Why youth work?

August 4, 2014 Comments Off on Why youth work?
Why youth work?

Young people matter today and are also our future. Never before have they
been so high on the public agenda – positively and negatively. Never before has
so much space or resource been afforded directly to young people themselves to
speak about their concerns, interests and aspirations. There is still, however, more
to be done before all young people achieve their full potential. The UN Convention
on the Rights of the Child, in considering the latest report from the UK, welcomed
progress but made 120 recommendations on vital areas where the UK is still failing
to meet international standards on the treatment of children and young people.
These included acting in the best interests of children and the negative portrayal
of children and young people from disadvantaged groups. 2The recession offers
an immediate threat: there is little doubt that those young people without skills
and qualifications will be most vulnerable in the labour market. Indeed, the latest
labour market survey shows that unemployment is growing fastest among 18 to 24
year-olds:3
We want the best for our young people. We want them to have stable homes,
caring families, good food on the table. We want them to have access to the best
opportunities for learning, personalised to meet their diverse needs, interests and
aspirations, so that they:
• succeed in education and continue participating in learning at least until the
age of 18;
• take part in activities that develop their resilience and the social and emotional
skills they need for life, and enjoy their leisure time;
• make a real contribution to society, using their energy and dynamism to bring
about change;
• be emotionally and physically healthy and able to cope with the demands of
adolescence and becoming an adult; and
• grow up in a safe and supportive environment.4
Young people, however, only spend 15 per cent of their waking hours in formal
education. 5Some young people spend less, either through not attending school or
college or through ‘coasting’ at the back of the classroom. We want, therefore, a
rich source of opportunities to be available in their leisure time also; offering a
source of fun, development and support. Youth work is at the heart of this and
should be an entitlement for all young people.
Good youth work develops the ability of young people to think for themselves and
to act for others. This is its prime purpose. Youth work services focus directly on
the needs and interests of the ‘whole’ young person. They have no other agenda
than to support and develop each young person towards a better future of their
own choosing. Though youth work may contribute to many social goals, it is not
primarily about these goals. It is not a job search service, nor a rehabilitation service
for young offenders. It does not seek, as its main goal, to improve the number of
young people achieving five A*–C GCSEs or aim to increase the number of voters.

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