their communities; it acknowledges the wider networks of peers, community and culture; it supports the young person to realise their potential and to address life’s challenges critically and creatively; it takes account of all strands of diversity.
Youth work takes place in a variety of settings including community venues, uniformed groups, schools, youth cafés and on the street, whilst using numerous approaches such as outdoor pursuits, drama workshops, health initiatives, peer education and single issue and single gender work to engage with young people.
The effectiveness of youth work methods has led to an increasing number of organisations developing youth work approaches, for example those working in youth justice and health improvement programmes. This demonstrates the range of ways youth work can be applied, enabling young people who might otherwise be alienated from support to get the services they need.
The youth work sector welcomes these developments and seeks to co-operate with those who contribute to young people’s social and personal development.
However, there remains a fundamental need for community based youth work which has been eroded as a service in recent years, at a time when young people are under greater pressure than ever, especially the most disadvantaged.

This final paragraph, whilst written in 2009, is all the more pertinent now in light of the programme of austerity in the UK since 2010 and the gradual erosion of supports to disadvantaged communities.

Essential Features of Youth Work

YouthLink Scotland go on to state that youth work should have three essential and definitive features:

  • Young people choose to participate;
  • The work must build from where young people are;
  • Youth work recognises the young person and the youth worker as partners in a learning process.

The Purpose of Youth Work

They go on to define and outline the purpose of youth work as follows:

  • Build self-esteem and self-confidence.
  • Develop the ability to manage personal and social relationships.
  • Create learning and develop new skills.
  • Encourage positive group atmospheres.
  • Build the capacity of young people to consider risk, make reasoned decisions and take control.
  • Develop a ‘world view’ which widens horizons and invites social commitment.
© University of Strathclyde
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