The NYA Guide To Youth Work In England

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The NYA Guide to Youth Work in England‘the Government’s view [is] that high quality youth work, delivered by third andstatutory sectors, is central to delivering our ambition of increasing the number ofyoung people on the path to success and an important function of integrated youthsupport services.’Aiming high for young people, HM Treasury/DCSF 2007.Youth work in briefYouth work helps young people learn about themselves, others and society throughactivities that combine enjoyment, challenge, learning and achievement. It is adevelopmental process that starts in places and at times when young peoplethemselves are ready to engage, learn and make use of it. The relationship betweenyouth worker and young person is central to this process.Youth work happens in youth centres, schools and colleges, parks, streets andshopping precincts – wherever young people gather. Youth work methods includesupport for individuals, work with small groups and learning through experience.Youth work offers young people safe spaces to explore their identity, experiencedecision-making, increase their confidence, develop inter-personal skills and thinkthrough the consequences of their actions. This leads to better informed choices,changes in activity and improved outcomes for young people.Youth work contributes to the government’s vision for young people – that theyshould enjoy happy, healthy and safe teenage years that prepare them well for adultlife and enable them to reach their full potential. From January 2007, local authoritieshave been required to secure ‘positive activities’, including youth work, for youngpeople in their area. These activities should be shaped by what young people say theywant, and should help put them on the ‘path to success’.So what is youth work?Youth work helps young people learn about themselves, others and society, throughinformal educational activities which combine enjoyment, challenge and learning.Youth workers work primarily with young people aged between 13 and 19, but mayin some cases extend this to younger age groups and those aged up to 24. Their workseeks to promote young people’s personal and social development and enable them tohave a voice, influence and place in their communities and society as a whole.Youth work is underpinned by a clear set of values. These include young peoplechoosing to take part; starting with young people’s view of the world; treating youngpeople with respect; seeking to develop young people’s skills and attitudes rather thanremedy ‘problem behaviours’; helping young people develop stronger relationshipsand collective identities; respecting and valuing differences; and promoting the voiceof young people. This is considered in more detail in the National Youth Agencystatement of principals and values, Ethical Conduct in Youth Work.1

Youth work has its origins in the clubs and projects set up by voluntary organisations– often with a religious intent - in the 19th century. Many of these, such as the Boys’Brigade and the Young Women’s Christian Association, still exist today as nationalvoluntary youth organisations. State recognition for youth work dates from theoutbreak of war in 1939. Since then, youth services have developed as a complexnetwork of providers including community groups, voluntary organisations and localauthorities.Services which provide youth work are currently changing, as a result of thegovernment’s focus on delivering ‘joined up’ provision for children and youngpeople. Local authorities, of which there are 150 in England, are responsible forsecuring youth work in their areas, and youth services now normally form part of theirchildren and young people’s services. Each of these local authorities is required todevelop a plan which covers all provision for children and young people and showshow it meets government priorities. By April 2008, they are expected to secureprovision through integrated youth support and development services deliveredthrough children’s trusts (which bring together local authority children’s services witha range of other partners). Youth work will form an important part of these integratedservices, which have three main elements: universal services for all young people;targeted support for young people who need it most; andinformation, advice, guidance and counselling.Funding for services to young people comes mainly from central and localgovernment. While the government sets notional levels of expenditure, localauthorities have the scope to vary these, either up or down. The level of fundingtherefore varies widely between authorities, as The NYA has highlighted in its seriesof annual ‘youth service audits’. Its audit for 2005-06 found that local authoritiesspent a total of 452 million on youth services.The 2005-06 audit also found that local authority youth services in England employedover 4,000 professional youth workers and over 17,000 youth support workers (see‘Becoming Qualified’ for information on different youth work roles). Nearly 900people were employed in managerial positions. Voluntary youth organisations alsoemploy a significant number of youth work staff, as do faith organisations. Whilethere are no absolute figures for the number of volunteer youth workers, it isestimated that there may be over 500,000 volunteers, mainly in the voluntary,community and faith sectors.The quality of children’s services and youth services are currently monitored andevaluated by a body known as Ofsted – the Office for Standards in Education,Children's Services and Skills. By December 2008, Ofsted will have carried out jointarea reviews - which judge the contribution that a council and its partners are makingto improving outcomes for children and young people - in all 150 local authorities inEngland. These reviews include enhanced coverage of youth work in authoritieswhere youth services have not been inspected since 2005.The policy contextThe government’s ‘Every Child Matters: Change for Children’ programme seeks toprovide a new approach to the well-being of children and young people from birth to2

