Youth Work

NYA is committed to youth work, the science of enabling young people to believe in themselves and build positive futures.

Youth work takes a holistic approach with young people. It starts where they are at.

It builds resilience and character and gives young people the confidence and life skills they need to live, learn, work and achieve. This approach is at the heart of all of our work.

Youth workers usually work with young people aged between 11 and 25 years. 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.

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 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.