The cost of youth work

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By Robert McKenzie


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As most local authorities are going through (/have been through) restructures, realignment or reforms, it is becoming more and more vital that youth workers can evidence their work and more importantly evidence a need for their work. I delivered a couple of workshops on quality at a recent conference, which has led me to writing this. The workshops looked at what a Local Authority (L.A) would identify as a quality youth work intervention, and if that is different to what a practitioner’s idea of a quality youth work intervention.  At a time that non-statutory services are facing constant scrutiny, we need to look at what we are doing and what this looks like strategically. If you are a practitioner, think if you had not turned up to work today, what would the difference to young people be? Is this significant? Does this justify your salary?

Youth work is a service that surely would be of benefit by existing. It does cost money to deliver but also saves society money. For example, if a youth worker manages to divert a young person from entering the criminal justice system, this has a substantial saving. If a youth worker supports a young person on to an apprenticeship programme, this could save society the cost of long-term job seekers allowance.  This notion of valuing money in this way is beginning to be discussed and it is something I believe youth workers and managers should explore and understand in comparison to the work they deliver.

I believe cutting youth service spending is a short term saving and will probably have a significant financial and social impact in a few years.

A database that offers an estimated cost of diversionary work can be found at the following link. It may be interesting for you to look at how it values the work you deliver.

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