Essay Writing Service

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)
Loading...

Relationships in Youth Work Practice

Abstract (complete)

This study aims to discover if the youth worker relationship has a significant place within contemporary youth work. The question being asked is: “what is the place of relationships in contemporary youth work practices?” Youth workers have a strong presence in many young people’s lives, acting as advocates, informal educators, and counsellors among many other roles they adopt and adolescence is the life stage where young people go through many transitions, shape their views of the world and thus it is a critical stage for development. Seven youth practitioners were recruited via unstructured interviews and a focus group to discuss their perspective regarding their experiences and expectations of professional relationships.

Analysis showed that practitioner’s perspectives of professional relationships altered the way they conducted themselves in a youth setting. There was consensus that a youth practitioner has a specific talent or natural instinct when forming professional relationships and there is belief that a damaging relationship will cause disruption to an adolescent’s development.

To be able to understand the place of relationship in youth work practice today, it is essential to explore what contemporary youth work is, there has always been uncertainty around the professional definition or articulation of the role of a youth worker and It is well known that youth work in the UK remains a profession that is misunderstood, lacks recognition and is thus under-appreciated. Not only is there a societal lack of understanding about the role but there is also a genuine lack of ability to explain the role by those undertaking it. This research study will touch upon this to distinguish the place of relationship in contemporary youth work practice.

As the researcher I hold the view that we as practitioners are like water; we are adaptable, flexible and consistently changing but regardless of the shape, height or even width of the container we are put in, we are always water.

Table of contents

Relationships in Youth Work Practice

Abstract (500 currently 157)

Acknowledgments (complete)

Table of contents

Introduction (1,550)(complete)

Literature (2,414)

What does contemporary youth work practice look like? (657)

What is the place of relationship? (1,011)

Methodology and methods (2,600 – needs editing)

Research question

Justification of Methodology

Justification of Method

Focus group

Unstructured interviews

Finding Participants

Data Analysis and Analytical Procedure

Findings (2,000 currently 1,790)

What is a practitioner relationship?

Is it innate?

The changing of boundaries

Is it important?

Conclusion

Analysis and Discussion (2,500)

should history repeat itself?

In defensive of youth work

Should we move forward?

Radical youth work

Accepting change

How do practitioner relationships fit in?

Conclusion (500)

References

Webpages

Appendix

Participant 1

Participant 2

Participant 3

Participant 4

Participant 5

Participant 6

Participant 7

Introduction (complete)

Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple (Geisel 1990) I believe this quote addresses the never-ending quest to complicate things needlessly. We try to ask these genuinely difficult questions to understand the world around us and in doing so, we miss the point about what is truly important, those simple answers. In other words; often we ask ourselves questions to which we already know the answer, and to which the answer is quite simple, but the process of asking the question makes us appreciate how complicated the issue is.  Just like this, Youth work is subtle but hard hitting and the setback we face as youth practitioners is not that we aren’t sure if youth work, works, but that there are too many variables for a definite statement to define our practice.

There has always been uncertainty around the professional definition or articulation of the role of a youth worker and It is well known that youth work in the UK remains a profession that is misunderstood, lacks recognition and is thus under-appreciated. Not only is there a societal lack of understanding about the role but there is also a genuine lack of ability to explain the role by those undertaking it. Jeffs and Smith (2010) argue that diversification of the way youth work is organized within apparently ever-widening contexts has diluted its nature, processes and practices.

Although we have meant well, it is because of our reductionist attempts to prove that youth work has a beneficial impact on young people in a bid to meet aims and tick boxes just to receive non-permanent funding. that we, as a result have lost valuable insight into our true practice. It is because of this same reductionist approach that current practice differs greatly from what it once was and it raises the question of whether we as youth practitioners are truly aiding the growth of a young person’s development or simply providing activities to help them conform to societal norms.  However, despite the merry-go-round we appear to be stuck on, we as youth practitioners achieve something that most services that deal with young people strive to have and that is a solid, transparent, Voluntary, professional relationship with young people. This is the foundation of our work but something that often goes overlooked when evaluating our services. This is something that should be firmly grasped and celebrated.

As someone who is now a month away from becoming a fully Qualified Youth and Community Worker I’m worried for the state of youth work, for my future. I’ve seen the youth and community services go through numerous funding cuts and changes and I’ve been at the forefront of this, I’ve battled against cuts only to save less than half of the jobs and increase the workload to those ‘fortunate’ Enough to keep them. I’ve seen great youth workers burn out and mediocre volunteers take their place. I believe in the JNC and the idea that not everyone can be a youth worker. Not everyone has the right value base or ability. It’s something we should cherish before it’s gone and not set it up to fail.

I have grown up in youth work, my local youth centre in Bideford, Devon was my second family. I joined at the young age of 11 as a shy, introverted child whose background in life was one that was sure to disadvantage me. I truly hold the belief that without the emotional, physical, educational, and personal support from my local centre I would be in a completely different position.

The purpose of this independent study is to understand the place of relationship in contemporary youth work. I will be outlining the changing context for youth work and suggesting that the relationship between the practitioner and the young person has been, and continues to be, a unique and defining feature of youth work practice.  I believe the practitioner is the most valuable resource in youth work. Therefore, practitioners need to be highly skilled communicators, confident, competent and self-aware individuals. They also need to be genuine and transparent in all interpersonal interventions and relationships with young people.

I have always felt there was something significant about the relationship a youth practitioner makes with a young person, and I always felt it important to maintain the relationships that i personally make because of this I am looking at youth work practice through an attachment lens. There is a lot of evidence surrounding the damaging effects of broken attachments and holding what I view as an insecure resistant attachment I have found that there is some truth to this, looking back I feel I replaced the attachment I held with my father with that of the youth workers and the youth service.

Burnett (2004: 183–184) points out that young people attach to their relationships with practitioners specifically found in studies examining ‘casework relationships’ and other research on youth work has found that relationships based on trust and mutual respect are highly valued by young people and often stand in contrast to other adult relationships in their lives which have led rejection or negative experiences (Merton et al., 2004: 9). It is because of this attachment I feel so strongly about youth work. What it did for me has been done for so many other young people. My lecturer told me during my first year at university “You help others because you cannot help yourself.” That has resonated with me, and in an unconscious way I believed that if I help youth work stay alive, I can indirectly reach and help a superior number of young people.

