The Nature of Youth Work in Northern Ireland: Purpose, Contribution and Challenges

Ken Harland, Anthony Morgan, Orla Muldoon

    Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned reportpeer-review


    This study investigated the role of youth work in Northern Ireland in combating social exclusion. The sample involved 44 youth work practitioners including four focus groups and two in-depth individual interviews with youth workers delivering non traditional youth work in inner city areas. Findings revealed that youth workers are dedicated and committed to working with young people they primarily perceive as marginalised, socially excluded or experiencing difficulties that mainstream youth provision struggles to deal with effectively. Findings also revealed that youth workers place huge significance on the nature of relationship building between a youth worker and a young person. While this is fundamentally important, youth workers experience difficulty measuring social progression or identifying outcomes beyond their initial work with young people. This paper raises important questions about ‘levels’ of youth work expertise, practice and training that impact upon the status of youth work as a profession. It also discusses the delivery of youth work in non traditional youth work settings such as school and communities experiencing political conflict.
    Original languageEnglish
    PublisherUlster University
    Number of pages65
    Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 25 Nov 2005

    Bibliographical note

    Reference text: Davies, B. (1999) From Voluntaryism to Welfare State: A History of the Youth Service in England 1939-1979. Leicester: Youth Work press.

    Department of Education (1997) Youth Work: A Model For Effective Practice. Department for Education, Northern Ireland.

    Department of Education: A Youth Service for a New Millennium, 2000. Department for Education, Northern Ireland.

    Department of Education (2003) Youth Work: A model for effective practice. Update 2003. Department for Education, Northern Ireland.

    France, A, and Wiles, P., (1997) The Youth Action Scheme and the Future of Youth Work. Youth & Policy. 57, pp. 1-16.

    Harland, K. (2001). The Challenges and Potential of developing a more effective youth work curriculum with Young Men. Child Care in Practice, 7, 4, pp. 288-300.

    Harland, K,. Harvey, C., Morgan, T. and McCready, S. (2005) Worth Their Weight in Gold: The Views of Community Youth Graduates in Northern Ireland. Youth & Policy 86. pp49-61.

    Jeffs, T. and Smith, M.K. (1999) The Problem of ‘Youth’ for Youth Work. Youth & Policy, 62, pp45-66.

    Milburn, T., Rowlands, C., Stephen, S., Woodhouse, H. and Sneider, A. (2003) Step it up…Defining the Purpose of Youth work and Measuring Performance. Community Education Department of the University of Strathclyde and The Princes’ Trust, Scotland. Scottish Executive Education Department.

    Youth Service Liaison Forum (2005) Strategy for the Delivery of Youth Work in Northern Ireland 2005-2008. Department of Education


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