Purpose of youth work

Youth work is a distinct educational process adapted across a variety of settings to support a young person’s personal, social and educational development

  • To explore their values, beliefs, ideas and issues
  • To enable them to develop their voice, influence and place in society
  • To acquire a set of practical or technical skills and competencies, to realise their full potential

The principles of youth work are supported by reflective practice and peer education, establishing and maintaining relationships with young people and community groups

  • Knowledge of how young people develop during adolescence and appropriate support
  • Trusted relationships and voluntary engagement of young people
  • Understanding how to establish boundaries, challenging behaviour and de-escalate conflict
  • The importance of safeguarding in providing a safe environment for young people

When is it youth work?

When is a game of football youth work?
If the person running the football match is doing it because they have a passion for football and wants to improve the football skills of the young players, creating a winning team and climbing the local league, then they are a football coach.

If football is the means rather than the end and the primary focus is the social and emotional development of the young person then it is much more likely to be youth work.

Working as part of a team, taking on leadership roles, taking personal responsibility for their actions, understanding consequences, even thinking about gender roles and diversity issues are all elements the youth worker can explore with the young people through the medium of football. If the young people were interested in dance, cookery or environmental issues, the worker could equally well use these as the hook too.

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 discussed in more detail in the Code of Ethics published by the Institute for Youth work at iyw.org.uk.

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.

Career in Youth Work

Getting Qualified

Am I Qualified?

Youth Work FAQs

COVID-19 Readiness Level

Readiness Level


What does this mean?

** From 27th January 2022 we can confirm that the youth sector moves to GREEN in the readiness framework**

(Version 10)

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