I hope to outline the forever changing context for youth work and support my idea that the relationship between the practitioner and the young person has been, and continues to be, a unique and defining feature of youth work practice. I firmly believe that this is on the basis that training and education for youth work should reflect the core elements of youth work practice, and that any youth and community degree provides students with the correct support to allow them to increase their knowledge, develop their self-confidence and self-awareness and build their skills towards engaging young people in meaningful and purposeful relationships.

As discussed above the principles and underpinning values of youth work are increasingly questioned both by policy makers and fellow youth and community workers. For example, whether it is a youth workers job to allow a young person to take power and control and determine the activities happening within the practice or whether the power and control lies with the worker targeting young people’s anti-social behaviour with pre-determined outcomes; This is essentially the process orientated nature of youth work versus an increasingly product orientated approach.

How I understand this is youth workers operating in a range of ‘professional’ settings (such as alternative education projects, schools and youth justice), Versus youth work as a distinct profession. The struggle to come to an agreement among us is what undermines the youth work profession. This happens both externally and internally resulting in a profession that is playing tug of war with itself. However, that is not to say that I do not recognise the increasing pressure on youth and community workers to define and explain their practice in a particular way, specifically trying to achieve measurable outcomes for young people has meant that the significance of the relationship and the importance of purposeful conversation between youth workers and young people has been undermined.

As youth work becomes increasingly contested youth workers are finding it more difficult to retain a core vision and purpose and communicate their own professional distinctiveness, especially in valuing themselves which means they may find themselves in a position that they either respond to the dominant culture and deliver practice accordingly, thus potentially undermining and compromising youth work values, principles and methodology; or with the right support find ways and a voice to affirm and defend the values, principles and methodology traditionally central to youth work practice. This necessitates the centrality and focus being firmly placed on the young person and the relationship between themselves and the youth worker. Conversely it is the battle between the two options that causes that drift within the practitioners and damages the profession.

Equally it must be understood that the best option it is not always the easiest, and both decisions come with its own struggles. Specifically, if we were to affirm and defend youth work then the loss of funding may mean that young people are harder to reach. This is due to the fact that youth work struggles where youth organisations must compete to secure it whether it is strictly “youth work” or not. Thus, a central challenge will be to hold onto a core sense of vision and purpose regarding a democratic, emancipatory youth work that is informal and educational and focuses on the personal, social and political awareness of the young people who access the services.

I am at the stage where I must make the choice between these two scenarios and I want to be both well informed and prepared for both options. I feel that having a solid practitioner identity starting with how I create and maintain my practitioner relationships that I will be able to do just this.

Literature (complete)

What does contemporary youth work practice look like? (657)

youth work in the UK remains a profession that is misunderstood, under-appreciated and lacks recognition. There has always been uncertainty around the professional definition or articulation of the role of a youth worker. Not only is there a societal lack of understanding about the role but there is also an intrinsic lack of ability to explain the role by those actually undertaking it. Jeffs and Smith (2010) argue that diversification of the way youth work is organized within apparently ever-widening contexts has diluted its nature, processes and practices

Concerns about youth work were aired by New Labour under the leadership of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown in the form of Transforming youth work (TYW) (Department for Education and Employment 2002) and Youth matters (YM) (Department for Education and Employment 2005). Neither report could find standard practice within the service, but they highlighted the variety in the nature and quality of youth work being undertaken across the country.  The Government at the time was unable to ‘substantiate Youth Workers’ claims about the excellent work they did with young people’ (Moustakim 2012: 3). In addition, the reports found that there was a disconnect between policy-makers and youth workers’ definitions of good-quality work. Robertson, S. (2005).

Many over the years have claimed that youth work is designed to promote personal and social learning in individuals and how the subsequent learning and development can be determined. Smith (1988: 114) says youth work has a history of being anti-theory and anti-intellectual, with a focus on action or process. Seal & Frost (2014: 7) assert that youth workers are only likely to be good at what they do if they can achieve an academic qualification, and advocate for all youth workers to do a degree. Field (2007) talks about youth work as being ‘lifelong learning’ and Department of Education Northern Ireland (2003) describe this as being a ‘commitment to preparing young people for participation by testing values and beliefs and in the promotion of acceptance and understanding of others’.

In Defence of Youth Work (www.indefenceofyouthwork.com , 2009), suggests by its very title that there is an issue. In 2011 key youth work charities in the UK made the case for youth work before a Parliamentary Committee, which (Jeffs 2011: 1). Suggested was an ‘impoverished effort’. This resulted in a lack of influence over the increasing decline of services for young people across the country. Youth work was perceived as being in an ‘unstable and dysfunctional condition’ (Jeffs 2011: 2). At the same time an online consultation, Positive for Youth Policy (PYP) (Department for Education and Employment 2011), aimed at creating a common narrative for youth work practitioners, commissioners and participants.

PYP was an attempt to bring together policy-makers and local communities to create a better understanding of the role of the youth worker and to implement a common language for youth work. Unfortunately, all these efforts to influence a universal understanding have suffered from what Davies (2013) refers to as the ‘phenomenology of disagreement’. This can be interpreted as the unique and frustrating concept that youth and community work practitioners are rarely able to agree on definitions or job roles. However, among practitioners there is a deep belief in – and advocacy for – the work, and numerous testimonies exist (McKee et al. 2010) from young people and youth workers who have experienced positive change because of professional intervention.

youth work is abandoning its distinctive commitment by accepting the terms of the state rather than those of young people, siding with a state agenda. this change has been coming for some time and that youth workers are now coaxed into the exact opposite of youth work process, predictable and prescribed outcomes. we therefore need to re-establish our belief in emancipatory and democratic youth work. (Tyler, 2009). Suggests that the youth worker themselves is essential in creating a serious but fun, improvised but rehearsed educational practice with young people due to their outlook, integrity and autonomy.

As established above, youth work is in a constant state of self-destruction, As soon as one definition, which can be supported, is created, it is contested by other youth and community workers or policy makers, That is contemporary youth work as I see it. It is almost an unspoken profession and simply for ease referred to as “work with young people” for those that do not have a unconscious connection with it. Therefore I have moved on to research what youth workers think they do, in the hope this may be more straightforward. This is because despite the changing nature and contexts of youth work practice, certain values and common principles have underpinned practice, and continue to do so. The National Youth Agency (2000) identifies these principles as: voluntarism, association, informality and education.