19. It aims for every child and young person, whatever their background orcircumstances, to have the support they need to: Be healthy; Stay safe; Enjoy and achieve; Make a positive contribution; and Achieve economic well-beingThese five ‘ECM outcomes’ underpin all aspects of government policy relating tochildren and young people. Policy specifically relating to young people was set out inYouth Matters (2005), and Youth Matters: next steps (2006), which developedproposals for a ‘radical reshaping of universal services for teenagers – with targetedsupport for those who need it most’.Since January 2007 there has been a statutory duty on local authorities, working inpartnership with the voluntary and private sectors, to promote the well-being of youngpeople aged 13 to 19 (up to 25 for those with learning difficulties) through securingaccess to educational and recreational leisure-time activities (referred to as ‘positiveactivities’). This duty was set out in Clause Six of the Education and Inspections Act2006, which gives effect to the proposals contained in Youth Matters. Youth Mattersstated that the government would provide statutory guidance for local authoritiessetting out a new set of national standards for positive activities. This would include: Access to two hours per week of sporting activity including formal andinformal team sports and other activities such as outdoor adventure, aerobicsand dance.Two hours per week of constructive activities in clubs, youth groups andclasses. These might include young people’s own hobbies and interests;personal, social and spiritual development activities; study support; activitiesencouraging creativity, innovation and enterprise; and residentialopportunities.Opportunities to make a positive contribution through volunteering, includingtaking a lead on campaigning and fundraising.A wide range of other recreational, cultural and sporting and enrichingexperiences.Safe and enjoyable places to spend time, including socialising with friends.This combination of opportunities is often referred to as the ‘local youth offer’.In July 2007, the government published Aiming high for young people, which sets outa ten-year strategy for positive activities. It proposes a range of initiatives under threemain headings: Empowerment: giving young people and communities real influence;Access: attracting and engaging every young person; andQuality: effective services delivered by a skilled workforce.3

The strategy has a particular stress on improving local youth facilities, increasingyoung people’s influence over activities and provision (including direct control ofsome budgets) and developing the youth workforce. The Children’s Plan, whichset out the government’s vision for children, young people and families based onputting their needs at the centre of integrated services, was published in December2007. This identified three areas in which it wanted to strengthen thecommitments made in Aiming high for young people: setting a clear goal that all young people will participate in positive activitiesand access a broad range of experiences; making further investment to improve places to go in every community; and exploring ways of improving information about things to do and places to go.How is youth work carried out?Youth work is carried out in different situations and locations, using a range ofapproaches. However, some common factors underpin good youth work, whatever thesetting. HM Treasury’s policy review on children and young people highlights sevenfactors which need to be in place to improve outcomes for young people. These are: Providing opportunities to build the skills of young people; Developing young people’s personal effectiveness through building theirability to arrive at their own choices and solutions to problems; Making links between the different aspects of young people’s lives; Setting and demonstrating appropriate standards of behaviour; Keeping young people safe from physical and mental harm; Putting proper supervision in place, through which adults provide clear,appropriate and consistent rules and expectations; and Sustaining young people’s involvement over time.Youth work settings include: Youth clubs and centres provided by local authorities or by voluntary andcommunity organisations. These may cater solely for young people, or mayincorporate provision for young people within broader community facilities.Other building-based settings including libraries, churches and mosques, orhospitals and GPs’ surgeries.Detached or street work: meeting and developing purposeful relationshipswith young people in public spaces, such as parks, bus shelters, shoppingcentres or on the street.Mobiles: converted buses or other vehicles taken to particular localities,offering young people opportunities to meet together, take part in structuredprogrammes and gain access to resources, information and advice.4

Schools and FE colleges: youth work contributes to formal education,particularly through PSHE (personal, social and health education) andcitizenship education, as well as non-formal provision during and outsideschool hours. By 2010 all schools are expected to be ‘extended schools’,offering additional services including a varied range of activities.Sports and arts organisations providing access to specialist skills, training,equipment, and practice and performance space.Youth councils and other initiatives through which young people engage inlocal democratic and regeneration processes and have a say in thedevelopment of policies and services.Information, advice and counselling projects: providing a range of servicesfrom information about local facilities to long-term support for individual orgroups of young people.Specialist projects: targeting particular groups of young people, for instanceyoung people leaving care, young women or lesbian, gay and bisexual youngpeople, or focusing on specific activities such as arts, volunteering or motorprojects.Cross-community and international work: bringing together young peoplefrom different backgrounds on joint projects.Youth services have traditionally provided a mix of ‘open access’ or universal youthwork, intended for all young people in an area, and work which targets particulargroups of young people, usually those who are disadvantaged or socially excluded.Similarly, integrated youth support and development services are expected to offer abroad and balanced range of activities open to all young people, within which youngpeople who are experiencing difficulties will be offered services tailored to theirspecific needs.What Ofsted says about youth work provision Detached youth work, award schemes, outdoor pursuits, residential activities,international exchanges and youth councils are used effectively in their own right aswell as to augment youth club programmes. Hampshire 2007.The youth service has been very effective in its role across the council in developingthe voice and influence of children and young people. There has been a great deal ofactivity, from local involvement of youth groups in redevelopment projects, such asskateboard parks and recreational spaces, to large scale conferences. Bristol 2007.The exciting range of music technology equipment, internet café areas, sports andcooking facilities has attracted a wider range of young people to get involved.Hillingdon 2006.Imaginative use of the mobile provision, with partners, to offer a combination ofadvice, information and SRE [sex and relationships education] work is also provingeffective at local level. Dudley, 2007.The service is well resourced and provides good quality equipment and specialistresources such as rock climbing facilities, musical instruments, motor vehicles andworkshops for young people. Lewisham, 2007.5

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support for individuals, work with small groups and learning through experience. Youth work offers young people safe spaces to explore their identity, experience decision-making, increase their confidence, develop inter-personal skills and think through the consequences of their actions. This leads to better informed choices, changes in activity and improved outcomes for young people. Youth .

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