Does youth work still have a place in society?

A pandemic surrounds and moulds us.  It transforms us into these beings who sit in front of computers and try to support our young people in a virtual world.  Our young people yearn for connection and we have to think out of that box to make the best of an obscure situation.  We have failed at times but we don’t let that stop us.  I remember yearning for our board to Furlough us.  I’m grateful now that we weren’t.  As youth workers we need to unite and support those at the heart of our work: Young people.

Youth work has a history dating back to the 1870s and has evolved through time.  ‘Youth work was a response to the fear of delinquency and seen as a means of encouraging self-reliance, responsibility and voluntary consent to important dominant values’

As we navigate through this pandemic, youth work is never more needed. 

Youth work is not a new concept, it just looks different.  During the second world war it was said that ‘youth organisations should bridge the gap between the education we have now and what we hope to have in the future.  We want a system of education which would produce citizens capable of exercising their own judgements’

In the 80s/90s Youthlink was established as the National Agency for Youth Work in Scotland.  In 2013 the Community Learning and Development (CLD) regulations came into place and Youth work sits firmly within the CLD framework and frames our values and principles. 

Fast forward to now and as, informal educators, mentors, peacekeepers and empowerees, the voluntary youth sector has stepped up and proven itself invaluable in supporting young people in these unprecedented times.  Our determination and diligence has been  rewarded through gaining funding from the Scottish Government, the Youth Work Education Recovery Fund. We look forward to working with young people to shape and realise recovery.

Here at Youth Highland our vision is for;

‘An empowered, diverse, innovative and collaborative voluntary youth sector working towards best possible outcomes for Highlands young people’

And we do this by;

‘Supporting a network of voluntary organisations and groups to help young people to bring about positive change in their lives and communities using youth work methods and principles’

Funding for the third sector is tough, it’s a journey of persuasion and passion, determination and dedication.   The Youth Work Education Recovery funding will strengthen five HUBs within the Voluntary Youth Network (VYN), namely in Caithness, Easter Ross, Inverness and Badenoch and Strathspey.  

The work with the five HUBs will focus on strengthening partnerships, improving standards and measuring youth work outcomes.  The project will focus on supporting these emerging youth HUBs to gain confidence and experience in delivering nationally accredited youth achievement awards, developing stronger partnerships with specialist organisations, increasing professional understanding with schools and empowering communities to support their own young people.

We will support community based youth workers to enable them to support young people to reframe and reshape what learning looks like.  Through utilising the awards we will support each young person to set learning challenges and achieve their ambition, through recognising and realising their own potential.

This logical model gives us a frame of reference for our youth work.

We are proud to support over 50 member clubs from across Highland.  By developing and testing this model with the 5 HUBs we hope to explore, experiment and learn to enable us to support the same model of delivery with other clubs in the future.  We know that by increasing autonomy and improving governance in community based clubs we can increase capacity locally.  We know this will have a positive impact on young people; creating opportunities, offering wider youth work programmes, developing youth enterprise and tackling inequalities.

In times of change Youth work has a vital place.

‘Youth workers, stand proud, stand by your values. Through working in collaboration and partnership we can do more and have an increased positive impact on young people’s lives.