Nichols (2012: 11), for example, explains that youth workers ‘educate and support young people and amplify their voice. It is a combination of these three intended impacts that makes their work unique’. He goes on to attempt to once again define youth work by stating that these three impacts cannot be separated and if they are, it is not youth work’. Meanwhile, according to the National Assembly of Wales (2001: 44), youth workers engage with young people as individuals with the object of building their capacity to make choices and pursue constructive paths. ‘youth services work with young people in many different ways to promote lifelong learning, employability, citizenship and healthy lifestyles A key principle is that young people choose to participate and are able to do so in ways which build on their interests’.

Enabling choice as an expression of democracy in young people’s voluntary relationships with youth workers has long been held sacred. Voluntarism demonstrates a commitment to using young people’s experiences as the starting point for practice. However, changing contexts mean that some youth work is becoming increasingly located in ‘compulsory’ settings, including schools, prisons and Youth Offending Teams.

Whereas association is concerned with the development of community and learning through shared life and experience. This associational ideal can be seen in the primacy given to group work as a pedagogical tool. Association encourages mutuality, diversity, respect, critical awareness and action.

Informality is often seen as being concerned with place and approach. Contemporary youth work is experienced in a range of settings: youth and community centres, religious buildings, skate parks, residential centres such as the YMCA , theatres, street corners, sports fields, beaches and hillsides to name but a few. Youth work is based on the principle that young people should lead and direct – or, at the very least, have a genuine say in – what happens in spaces and places associated with its practice in order to foster inclusion, participation, community and learning. Youth workers are genuinely concerned for young people, their learning, their personal and social development, and the fulfilment of each young person’s potential. This independent study believes that the starting point and fundamentally key instrument for practice is the youth worker’s relationship with young people. Jeffs and Smith, (2010: 3) suggests that there are interpersonal ways of working which exploit ‘everydayness’ to intentionally and critically encourage learning, raise aspirations, challenge oppression and fulfil potential through engaging, fun, associative, inclusive, and democratic practices that enable young people more fully to ‘relate to themselves, others and the world’ are integral to youth work practice.

There is an argument that the gathering of these processes is essentially education. Youth work is involved with enabling young people to challenge ideas, to consider their own values and to engage in democratic action. Whereas formal education is product-driven with ‘success’ determined by knowledge and understanding of pre-approved curriculums, youth work retains an equal interest in, and concern for, the processes and products of learning developed through informal and dialogical means, as shaped by young people themselves. .

One significant consequence of the process has been to signal afresh the need to revisit together the voluntary principle and the notion of a discrete set of youth work values and skills. we passionately defend the importance of the voluntary engagement with young people and remain self-justifying of the idea that youth work is the home of a corporate set of values and skills, unbeknown to other educators and professionals. We continue to argue that it is the informal setting, that is the hallmark of youth work’s distinctiveness and as a result some of us are grieving for the loss of the established meaning of our practice.

What is the place of relationship? (1,011)

Looking through an attachment lens has helped me increase my understanding of the importance of the practitioner relationship. It has provided me with a base to work from when looking at the effect a practitioner relationship can have on a young person in terms of their emotional and social development.  John Bowlby (Bowlby, 1988)   who described it as a lasting psychological connectedness between human beings. first proposed the theory of attachment. He considered that children needed to develop a secure attachment with their main caregiver in their early years. This theory has been revised to acknowledge that multiple attachments can occur with other adults throughout the lifespan of an individual. Rutter (1972) points out that several indicators of attachment (such as protest or distress when attached person leaves) have been shown for a variety of attachment figures – fathers, siblings, peers and even inanimate objects. Schaffer & Emerson (1964) noted that specific attachments started at about 8 months and, very shortly thereafter, the infants became attached to other people. By 18 months very few (13%) were attached to only one person; some had five or more attachments.

Bowlby further suggested that this early experience leads to the development of a cognitive model (internal working model) of these relationships which influences and is modified by later relationships. Clarke and Clarke (2000) remind us, ‘early experience represents no more than a first (and important) step on a long and complex path through life’. attachment is a precise term: the notion of a safe haven which, when available, becomes a secure base from which to explore the world around us.

Significantly more evidence exists on attachment in the adolescent years than on those of middle childhood, although the focus shifts away from categorizing or dichotomizing attachment organization types and relationships, and towards the functions and development of attachment during adolescence (Allen, 2008). The nature of the evidence for this life stage tries to take account of psychosocial, cognitive and physiological changes taking place within the young person (Keating, 1990), perhaps encouraging us to think differently about the nature of attachment for this group. Allen (2008) characterizes a number of ‘developmental transformations’ experienced by the adolescent that both influence, and are influenced by, attachment. The changing relationship with the parent features heavily in a number of these, as the young person transitions from a concern with the proximity of the attachment figure, to growing independence and developing attachments outside the parent/carer relationship. The importance of peer relationships for adolescents cannot be overestimated, because they are associated with a number of societal outcomes, including engagement in delinquent behaviours (Boykin McElhaney et al, 2006). That said, parental and youth worker influence continues to be important; secure adolescents are more likely to adopt problem-solving approaches to conflict, rather than feeling conquered by it (Kobak et al, 1993). They are also more likely to communicate comfortably with others about challenging issues, or issues that are important to them (Cassidy, 2001). It is worth noting that there appears to be no research on what young people think about this construct; this is something this preliminary work sought to address, albeit in a simple way, and we shall return to it later in the discussion.

Relationships are a central aspect of all our lives. We have many relationships, through which we learn the social skills necessary to survive and thrive. Relationships lie at the heart of all effective work with young people and are the foundation upon which you can build your work with them. In some people’s eyes, the development of relationships is a good end in itself, as it is in relationships that we express our humanity. Young people with few good quality relationships in their lives often find that entering into informal relationships with adults who respect, accept, like and really listen to them is a new life experience. These relationships can offer the young people new perspectives on approaching, developing and managing quality relationships of their own.

The Youth Work National Occupational Standards (NYA 2000) aim to define the competencies required to carry out the functions carried out by the youth work workforce. LSI YW01 Initiate, build and maintain purposeful relationships with young people Purposeful relationships with young people are at the heart of good youth work. It is important to know how to initiate such relationships and the ways in which they can be maintained in order for learning and development to take place.

Current critiques of the development of interventions with older children, young people and their families pay little attention to the variety of developments in this field, pointing to the lack of evidence-base and the dangerousness of the extremes of practice in this area. These provide little 4 Attachment theory into practice guidance for the practitioner beyond advising minimal cognitive behavioural work (Prior & Glaser, 2006).

