Youth Workers cannot be experts in all fields affecting young people

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With more and more demands on youth work professionals, the requirement for professionals to be supporting young people with more youth related social issues with young people is increasing. A quick snapshot from several national youth services (voluntary and statutory) I identified that one ‘individual youth work professionals’ had to do training, support and work with young people on, Hate Crime, Violence against Women, Forced marriages, Gangs work, Teenage Pregnancy, Healthy Eating, Sex Related Education, Alcohol and Substance misuse, Sexual Exploitation, Mental health, Youth Justice, Social Media, Prevent, Safeguarding, dealing with NEET, IAG just to name a few. Whilst youth work professionals are expected to work in a more partnership and integrated way and refer young people to specialist services and not directly deal with all the above issues themselves, the true reality is that more and more youth work staff are expected to deal with issues individually as other referral services and bodies are being stretched, facing cuts or don’t have the resources or staffing to support all young people.

My concern is that youth work professional skills and knowledge based levels are being pushed and challenged in new ways and this is very dangerous. I believe it’s dangerous because it creating unrealistic expectation in delivery, effecting quality youth work, lack of time to do tracking, focused work and making youth work professionals work in a fire fighting/crisis management mode. My question is: Are the core values of youth work getting lost due to numerous social and youth issues we need to aware of and have skills in to support the needs of young people in today’s world.

Another thought while discussing this issue with youth work professionals was that some professionals felt that youth services are seen as an easy place to focus the work from for young people by many services and these agencies expect youth work professional to be an integral part of the solution and process. While I believe youth services and youth work is the best first point of contact for young people after contact with schools/colleges etc, should we expect youth work staff to be able to juggle so many social knowledge balls in the air.

Is this an issue youth work profession have created as we want the best interest for the young people we work with or is it because we are not good at addressing how partners and agencies play a better role in partnership and integration work, instead of ‘Youth Work’ will deal with it syndrome because we know the young person best?

Be interested in your thoughts on this theme?

Julia (Senior Youth Worker)

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