What is youth work?

Youth work helps young people learn about themselves, others and society, through informal educational activities which combine enjoyment, challenge and learning.

Youth workers work typically with young people aged between 11 and 25. Their work seeks to promote young people’s personal and social development and enable them to have a voice, influence and place in their communities and society as a whole.

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 work values

Youth work is underpinned by a clear set of values. These include
• young people choosing to take part
• utilising young people’s view of the world
• treating young people with respect
• seeking to develop young people’s skills and attitudes rather than remedy ‘problem behaviours’
• helping young people develop stronger relationships and collective identities
• respecting and valuing differences
• promoting the voice of young people

These values are considered in more detail in the National Youth Agency statement of principles and values, Ethical Conduct in Youth Work.  For detailed information on youth work read the NYA Guide to Youth Work and Youth Services.

Suitability for youth work

Youth work is more than a set of skills and knowledge. To work effectively professional practitioners should:
• Recognise the importance of integrity in all personal and social interactions with young people.
• Have a commitment to the ethos of continuous professional development to improve practice.
• Be committed to working collaboratively with partners to ensure excellent provision for young people.

Disclosure and barring checks

All youth workers must be prepared to give information about any criminal record they might have, even if it might normally be considered ‘spent’. The disclosure and barring service will, on request from employers, check the records of anyone applying to work with children and young people, whether on a paid or voluntary basis.

Having a record does not mean automatic disqualification – some of the best youth workers have a chequered past, and they draw on their experiences in their work.

Employers using the DBS are required to have a policy about employing ex-offenders, taking into account factors such as the nature of the offence and how long ago it was committed. More information on disclosure and barring checks.