Sampson and Laub (1993) developed the notion of a bond between an individual and society. The bond is made up of the extent to which an individual has emotional attachments to societal goals, is committed to achieving them through legitimate means, believes these goals to be worthy, and is able to involve themselves in the attainment of such goals France and Homel (2006: 305–306) argue that what young people really value (and are generally not receiving) ‘is not so much programmes and content but a good supportive relationship with an adult who is not judgmental and is able to offer guidance and advocacy when needed’. They conclude that ‘to gain a greater understanding of these processes we need to listen to the voices and perspectives of young people themselves’

McNeill and Maruna’s (2008) work notwithstanding, there is a need to enhance understanding of what it means to support young people in ways that treat their reasoning and decisions as resources to be harnessed and that recognize their autonomy and value their free will. The young person-practitioner relationship is the site at which practitioners gauge their latitude to mediate young people’s needs to make responses ‘fit’ professional obligations that meet statutory requirements (Prior and Mason, 2010; Trevithick, 2005)

Methodology and methods (needs editing)

Research question

The question chosen for my research “what is the place of relationships in contemporary youth work practices?’” has a specific principle behind it. It is both exploratory and evaluative. The purpose of my research is to firstly gain a better understanding of what a professional relationship means to individual practitioners, secondly understand what the perceived place of such a relationship has in contemporary youth practice. My intention is to be able to understand the value of practitioner relationships through researching individual youth practitioner perspectives. My research will provide an evaluation as to whether a professional relationship has a place in contemporary youth work. These processes for my research indicate that a qualitative methodology is required to conduct the research in focus.

Justification of Methodology

The methodology chosen for my research, as indicated by my research question, is a qualitative methodology. A qualitative approach to social research maintains an inductive approach where detailed observations of the world is made in which the research moves towards more abstract generalisations and ideas (Neuman 2003).  The epistemological position of my research is an interpretivist perspective.  This approach gathers the understandings and meanings of the social world on a small scale and the specific focus in my research is to understand how the participants interpret the social world and to explore what their individual perspectives are on the research topic as social beings. As the researcher, I will be the one interpreting these perspectives and generating these in terms of concepts (from the participant’s interpretations) and theory. The ontological position of my research is a social constructionist perspective. Social constructivism argues that individuals seek to understand the world they live which includes their place of work. As such individuals grow subjective meanings upon their personal experiences within a certain phenomenon.  Given that such meanings are varied, the research aim is to draw upon the participants’ views of that social environment (Creswell, 2007).

Qualitative research, then, is most suited to my research in focus because I am looking for a detailed understanding of the place of relationship in contemporary youth practice.  This can only be effective through having a conversation directly with practitioners to allow them to share their stories, experiences and opinions. Qualitative research allows participants to become empowered to share their experiences. It also reduces the power relationship between the researcher and the participants and this is what encourages participants to feel empowered to speak their voices freely (Creswell, 2007). Moreover, where quantitative research would determine cause and effect and predictions this does not fix a given problem (Merriam, 2014).  Whereas, by exploring and understanding interactions amongst participants this would be problematic to transfer into measurements. To unify the interactions of individuals into a statistical measurement would be to overlook the value and distinctiveness of each participant. A qualitative methodology is merely the correct approach to uncovering the opinions, stories and experiences of youth work practitioners. Avis (In Webb, 2002) identified that there is not a particular favoured methodology, instead it should be that the research question determines which methodology is used which will generate credible results. Qualitative explores the richness, depth and complexity within social phenomena in which people are participants (Webb, 2002), which is the aim of the research in focus.

Justification of Method

To collect my data, I have chosen to use a semi-structured focus group in the form of an online group chat, unstructured interviews during placement and my personal journals.

Focus group

The participants of my focus group will be students studying a BA (Hons) Youth and community studies degree, I have chosen to do this through an online group chat with the same participants due to the time-consuming nature of conducting and taking part in a focus group. Whilst there are inevitable flaws with one group, as the responses that are given by participants are only particular to that one group of individuals.  It can equally be argued that too many would simply be time wasting (Bryman, 2004). As my participants have day-to-day experience with creating and maintaining practitioner relationships with young people I am confident that my focus group will generate enough analytical categories to complement my research. I will seek to include at most five participants.  A smaller group will allow participants to say more on the topic, whereas for a larger group it may be difficult to stimulate a group discussion (Bryman, 2004).  More than that, a smaller group is easier to transcribe and keep track of during online communication.

Focus groups are primarily used to discover experiences and understand participant’s viewpoints of a research topic. A focus group, unlike a one-to-one interview, provides its participants with the opportunity to interact with one another and challenge and explore the experiences of others. The focus group will hopefully be directed primarily by my participants and creating a more informal environment.  As the researcher, I will be acting as the facilitator for the focus group as opposed to an interviewer.  I will be setting a question per day and allowing the participants to respond throughout the day.

Focus groups, however, are not neutral of criticism.  Given the unstructured layout of focus groups researchers have limited control over what topics are discussed in detail which makes the data unpredictable. However, you are able to gain a rich description of the data from the quotes of the participants. A difficultly I could face is separating individual opinions and group opinion, which may result in my analysis being problematic. Another issue is that the outcomes of my focus group is unlikely to be generalizable. This is because focus groups often do not create representative samples as the data collected is mostly unique to that group, or the individuals who have participated (Matthews and Ross, 2010).  In which case the data gathered can only be an indication of reality as opposed to a representation.

Nevertheless, a focus group is theoretically one of the most ideal methods for my research topic.  Focus groups gain access to the dynamics of work environments which can an indication as to how their choices are made (Matthews and Ross, 2010). I have chosen to do an online group chat style focus group as participant are likely to be in a place they feel comfortable, such as their own home, when responding this means participants are more likely to be relaxed and thus be themselves as they are in their natural setting. Focus groups generate validity; the data will reflect an intuitive truth from participants which thus will create credible data (Matthews and Ross, 2010).  Therefore, as I am looking to discover the volunteer’s stories, experiences and opinions of practitioner relationships) a focus group is a more than appropriate method to achieve this aim.

