10.1 General context
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2. National definition or understanding of Youth Work
The main statement of youth work policy is the Welsh Government's 2019 Youth Work Strategy for Wales. This was launched by the Minister of Education in June 2019.
The strategy sets out a programme of collaborative action and has been directly informed by the voices of young people and the sector as well as:
● National Voluntary Youth Organisations
● Principal Youth Officers
● Engagement and Progression Coordinators
● the Education Workforce Council (EWC)
An Implementation Plan will be published in October 2019.
2019’sYouth Work Strategy for Walesreplaced theNational Youth Work Strategy for Wales 2014-18 and theNational Youth Service Strategy for Wales: Young, People, Youth Work, Youth Service (Welsh Assembly Government, 2007). It fits into the wider context set by the 2002 Welsh Government documentExtending Entitlement: support for 11 to 25-year-olds in Wales: Direction and Guidance. Extending Entitlement set out a statutory basis (under the Learning and Skills Act 2000) and direction for the Youth Service in Wales for the first time. It stated that, in the context of youth work provision, ‘informal education’ refers to a process of learning which involves the voluntary engagement of young people with services that enable them to participate in a wide range of experiences and activities that promote their personal and social development.
National participation strategy
The value of youth work is also highlighted in Welsh Government’sYouth Engagement and Progression Framework (Welsh Government, 2013), which sets out principles for supporting young people into education, employment and training. The Framework refers to youth services as one of the partners (with local authorities, Careers Wales, schools, colleges, work based learning providers and others) working to ensure those most at risk of becoming NEET (not in education, employment or training) or who are already NEET are identified and provided with the support they need. The Framework sets out the role of 'lead workers', to support those at most risk of disengagement, providing continuity of support and contact to vulnerable young people, and supporting them to engage with and access wider support services.
Charter for Youth Work
In March 2016, the Welsh Government launched its Charter for Youth Work. It was designed to ensure a national approach to youth work and should ensure that young people across Wales access to a similar level of provision. The Wales Charter for Youth Work will mean all young people in Wales are entitled to easy access to:
● safe, warm, well-equipped meeting places that provide opportunities for arts and sport activities and new experiences
● opportunities to take part in outdoor adventure and in residential and international experiences
● opportunities to participate in decision-making via informal and formal structures for youth engagement locally and nationally (e.g. young mayors, youth councils and Senedd, or Welsh Assembly)
● information, guidance and support on issues including employment, housing and mental well-being that can be accessed through digital media and via trusted and trained adults
● encouragement to learn more about their own culture and the cultures of other people
● co-ordinated provision by youth workers in all secondary schools and colleges
● opportunities to be civic activists e.g. by volunteering
● recognition and /or accreditation for their achievements in personal and social development both in schools and colleges and in the community.
Developing Youth Work in Wales, published by the Welsh Government alongside the Charter in March 2016, sets out the background to it.
Scope and Contents
The 2019 Youth Work Strategy for Wales was launched by the Welsh Government in 2019 to give direction to those planning and delivering youth work. Through the implementation of the strategy, the Welsh Government is aiming to improve quality and consistency.
As stated in the Strategy, youth work is an intrinsic element of youth support services which seek to ensure that all 11- to 25-year-olds have the services, support and experiences they need to achieve their potential. It is a universal entitlement, open to all young people.
According to CWVYS, it ‘recognises the value and role of open access youth work provision, promotes a stronger connection between youth work provision and formal education, identifies the need for closer working between statutory and voluntary youth work organisations, and identifies the need to significantly strengthen the evidence base on the impact of youth work across Wales.
National definition or understanding of Youth Work
The2019 Youth Work Strategy for Wales posits the following understanding of youth work:
‘Youth work in Wales promotes and actively encourages opportunities for all young people in order that they may fulfil their potential as empowered individuals and as members of groups and communities, thereby improving their life chances. It supports them through significant changes in their lives and encourages them to gain and develop knowledge, understanding, attitudes and values, and to make constructive use of their skills, resources and time. In doing so it promotes opportunities and access for all young people whatever their race, gender, sexual identity, language, religion, disability, age, background or personal circumstances. A key role for youth work is to challenge oppression and inequality, while supporting and enabling young people to keep themselves safe.’
Youth Work: Principles and Purposes, a collaborative document produced by representatives of the voluntary and local authority youth work sectors in Wales with the Education Workforce Council. (2018) setting out the key principles which underpin youth work, explains that youth work provides or facilitates:
● places and relationships within which young people can enjoy themselves, feel secure, supported and valued, learn to take greater control of their lives, and recognise and resist the damaging influences which may affect them;
● non-formal, informal and structured educational opportunities and experiences which challenge both the institutions and young people themselves to enhance their personal, social and political development;
● access to relevant advice, information, support and guidance.
Furthermore, the Youth Work National Occupational Standards explains that the main purpose of youth work is to ‘enable young people to develop holistically, working with them to facilitate their personal, social and educational development, to enable them to develop their voice, influence and place in society and to reach their full potential.’