What is youth work?

Every young person deserves a safe space where they can enjoy themselves and feel supported and valued. The amazing equipment and opportunities offered at Youth Zones are important, but the real impact comes from the life-changing youth work and inspiring youth workers who are at the heart of every Youth Zone.

Youth work can happen wherever young people are at. In youth clubs and  youth centres or out in the local community, from a game of football to uniformed youth organisations. The settings may differ, but the values and principals at its core are the same.

What do youth work jobs entail?

Youth work is about supporting all young people to grow, creating opportunities for them to; develop their skills, build their confidence, find their voice, broaden their horizons, discover their passion, and to be empowered to become active members of their communities.

At its core is a voluntary relationship between a youth worker and a young person. What’s key is creating inclusive, non-judgmental, and welcoming environments for all young people. It has fantastic outcomes because the relationship is led by the young person and is something they choose to engage with.

Youth work at a Youth Zone

Youth Zones are run by skilled and dedicated youth workers. People who understand where young people are coming from, and truly believe in where they’re going. Then, day by day, give them the tools to get there.

With every workout or kickabout, every mock interview or muck around with mates, young people develop the resilience to face challenges and the skills to solve problems. They find confidence to aim high and the determination to become who they want to be. They build positive relationships based on being given the space to talk, an understanding of their own self-worth, and a sense of belonging to something bigger.

The dedicated youth workers across the Network are trusted adults for thousands of young people whatever they’re going through; good or bad, big or small.

A Youth Zone’s main focus is delivering universal youth work, meaning it is available to all young people aged eight to 19, or up to 25 with a disability. Universal youth work’s purpose is not pre-determined or aimed at addressing a specific issue or targeted need.

Youth Zone also deliver:

  • Targeted youth work – working with specific groups of young people to combat a specific issues, like employability.
  • Detached youth work – meeting a young person where they are outside of the traditional youth work environments.
  • Outreach youth work – engaging with young people and supporting them into the Youth Zone.

Delivering excellent youth work

As a Network we’re committed to delivering excellent youth work. Our Excellence Framework is used as a tool to continually improve delivery and is underpinned by the Youth Work Curriculum and National Occupational Standards.

Our talented youth workers across the OnSide Network are dedicated to providing opportunities for young people. We invest in their futures through focussed professional development programmes offered by OnSide’s Talent Academy which ensures that we’re always delivering high quality youth work.

Here are the core values that underpin good youth work

  • Participation and active involvement – it is delivered by developing a voluntary and trusting relationship between the young person and the youth worker.
  • Safeguarding – it is underpinned by contextual safeguarding approaches, where the welfare of young people is paramount.
  • It compliments formal education– It extends and supports formal education by encouraging and providing other opportunities for young people to achieve and fulfil their potential.
  • It’s about building positive perceptions – it does not seek to position young people as a ‘problem’; it develops a positive narrative around young people.
  • It sees the value young people bring to society – it works with them to develop solutions to challenges experienced individually, collectively, and societally.
  • It equips young people – it gives young people life skills and knowledge they can apply across a range of dimensions, including socially, economically and politically.

Our commitment to safeguarding

As a Network of youth charities, OnSide and all Youth Zones are committed and have a responsibility to promote the welfare of all children, young people and adults at risk to keep them safe.

OnSide has a Safeguarding Manager who leads on the delivery of the safeguarding strategy for OnSide and on behalf of the Network of Youth Zones. Each Youth Zone has a code of conduct and robust safeguarding policies and procedures. Each Youth Zone has a Designated Safeguarding Lead whose role is to review any safeguarding concerns and take appropriate actions eg referrals to statutory agencies. They also deliver training and act as a safeguarding point of reference for young people, parents and carers, the team, volunteers, members of the board and multi-agency partners.

All employees around the OnSide Network, volunteers and trustees are required to complete a Disclosure and Barring Service check, ensuring safe decisions are made when recruiting. All staff, volunteers, trustees, and external agencies, including partners delivering on behalf of OnSide have legal and personal responsibilities to ensure the safeguarding and welfare of children, young people and adults at risk and they actively ensure that the highest levels of safeguarding are upheld.

Youth work blog: The power of youth work

6th November 2023 by David Bigglestone, Head of Youth Work, Future Youth Zone

Whenever I’m asked why I work in the youth sector my answer is simple - it’s because I am a product of some excellent youth…

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Youth Work blog: A Week in the Life of a Youth Worker

2nd October 2023 by Connor Lynch, Head of Youth Work, Unitas Youth Zone

Connor Lynch is Head of Youth Work at Unitas, Barnet Youth Zone. A member of the Senior Leadership Team, Connor leads a team of up…

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