Unstructured interviews

The participants of my unstructured interviews will be colleagues within my placement setting and various practitioners who have worked or are currently working with young people and the community. Potential participants will be selected from those that I know have experience in the youth and community sector. I will seek to include around three participants. Whilst there are inevitable flaws with having such a small sample, it can equally be argued that too many would simply be time wasting. As my participants have day-to-day experience with creating and maintaining practitioner relationships with young people I am confident that my unstructured interviews will generate enough analytical categories to complement my research.

unstructured interviews are ‘respondent led’ – this is because the researcher listens to what the respondent says and then asks further questions based on what the respondent says. This should allow respondents to express themselves and explain their views more fully than with structured interviews. As the researcher I can change my mind about what the most important questions are as the interview develops. Unstructured Interviews thus avoid the imposition problem – respondents are less constrained than with structured interviews or questionnaires in which the questions are written in advance by the researcher. This is especially advantageous in group interviews, where interaction between respondents can spark conversations that the interviewer hadn’t thought would have happened in advance, which could then be probed further with an unstructured methodology. Unstructured interviews encourage a good rapport between interviewee and interviewer. Because of their informal nature, like guided conversations, unstructured interviews are more likely to make respondents feel at ease than with the more formal setting of a structured questionnaire or experiment. This should encourage openness, trust and empathy. unstructured interviews also allow the interviewer to check understanding. If an interviewee doesn’t understand a question, the interviewer is free to rephrase it, or to ask follow up questions to clarify aspects of answers that were not clear in the first instance. Unstructured interviews are good for sensitive topics because they are more likely to make respondents feel at ease with the interviewer. They also allow the interviewer to show more sympathy (if required) than with the colder more mechanical quantitative methods. the researcher and respondents are on a more equal footing than with more quantitative methods. The researcher doesn’t assume they know best. This empowers the respondents. Feminists researchers believe that the unstructured interview can neutralise the hierarchical, exploitative power relations that they believe to be inherent in the more traditional interview structure. They see the traditional interview as a site for the exploitation and subordination of women, with the interviewers potentially creating outcomes against their interviewees’ interests. In traditional interview formats the interviewer directs the questioning and takes ownership of the material; in the feminist (unstructured) interview method the woman would recount her experiences in her own words with the interviewer serving only as a guide to the account. quick method for gaining in-depth data.

The main theoretical disadvantage is the lack of reliability – unstructured Interviews lack reliability because each interview is unique – a variety of different questions are asked and phrased in a variety of different ways to different respondents. They are also difficult to repeat, because the success of the interview depends on the bond of trust between the researcher and the respondent – another researcher who does not relate to the respondent may thus get different answers. Group interviews are especially difficult to repeat, given that the dynamics of the interview are influenced not just by the values of the researcher, but also by group dynamics. One person can change the dynamic of a group of three or four people enormously. Interviewer bias might undermine the validity of unstructured interviews – this is where the values of the researcher interfere with the results. The researcher may give away whether they approve or disapprove of certain responses in their body language or tone of voice (or wording of probing questions) and this in turn might encourage or discourage respondents from being honest. The characteristics of the interviewer might also bias the results and undermine the validity – how honest the respondent is in the course of an hour long interview might depend on the class, gender, or ethnicity of the interviewer. Unstructured interviews also lack representativeness – because they are time consuming, it is difficult to get a large enough sample to be representative of large populations. It is difficult to quantify data, compare answers and find stats and trends because the data gained is qualitative. unstructured Interviews may take a relatively long time to conduct. Some interviews can take hours. They also need to be taped and transcribed, and in the analysis phase there may be a lot of information that is not directly relevant to one’s research topic that needs to be sifted through. Interpersonal skills and training – A further practical problem is that some researchers may lack the interpersonal skills required to conduct informal unstructured interviews. Training might need to be more thorough for researchers undertaking unstructured interviews – to avoid the problem of interviewer bias. There are few ethical problems, assuming that informed consent is gained and confidentially ensured. Although having said this, the fact that the researcher is getting more in-depth data, more of an insight into who the person really is, does offer the potential for the information to do more harm to the respondent if it got into the wrong hands (but this in turn depends on the topics discussed and the exact content of the interviews.

Finding Participants

The participants asked to take part in my unstructured interviews are colleagues in my placement.  In which case to get their participation; needed to ask permission from my line manager at the placement.  I spoke to them seeking permission to conduct a couple unstructured interviews, which were more alike to guided conversations with other members of staff explaining what it would entail, further I elucidated that the research is part of my studies Following this, permission was granted. Whilst it would seem to be at my advantage that I know my participants, there are fundamental considerations in getting people involved.  For the venue, I will be conducting my unstructured interviews in a similar way to normal conversation therefore it was entirely decided by the participant when and where is best to start the conversation. By allowing my participants to take the lead I would hope to make them feel comfortable. Additionally, it will also a convenient place for participants as they will  not have to go out of their way to participate.

At my placement, I only work two days per week, and there are few opportunities to have a conversation away from young people or during a time where it would not interfere with their work.  This is problematic, therefore by allowing participants to make the first move towards starting the conversation they could make sure they were free to do so.

Data Analysis and Analytical Procedure

Because I am using a qualitative methodology, a focus group and unstructured interviews as means to collect the data, these processes indicate that the data should be analysed thematically. Thematic analysis is a narrative approach to the analysis of data which in concerned with understanding   people’s stories and experiences (Bryman, 2004).  The process includes reviewing raw data to highlight and interpret common themes and concepts (Matthews and Ross, 2010). Specifically, to the research in focus, thematic analysis will enable the data collected from the focus group to be interpreted into a understanding of the participant’s viewpoints both collectively and individually.  To do this, I will as the researcher, be coding the focus group transcript.  The coding will include collecting common themes and key themes and subthemes from participants.  Themes and concepts will be organised into categories of what reflects the issues rose within the literature review and the themes and concepts which were not discussed in the literature review.  Following this, I will explore the data for further meanings accordingly to the respondents. As the researcher, and facilitator of the focus group, it is inevitable that my own culture, political and social context will have an implication on the data collected. What stands out mast plainly is my relationship with the participants, as previously stated, the participants are students on my course which could interfere with the validity of the data. This affects the dynamics of the focus group, while for some it may result to them feeling more relaxed and comfortable; others may want to please me. For instance, Web et al (1966) argued that participants in research are likely to take on a particular role or stand point, which inevitably creates false validity.  I will influence the data gathered; if I were an independent researcher unknown to any participant, I suspect that the research would be different.  Objectivity is almost impossible for researchers, Whilst I will remain a subjective researcher, this does not dismiss that my values will influence the participants.  I will be reflective in how my own culture; political and social context will have an implication on the method chosen to collect data.

