Youth Work Principles

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Youth Work Principles

I sit here and ponder on what I should focus on, when thinking or attempting to write an article/blog on youth work values, principles and ethics. I firmly believe that values, principles and ethics are the fundamental part of youth work delivery and practice in youth services. I have been fortunate enough to be part of the service which I am now able to reflect and conceptualize the meaning and implications of the values, principles and ethics of our work with young people.

For the purpose of this blog I will be focusing on the youth work practice in local youth services. I have been involved in inspections as part of identifying good and bad practice to improve the quality of service. During that period I have met and spoken with colleagues about the impact of their work on young people and how they are evidencing their work in regards to the core principles of youth work. I have interviewed managers, part-time youth workers who are in a position of direct delivery of service or managing staff.  I have also visited youth work sessions both detached and center based youth work. I have also inspected mobile youth work.

Mobile youth work delivering youth work from a converted vehicle, for example this could be a 7.5 ton lorry or a traditional bus or other vehicles converted taken to localities to offer young people the opportunity to meet other peers, and also take part in structured programmes and gain access to   and information, resources and advice.

During these inspections I have come across truly amazing youth workers both part-time and full-time. I have witnessed excellent projects that embed the core values of youth work in their delivery. I found these projects to be highly effective and more importantly a lively environment among the young people engaged in the projects. However on the other hand I have also witnessed some very bad practices among qualified youth workers ranging from managers, youth worker in charge and youth workers in front line delivery. During one of my visit I asked one member of staff to explain the four principles of youth work. I was about to get the shock of my life.


I was surprised that person was a senior member of staff and was not very clear of the four principles of youth work and how it informs the delivery of the service he/she is managing. This I found to be across a number of centers I visited, youth workers were finding it difficult to explain or answer the question asked.  Astonished by some of the answers and confusions this got me thinking and asking the question to myself as to what is the future of youth work? is youth work values dying among youth services/youth workers? Should there be more focus on a local level to embed the four principles of youth work with every youth worker that joins the team or service.

Is it not in the best interest of the youth worker/manager to be educated in knowing what are those core principles of youth work are. I believe a good youth worker regardless if they are managers or front line youth workers should in my opinion embrace and embed this in their practice. They should be able to explain the basics at least. I also believe that good quality youth work is built upon these core principles and dictates the delivery of the quality of service to young people.

As a reminder to myself and others I thought it would be a good idea to share those core principles so that we can reflect and embed them within our practice as youth workers.


Empowerment- At first I struggled with this and could not understand or grasp the meaning of it. Eventually through trial and error and also a lot of reading on the subject I managed to understand what I needed to do in order to truly benefit from it and others around me. I realised it was just a matter of handing over control in other words delegating some responsibilities to others.  It took time, I first started with some of the young people I remember working in a youth center. So many questions and concerns that went through my mind before I even started, I remember it very clearly now. Things like, would they be able to complete the task? will they be responsible enough? Will they work together as a group? Eventually I gave in and thought to myself what is the worse that can happen.

At least upon reflection I can say that I have created an opportunity for learning. This provided the opportunity for me to enable the young people to take on small specific responsibilities which in return helped build their self-confidence and more importantly create a sense of ownership. Many books have been written on this alone and commentators have provided many commentaries. To me I just like to keep it simple so that I can implement it in my practice. I did this through delegating tasks and responsibilities to young people and staff members I managed.


As youth workers our job is to empower young people so that they can be motivated, valued, and raise their self-esteem. True empowerment is about trusting your young people and staff members, as managers our role is to facilitate create opportunities for staff members to be confident and have the necessary tools to deliver quality work with young people.

Equality of opportunity:

Equality of opportunity “Treat everybody the same” we all heard and most of us practiced it for a while and then realised that it is not possible to treat everyone the same, which is like saying all fingers in my hand are the same length. The fact is we are all different and have different needs. There are times you will relate to people easily because you may share the same things they might like.  I personally believe that you should treat the way you like to be treated. There should not be any favoritism with your young people or staff members. I have seen people transformed by just given them a little bit of chance and opportunity and see them shine.


Informal education Informal education can occur in a number of settings both institutional and non institutional establishments. Youth work is about having a dialogue, it’s about conversation, we listen and talk. It’s about making relations and building trust among young people. We are informal educators we meet young people and start from where young people are. Our role is to act as a  facilitator for young people to gain knowledge. Youth work is about creating a fun enjoyable place to be that creates a learning environment. It’s about providing information so that young people gain new knowledge.


Voluntary participation – Young people choose to engage and not the other way round. Young people have a choice to take part or they may decide not to take part, the decision lies with them. We as youth workers provide as much information to young people so that they can make the choice and decisions whether to take part. Therefore it is fundamental that we develop projects programme that has value attached to it which develops and benefits young people.

If you have any thoughts or would like to comment on the topic please feel free to comment below

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