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EACEA National Policies Platform


10. Youth work

10.4 Quality and innovation in youth work

Last update: 28 November 2023
On this page
  1. Quality assurance
  2. Research and evidence supporting Youth Work
  3. Participative Youth Work
  4. Smart youth work: youth work in the digital world


Quality assurance


National Quality Standards Framework

The National Quality Standards Framework (NQSF) for Youth Work is the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth’s (DCEDIY’s) Professional standard for youth work. It was published in 2010 and introduced in January 2011. The NQSF applies to all staff-led youth work organisations, services, projects, and programmes which are funded under the following schemes:

  • Youth Service Grant Scheme
  • Special projects for youth
  • Young People’s Facilities and Services Funds 1 and 2
  • Youth information centres.

The NQSF is a developmental process, which allows youth work organisations to assess service provision and to identify areas for development. It also provides an opportunity to express youth work through the development of a common language within a structured framework. The NQSF aims to:

  • provide a support and development tool for youth work organisations providing services to young people
  • establish standards in the practice and provision of youth work
  • provide an enhanced evidence base for youth work
  • ensure resources are used effectively in the youth work sector
  • provide a basis for ‘whole organisational assessment’.

The NQSF identifies key criteria which quality youth work should meet:

  • Young person-centred
  • Based on partnership and cooperation
  • Solution-focused
  • Challenging and developmental
  • Realistic and clear
  • Focused on the benefits.
  • The NQSF also includes a detailed ten-step process for engagement.

Support and guidance on the NQSF are provided to local youth work services by the local Education and Training Boards Youth/Liaison Officer, and to national youth organisations by the DCEDIY.

Evaluation of youth work is based on self-assessment and some external assessment that is used to ensure that the self-assessment process is correct. For the self-assessment, the youth organisation must complete a scale of attainment. External assessment is performed by the Youth/Liaison Officers for local youth work services or by the NQSF Standards Officer for national youth work organisations. The external evaluation includes observations on practice. This provides the opportunity for more practical examples of quality youth work and this may inform the ongoing development of the NQSF. The views of stakeholders including staff, management, young people and volunteers must be considered. Following the external assessment process, the Implementation Team and the Youth/Liaison Officer or the NQSF Standards Officer review the youth work organisation’s self-assessed scale of attainment. The two parties should discuss if this is an accurate reflection and either agree or adjust the position on the scale. This position should be used as a baseline for a Continuous Improvement Plan, to inform the completion of the annual Progress Report.

If the assessment idenitifies an issue that needs immediate action, addressing these concerns is part of a separate process outside of the NQSF. In such instances, the management within the organisation or the managing organisation and funding body will be informed and will assume their responsibility for ensuring effective youth work provision and practice within the organisation.


National Quality Standards for Volunteer-led Youth Groups

National Quality Standards for Volunteer-led Youth Groups is a set of standards that apply to volunteer-led youth activity and youth work groups. Groups funded under the DCYA’s Local Youth Club Grant Scheme and related schemes operating in Dublin and Waterford cities are required to engage with the standards. Other youth groups are not required to adhere to these standards but are encouraged to do so.


These standards require that each participating organisation should complete an Annual Plan and Progress Report. This is based on a model of ‘Plan, Act and Review.’ The form should be reviewed and updated on an annual basis and used to inform the work of, and processes within, the youth group. During this process, organisations should consult or liaise with the Regional Youth/Development Officer of their parent organisation, or with a Youth/Liaison Officer from their local Education and Training Board. The Officer also completes a section within the Progress Report that gives feedback to the organisation.

There are no sanctions associated with this process. For example; public funding is not awarded or withheld if projects or programmes do not meet the established quality criteria.


North/South Education and Training Standards (NSETS)

The North South Education and Training Standards Committee for Youth Work (NSETS) works to ensure and promote quality standards in the education and training of youth workers, through an endorsement process based on a rigorous assessment of all aspects of programme content and delivery. NSETS professional endorsement represents a formal recognition by the youth-work sector that programmes of study in youth work have met the required criteria and are fit-for-purpose.

NSETS was established in an all-Ireland basis in 2006, by the Department of Education for Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland’s Youth Affairs Unit of the Department of Education and Science (now DCEDIY).

Institutions apply to the NSETs for professional endorsement. A panel of experts look at each application based on set criteria. The panel then visits the institution and holds a series of interviews with the management, programme developers, tutors, students, practice teachers and other stakeholders to determine if the programme and infrastructure supporting the institution meet the NSET standards. This panel may also collect documentary and observational data.