V

Findings and Analysis (2,000 currently 1,790)

Findings

Through using qualitative data collection methods, I was able to gain a personal, detailed understanding of the place of relationship in contemporary youth practice.  My participants shared their stories, experiences and opinions from their own personal experience of creating and maintaining relationships. As my methods allowed the participants control the content of my research, subjects that I had previously not given much thought to, emerged in conversation. Although this made my research messy, it opened my eyes to the understanding that this independent study is only scratching the surface and if I had more time I would have loved to explore the concepts that appeared in more depth and make connections through wider research.

I began my research being aware of my bias in the sense that I believed that not everyone could be a youth worker. Throughout my experience of youth services, a lot of professionals who work with young people tend to claim what they do ay ‘youth work’. I completely respect how they come to that conclusion, however its wrong. Youth work is something different but like a lot of other youth workers the struggle to distinguish it is very much real. I hoped that my research who provide me with a magic clear cut definition, but unfortunately it has only created more questions.

As I was aware of my bias I was able to ensure this didn’t come through when I was interviewing participants. This was surprisingly easy due to my qualitative method, as I was able to allow my participants to take the lead with the conversation. During the research process I found I wasn’t the only worker holding this view:

“I mean we’ve employed people for years, we employed one person for years, she was qualified, she knew the “mathematics” of youth work, she’d read all of the right papers, she knew all the right theories, but was she a youth worker, no. She wasn’t. I think it’s one of those things that you can’t be taught how to be a good youth worker… my staff team have been together for 10 years now because we instinctively are those youth workers. I think it’s an instinct. You’ve got to be the right sort of person. “ – participant 7

This sparked my interest again, I felt as though I wasn’t alone in my view, which gave me confidence in my own take on the profession. I feel this shows the importance of having both experience and knowledge of youth work. In my research I found this to be an example of praxis. praxis brings action together with practical reasoning, beliefs and knowledge, in a way that is significant to professional practice.  In this sense that professional youth workers are able to use their knowledge of practice to support and moderate theory. I firmly believe that in a youth work context one cannot work without the other. Like in the quotation above, you could have all the knowledge of the theory underpinning youth work but without developing your own personal and professional identity then it is extremely difficult to create those significant relationships with young people. Praxis refers to the link between theory and practice.

As with applying practice wisdom to theoretical knowledge is essential to create a praxis, so is the ability to form an interpersonal, voluntary relationship with young people. This is often understood as a dyadic relationship. Dyadic development psychotherapy suggests that it is the relationship that brings about change in a young person and not the interventions themselves. This supports my view that the relationships are core to what youth workers do. However, this is often something that is overlooked when distinguishing contemporary youth work practice to external organisations.

What makes a good relationship is a foundation of trust, a belief that that person will try their best for you when needed, trust that they will turn up and on time, trust that they will not judge you, trust that they will respect you enough to hear your thoughts ideas and opinions and actually hear you – Participant 1

This quote made me think about the effect the professional relationship has on ourselves, as workers. We also expect a set of values to be adhered to such as respect. I found this to be the case throughout my interviews and focus group. We don’t give without expecting to receive and therefore the professional relationships we make must be mutually beneficial.

Simmel (1902) proposed that dyads are stable units through which solidarity and intimacy build. But he also viewed conflict between individuals as, ironically, capable of encouraging a sense of social unity and cohesion. This is because they imply both a mutual benefit and disputed concern over the shared principles that are prior requirements for conflict (Ashley and Orenstein 1985/2001; Simmel, 1973). Both parties care enough about what they debate to make it a source of connectedness as well as opposition between them.

One consequence of close interactive dyads is that the more one participant discloses in conversation, the greater the likelihood that the other will give in return. Each participant will then increasingly take risks in step with the other by placing growing trust in them. Both will then become progressively more motivated to expand the relationship because of the level of mutuality it generates and the therapeutic effects of disclosure (Wolman, 1973).

“…other aspects such as things in common, respect, making someone feel valued and comfortable while engaging and regular interaction to maintain the relationship.” – participant 3

What is already clear from my interviews, and consistent with the work of McNeill and Maruna (2008)  is that it is the dynamic and reciprocal nature of some relationships between young people and practitioners that makes them effective. Other research on youth work has found that relationships based on trust and mutual respect are highly valued by young people and often stand in contrast to other adult relationships in their lives which have led rejection or negative experiences (Merton et al., 2004: 9). In addition to the importance of trust, research has identified genuineness, warmth, empathy and advocacy as essential elements of professional practitioner relationships with young people (Brandon et al., 1998).

“it’s important for the other person to see you at you worst and best so they can choose to accept it or not” – Participant 3

“sometimes you’re a beacon, no matter how bad things are, they know they can have a somewhat normal conversation with you, and sometimes that’s all they need. For that day, or hour or half hour that’s all they need, that normality, normal conversation and again it’s that thing of being an adult in their life that they feel comfortable talking to because for a lot of them they haven’t really got that.” – Participant 7

What emerged during my primary research was the idea that a practitioner should be transparent. Young people in Green et al.’s (2013) study believed that successful relationships with workers were dependent on genuineness and a belief that workers should act as advocates for them. Similarly the importance of trust was raised by young people as essential, particularly as young people felt prior interactions with many adults or institutions had resulted in rejection or negative experiences (Milbourne, 2009b: 355).

The connection between young person and practitioner appears to be based on mutual understanding that places the durability of the relationship at the centre of the exchange: the relationship will survive the warning of impending judgement. Such an exchange is also evident in Ilan’s (2010: 32) study. He argues that trusting relationships developed over time help to ‘initiate a gradual process of transformative reflexivity’.

“Young people should be supported and enabled. The work is based on a solid and professional relationship. Confidentiality underpins the work, unless the young person seems to be at risk. The work will often proceed from a trusting relationship.” – participant 5

At the heart of this process is the negotiated connection between worker and young person that allows the practitioner to challenge without deterioration in the relationship. It is important to recognise that this concept is something that requires a solid professional relationship that is founded on trust and respect.

This skilful work of practitioners is sometimes seen as amounting to praxis. As discussed above, praxis brings action together with practical reasoning, beliefs and knowledge, in a way that is essential to professional practice.  Professionals use their knowledge in ways that are created from theorized reason but moderated and adapted by applying ‘practice wisdom’. The dyadic relationship is in this sense essential to effective praxis. But so is the discretion to apply ‘practice wisdom’.

