A series of drop-in ‘Empower Hour’ sessions for youth workers and youth support workers were held in December 2023 to introduce the intended approach to strengthening the legislative framework for youth work in Wales, building on the Minister for Education and Welsh Language’s recent statement.

Over 70 people attended the sessions, enabling us to start gathering a wide range of views and examples of good practice, including in relation to rights and entitlement-based approaches, and innovative examples of leadership and partnership working. We also gained valuable feedback on areas that need further consideration, including the strengths and weaknesses of various youth work definitions and how they are applied, the challenge of balancing universal and targeted provision, clarity of roles and terminology, and the need to raise a greater awareness in other sectors outside of youth work and its impact.

Key Messages

  • A clear need for simpler and more descriptive language to distinguish youth work and wider support services so that this is more easily understood by young people and adults alike.
  • Rights and entitlements should be delivered in a natural and empowered way and across all education areas – not manufactured and bureaucratic.
  • Youth work is often seen as a preventative solution and not for its role or merit as an effective form of education.
  • Youth work practice and definitions/understanding are being driven by societal changes, gaps in services and budget pressures – and not by what young people want or need.
  • Celebrating youth work and youth workers helps raise the profile and awareness of the sector and its impact.
  • There is not always balance between targeted and universal provision, but both are important and rely on each other.
  • Youth work is opportunity focused, but funding is often problem focussed.
  • Opportunity-based language is more appealing and exciting to young people.  Access to services is referral driven, time-consuming and costly.
  • Youth workers are often seen as the experts in creating and maintaining relationships with young people and can be the guide for other services.
  • More needs to be done to bridge the gap between youth work and other sectors and encourage youth workers to influence and inform policy areas that impact upon young people.
  • Clarity is needed on accountability for decision makers to govern youth work effectively and for youth workers to support young people to participate.
  • People involved in youth work want to know how funding is allocated in local authorities and voluntary youth organisations to ensure provision reflects geographic and population needs.
  • Youth Work is fluid – at leadership and practitioner level, turnover creates problems for consistency and continuity of relationships and progress.
  • More time and resources need to be allocated towards regional working to incorporate voluntary and local authority approaches to focus on areas of developing practice, provision and resources.

In the next phase of engagement, we will be discussing with local authorities, voluntary organisations, and other key stakeholders to explore some of the issues identified above and other topics in more detail. A further update on key messages from this phase will be shared in due course.

If you want to be part of the conversation, but haven’t had the opportunity yet please contact YouthWork@gov.wales