Research: Critiquing Target Driven Youth Work

19 February 2009 — 8 Comments

Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to answer my previous questionnaire for my dissertation. In the past week, I’ve managed to get 15 responses so far and there is a whole load of mixed opinions! Feel free to complete the survey if you haven’t already done so.

Generally people seem to be saying that they can see the benefit of recording outcomes and accreditation, but the process is time-consuming, repetitive and often only justifies their post rather than showing development of young people. Accreditation seems a particularly controversial area from these responses. Some people are saying young people want that sense of achievement, others are saying it’s too close to formal education and just ticks a box.

So I now want to ask some more provocative questions about the general direction youth work is taking in the UK!

Following the Government green papers ‘Transforming Youth Work’ (DfEE 2001; DfES 2002) and ‘Youth Matters’ (HMSO 2005), there has arguably been a focus on keeping and reconnecting young people with schooling, training and employment. There has also been an increased push towards ‘delivery’, accreditation, individualisation and targeting.

The following questions deliberately critique this approach in comparison to a more established definition of youth work listed below.

Mark Smith (1999, 2002) summarises five key elements that define youth work practice over the past 100 years. He states that youth work involves:

  • Focusing on young people,
  • Emphasising voluntary participation and relationship
  • A commitment to association (joining together in companionship or to undertake some task)
  • Being friendly and informal, and acting with integrity (workers should not only be approachable and friendly; but also that they should have faith in people; and be trying, themselves, to live good lives)
  • Being concerned with the education and, more broadly, the welfare of young people.

Please could you take some time to answer this follow-up questionnaire:…

I’ll write up and post the full responses soon.

Department for Education and Skills (2002) Transforming Youth Work – resourcing excellent youth services, London: Department for Education and Skills/Connexions.
H. M Government (2005) Youth Matters, London: The Stationery Office.
Smith, M. K. (1999, 2002) ‘Youth work: an introduction’, the encyclopedia of informal education,


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I am a qualified youth worker, writer and consultant based in Littlehampton, UK. I've worked in the voluntary youth sector for over 12 years, am married to Kirsty and we have two daughters named Hope and Eloise. Check out 'Journeying Together: Growing Youth Work and Youth Workers in Local Communities' and read my opening chapter.

8 responses to Research: Critiquing Target Driven Youth Work

  1. Very interesting… thanks.

  2. Very interesting… thanks.

  3. Hi Jon, did you write up the reponses to your follow up questions? I'd be interested to see them for a debate at uni this Thurs 17/12/09. Thanks! Rachel.

  4. Hi Rachel, I never did post the full responses – something I've been meaning to do for a while! I'll dig out the document and upload it in a new post on this blog over the next few days. Thanks for the interest.

  5. Cool, that'll be great. Thanks!

  6. Hi Rachel,

    Links to the responses are now posted on the blog here. I hope it's useful.

  7. Hi Rachel,

    Links to the responses are now posted on the blog here.

    I hope it's useful.

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