“When I hear professional relationship I think of a set of ethical boundaries that you uphold in order to appropriately engage with service users and work with colleagues to effectively deliver a service”

“Professional boundaries like you have to put yourself back in your place when your getting on with someone your working with to make sure your not blurring any lines.”

“Something which shouldn’t be blurred in context with a personal relationship and is easily distinguishable to an outsider ‘looking in’”

“So yes boundaries but I guess there’s some blurring but not overflowing.”

“having boundaries because children like boundaries… I think actually having boundaries and following them. So when I say detention, making sure I carry that through, so they know “actually, she does mean it””

“I think of boundaries. Building relationships is the base of all the things we do as youth workers. It’s about how far you can take it without it overstepping. You need to be open but not too open., so that you can’t then have any authority. You still need to be someone they can talk to but also someone that you can, should you need to, try and assert a little bit of authority, whilst still having that relationship with them.”

What is a practitioner relationship?

1 2

Dyadic relationships

a useful starting point for a more robust theoretical and empirical exploration of practitioner-young person relationships can be found by connecting the concept of dyadic relationships to the concept of praxis. Dyadic relationships involve two people in a relationship that includes some level of interdependency.

Not all dyadic relationships are mutual, gratifying, or constructively reciprocal. Sears’ (1951) classic work identifies habitual enmity as a form of closely-bonded dyadic relationship.

Simmel’s (1902) sociological perspective proposed that dyads are stable units through which solidarity and intimacy build. But he also viewed conflict between individuals as, paradoxically, capable of promoting a sense of social unity and cohesion.

This is because they imply both engaged reciprocity and conjoint but contested concern about the shared principles that are pre-conditions for conflict (Ashley and Orenstein 1985/2001; Simmel, 1973). Both parties care enough about what they dispute to make it a source of connectedness as well as dissent between them

One effect of closely interactive dyads is that the more one party discloses in conversation, the greater the likelihood that the other will reciprocate. Each party incrementally takes risks in step with the other by placing increasing trust in him/her. Both become more motivated to extend the relationship because of the level of mutuality it generates and the cathartic effects of disclosure (Wolman, 1973).

“I mean we’ve employed people for years, we employed one person for years, she was qualified, she knew the “mathematics” of youth work, she’d read all of the right papers, she knew all the right theories, but was she a youth worker, no. She wasn’t. I think it’s one of those things that you can’t be taught how to be a good youth worker. And that’s why I think, certainly the staff team I work with, in a youth work setting I think that’s why we’ve stayed together for 10 years now, my staff team have been together for 10 years now because we instinctively are those youth workers. I think it’s an instinct. You’ve got to be the right sort of person. “ – participant 7

proposes that: Praxis refers to the link between theory and practice, and the struggle that exists in all intellectual movements to transform existing (oppressive or marginalizing) societal conditions into meaningful reflection, action and change. Praxis is a complicated and intricate phenomenon because it entails a reconstitution of culture, institutions, relationships and social interaction, such that a more humane, emancipatory climate of pro-social civic life prevails (Arrigo, 2001: 219–220). The dyadic relationship is in this sense essential to effective praxis. But so is the discretion to apply ‘practice wisdom’.

The key to transformation is reflection and dialogue in which the subjugated speak ‘true words’ about themselves, about the conditions in which they live, and about the necessary and inevitable process by which change (and alternative emancipatory reality) can materialize (Arrigo, 2001: 220).

But between current practice and more effective processes of facilitation lie some important obstacles. Firstly, it is far from clear whether those voices that are heard speak ‘true words’: authentic voice depends upon genuinely dyadic relations of trust and confidence. Secondly, it is also unclear whether current policies enable practitioners the scope to encourage self-determination and accept that this may lead in unpredictable directions for the young person. Thirdly, even in the most propitious circumstances, the effects of hearing and acting on authentic voice will not necessarily improve the prospects for young person.

Pitts (2001: 8) identified the evolution of a two-tier staffing strategy that ensures that those at the front line of interaction with young people are those least wellplaced to subvert centrally conceived programmes by deploying powers of professional discretion. He foresaw a new division of labour in which non-professionals ‘deliver’ the ‘programmes’ and the dwindling number of professional workers become, essentially administrative, ‘case managers’. Although the validity of Pitts’ (2001: 12) early predictions would now need qualifying, his point about the reduced discretion of those who work face-to-face with young people remains highly pertinent, when he argues that: … the overwhelming desire of government to control policy all the way down to the point of implementation means that a rich repertoire of responses to the complex problem of youth crime is reduced to a narrow range of correctional techniques….

Is it innate?

* It takes a specific type of personality to be able to create and maintain relationships with young people.

It is something that is done subconsciously.

“I mean we’ve employed people for years, we employed one person for years, she was qualified, she knew the “mathematics” of youth work, she’d read all of the right papers, she knew all the right theories, but was she a youth worker, no. She wasn’t. I think it’s one of those things that you can’t be taught how to be a good youth worker. And that’s why I think, certainly the staff team I work with, in a youth work setting I think that’s why we’ve stayed together for 10 years now, my staff team have been together for 10 years now because we instinctively are those youth workers. I think it’s an instinct. You’ve got to be the right sort of person. “ – participant 7

The changing of boundaries

“When I hear professional relationship I think of a set of ethical boundaries that you uphold in order to appropriately engage with service users and work with colleagues to effectively deliver a service”

“Professional boundaries like you have to put yourself back in your place when your getting on with someone your working with to make sure your not blurring any lines.”

“Something which shouldn’t be blurred in context with a personal relationship and is easily distinguishable to an outsider ‘looking in’”

“So yes boundaries but I guess there’s some blurring but not overflowing.”

“having boundaries because children like boundaries… I think actually having boundaries and following them. So when I say detention, making sure I carry that through, so they know “actually, she does mean it””

“I think of boundaries. Building relationships is the base of all the things we do as youth workers. It’s about how far you can take it without it overstepping. You need to be open but not too open., so that you can’t then have any authority. You still need to be someone they can talk to but also someone that you can, should you need to, try and assert a little bit of authority, whilst still having that relationship with them.”
Roberts (2009) suggests that boundaries are dividing lines that demarcate what is acceptable and what is unacceptable within a professional youth work relationship. As a profession, youth work expects practitioners to maintain professional ethics and standards (NYA, 1999). Part of this is to maintain personal and professional boundaries at all times. With the advent of social network sites maintaining these are becoming increasingly complex due to the networked nature of the technology. According to Cooper (2012, p. 11): “professional boundaries are a set of guidelines, expectations and rules which set the ethical and technical standards in the social care environment. They set limits for safe, acceptable and effective behaviour by workers.”