Endorsement may be conditional on specified improvements or amendments to programmes. The endorsed programmes are subject to annual monitoring and to a full re-endorsement exercise every five years.

NSETS is supported by the DCEDIY and the Department of Education for Northern Ireland, through providing funding to employ a part-time Development Officer, who is contracted by the National Youth Council of Ireland.


Research and evidence supporting Youth Work

The DCEDIY has a research panel to which researchers, both academic and independent researchers, can apply to be part of. The DCEDIY sends requests for tenders for research projects to approved members of the DCEDIY Research Panel who can then apply to conduct the research. In the past, the DCEDIY has funded research Masters and PhDs in the area of child and youth issues.

The National Youth Council of Ireland (NYCI) also carries out research related to youth work in Ireland. NYCI collects and publishes resources, including examples of best practices, and organizes seminars and conferences to discuss youth work outcomes.


Participative Youth Work

For information on the participation of young people in policy making, including policy making related to youth work, please see Chapter 5.4- Young people’s participation in policy-making.


Smart youth work: youth work in the digital world

Web Safety in Youth Work Training

NYCI provides Web Safety in Youth Work Training. It aims to equip youth leaders to engage with young people’s online life and to promote online safety. The training objectives are for participants to:

  • Increase their knowledge of what young people are doing online
  • Be able to identify the common risks for young people online
  • Identify the opportunities that exist for young people to learn online
  • Recognise indicators of cyberbullying and how to deal with it
  • Explore what digital citizenship means and what a digital footprint is
  • Receive an introduction to NYCI’s Websafety in Youth resource.

NYCI receives funding from several national public bodies and the European Commission.


Screenagers and the Digital Youth Work Guidelines

Screenagers is a collaborative international research project, on the use of Information and Communications Technology (ICT), digital and social media in youth work. It is a partnership between agencies in NYCI (Republic of Ireland), the Youth Council for Northern Ireland (Northern Ireland), Verke (Finland), the Centre for Digital Care (Denmark) and WienXtra (Austria). The project is funded by the EU Erasmus+ programme.

NYCI’s report; Using ICT, Digital and Social Media in Youth Work presents an overview and synthesis of five research studies produced within the Screenagers project. It explores the extent, value and development of the use of ICT, social and digital media as a tool in youth work. It also provides an evidence-base for recommendations to promote the development of ICT in youth work at organizational, national and European levels.


The Digital Youth Work Guidelines was developed by NYCI in 2019, in response to the recommendations identified in the Screenagers International research project. The guidelines accompany a Screenagers workshop with policy makers and youth work organisations, exploring:

  • An introduction to digital youth work
  • Using digital media and technology safely and effectively in youth work settings
  • Using social media in youth work settings
  • Training and resources for digital youth work


Youth Work in an Online Setting during Covid-19


Youth Work in an Online Setting during Covid-19 was produced by NYCI in 2020. It was created as a guidance document for youth workers and those working with young people in an online setting during Covid-19. It contains information under the following headings:

  • What is Digital Youth Work?
  • Moving Offline Youth Work Online – Digital Youth Work Best Practice
  • Media Literacy and Online Safety
  • Consent.



TechSpace is an education programme, by Camara Education Ireland, to support facilitate Digital Media, STEAM and Creative Technology activities with young people in a youth setting. TechSpace designs and deliver training, activities, resources and opportunities through English and Irish for youth workers, teachers and volunteers. Camara Education Ireland is a non-profit organisation, funded by both public and private sources, including the DCEDIY, and the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media.


Skills IT- Digital Pathways for Youth Work

Skills IT- Digital Pathways for Youth Work is an Erasmus+ project coordinated by Youth Work Ireland, with partners Camera Education (Ireland), Fundacja Samodzielni Robinsonowie (Poland), Fundatia Danis Romania Partner and Norsensus Mediaforum (Norway). The project aims to increase the quality and relevance of youth work through digitalisation, resulting in increased opportunities for young people in the 21st Century.

The project includes a Competence Framework for Digital Youth Work Practice; Training Toolkit; and Digital Learning Planning Toolkit. The Competence Framework for Digital Youth Work Practice identifies the competences needed by youth workers to be effective in the areas of ICT, digital and social media. The Toolkit provides detailed scenarios and instructions on how to hold workshops for young people around selected Digital and Future Skills. It also presents theory and research-based facts on Digital Skills attainment for Young People. The Digital Learning Planning Toolkit helps organisations to strategically plan to improve their use of digital technologies.