The growing professional recognition of youth workers 

The youth worker profession has been diluted over the years, not just by the lack of investment and infrastructure, but additionally by changing job titles from youth worker to ‘community worker’, ‘adolescent team’, ‘family help’, ‘early years’ as well as the migration of youth workers into allied child centred sectors. Our values and approaches are still there, but the recognition of our particular approaches and values has decreased. 

Lockdowns and key worker status 

We cannot ignore that the COVID 19 lockdowns have had a devasting long-term effect on young people’s lives, though at the time, the lockdowns pushed the importance of youth work into the spotlight. Detached youth workers were some of the only youth workers engaging with young people as other services were forced to close. The guidance offered by the National Youth Agency supported detached youth workers and others to continue their important work. The acknowledgement of youth workers as having key worker status during this time boosted our recognition as professionals nationally and locally.

Unique youth work approaches 

In some local authority areas, youth workers are already working collaboratively with the allied sectors of education, social care, health, and justice. Youth workers should be proud and confident to work alongside these professionals who can benefits from our particular approach and ethos namely: the importance of active participation; our neutral power status and our safeguarding skills built on an understanding of local communities and external factors that could be impacting on a young person’s life.  By its very nature, the youth worker relationship is voluntary and built on trust and by virtue of this we can often get to the heart of issues in a way that allied professionals cannot  

Working with Allied Sectors 

However, not all local authorities encourage multi-agency working with youth services. We need to be confident as youth workers in our ability to support young people and appeal to our colleagues in allied sectors to work with us. In local areas, youth workers need to be present on every Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub, safeguarding panel, community safety panel, Missing, Slavery, Exploited, Trafficked panel and more, to show the positive change we know we can create for young people. As the national sector body, NYA is committed to talking to every local authority, every councillor, every MP to support the statutory review on the local authority duty with youth work, youth workers and youth services stated as a fundamental, mandatory service. 

Opportunities for multi-agency working 

As well as the National Youth Guarantee, there are other opportunities for youth work: 

  •  The Opportunity for All White paper 2030 places an emphasis on the personal development of young people with the encouragement to link with external services for support.  
  • The Family Hubs model aims to include those aged 0-19 highlighting the need for youth services to ensure adolescents are supported.  
  • The independent review of children’s social care includes youth workers in ‘Early Help’ to decrease the number of young people going into care.  
  • The continuous support of youth work from Police Crime Commissioners across England has meant that more funding from Violence Reduction Units are going towards youth services and provision. 

As a sector, we need to establish and strengthen relationships with those in the allied sectors of education, health, justice and social care for youth work and youth workers to be recognised as the valued professionals that we are. 

Join the webinar session on Tuesday 8th November to discuss how NYA as the national sector body as well as the individual youth worker can support the continuing increase in the professional recognition of youth work. 

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