The great majority of practitioners used avoidance as a boundary management tool. By not connecting with young people online they avoided blurring their personal and professional boundaries. Findings suggested that these practitioners viewed their relationships with young people as a work relationship only. This practice is in line with youth work ethics and principles (NYA, 1999). To avoid damaging the relationship that young people perceived they developed with practitioners, practitioners will use the youth work ethics and principles as reason when ignoring an online friend request from a young person or in a face to face discussion within a youth work session.

further boundary management tool used by some practitioners was, ‘client searching’. When they wanted to find out more information concerning a young person or young people and their behaviour they would search for them on a social network site. Practitioners would then search through their personal profile looking for information. Occasionally, if a situation has arisen between young people, we’ll perhaps find them and log onto Facebook and just have a little look and see if we can access any of the Facebook sites, because they tend to share a lot on their Facebook sites. And I know that’s also something that social care does

These findings illustrated that the type of boundary management practitioners and young people utilized with each other on social network sites were directly related to the type of relationship that they perceived they developed. Practitioners who perceived a ‘more than’ a work relationship with young people were more likely to connect with young people on social network sites. Practitioners who considered a professional relationship only were less likely to consider connecting with young people. All practitioners were aware of personal and professional boundaries but for some the professional were personal due to their need to be considered an always available role models. This was more the case with practitioners that lived and worked in the same area where they also had a personal history that led to multiple relationships and bounded solidarity. From a practice and policy position this created difficulties as untangling the web of geographical social connections in a networked publics space is impossible. This leads to differential approaches in boundary management not due to a lack of knowledge concerning the youth work ethics and principles but rather due to differential working practices. Practitioners were unaware that for young people the relationship that developed was not a professional relationship but rather a very personal relationship. This necessitated a rethink of the term boundaries when considering young people’s relationships with youth work practitioners. My research suggested that aspects that young people shared with practitioners in youth work settings were considered personal information because the youth work relationship was part of a young person’s personal live rather than professional.

* There’s a difference between professional and personal relationships.

* Boundaries are extremely important

Other conversations in the last about how young workers used to smoke and drink with yp, live In the same area etc

Use quotes from interview with dys

Is it important?

* Relationships are important and core to what we do, this is for many reasons (difficult to maintain contact without a relationship, harder to establish trust and respect)

What is already clear from our interviews, and consistent with the very particular work of McNeill and Maruna (2008) and the other studies we have referred to is that it is the dynamic and reciprocal nature of some relationships between young people and practitioners that makes them effective. It is also this dynamism that qualifies some modes of practice as praxis.

other research on youth work has found that relationships based on trust and mutual respect are highly valued by young people and often stand in contrast to other adult relationships in their lives which have led rejection or negative experiences (Merton et al., 2004: 9). In addition to the importance of trust, practice literature from social work has identified genuineness, warmth, empathy and advocacy as essential elements of helping relationships with children (Brandon et al., 1998) Young people in Green et al.’s (2013) study believed that successful relationships with workers were dependent on genuineness and a belief that workers should act as advocates for them. Similarly the importance of trust was raised by young people as essential, particularly as young people felt prior interactions with many adults or institutions had resulted in rejection or negative experiences (Milbourne, 2009b: 355).

The connection between young person and practitioner appears to be based on mutual understanding that places the durability of the relationship at the centre of the exchange: the relationship will survive the warning of impending judgement. Such an exchange is also evident in Ilan’s (2010: 32) study. He argues that trusting relationships developed over time help to ‘initiate a gradual process of transformative reflexivity’. At the heart of this process is the negotiated connection between worker and young person that allows the practitioner to challenge without deterioration in the relationship

* Youthworkers have different methods of creating and maintaining relationships (through humour, banta, compliments, superficial comments, remembers key facts and keeping track of developments in a yp life)

* As is routine when working with a young person

Conclusion

So what might be the underlying principles of a ‘practitioner relationship’? From my discussions we appear to think it includes a commitment to knowing: legal, organisational and codes of practice relevant to working with young people, and their impact for communicating and dealing with young people. Being aware of the locations in the community where young people meet especially whilst performing detached youth work.  That building trust and rapport with young people is an essential requirement of our practice as well as knowing methods of achieving this for a range of young people. Understanding of different styles and forms of communication that may be appropriate when interacting with young people, especially in the contemporary practice where this could now include electronic channels. Knowing an understanding the importance of non-verbal communication, such as body language, and how others use and interpret body language in different ways.

As well as this we identified that there is a requirement to know of any possible barriers to communication, their causes, and ways to overcome them, whilst also making sure we are ensuring understanding and avoiding assumptions when interacting and forming professional relationships with young people.

As a practitioner, we should be aware of typical issues, concerns and activities of relevance to young people, the potential risks to our own personal safety, and ways of addressing these, requirements regarding confidentiality, and the importance of meeting them.

And finally one of the biggest topics that emerged was understanding the importance of boundaries. Specifically, our own personal competence and responsibility, when to involve others, and how to obtain advice and support.

 

With this in mind we need to explore what contemporary youth work practice looks like, and whether current affairs hinder (or not) practice, and what we might do about it.

Discussion (2,000)

What my literature has found:

Mckee (2011) argues that youth work should reposition within the current political climate. It recommends how those committed to shared youth work principles might organise in partnership with young people to articulate and advance the benefits of good youth work practice. Youth work has not generally been understood and valued at a policy level, both locally and nationally. Key research studies that have highlighted the value of youth work, such as Merton et al (2004), have been given little attention whilst much has been made of critical ambiguous research, such as Feinstein et al (2005). Indeed, too frequently the negative aspects revealed by the critical research have been quoted, often out of context, by Ministers and others who in doing so have sown doubts as to the value of the youth work approach. Youth workers as a consequence have often felt misunderstood and unsupported by their managers (Spence et al, 2006). We now need to learn from the past decade and find ways whereby youth work can make a better case for its distinctive approach and benefits

Davies (2009) notes, youth work should be viewed as a starting point rather than as a process – but lack of definition can result in total loss. Youth work moved in and out of that danger zone in the life-time of the previous government and continues to do so. For example, positive activities are said to help young people: • acquire, and practise, specific social, physical, emotional and intellectual skills; • contribute to the community; • belong to a socially recognised group; • establish supportive social networks of peers and adults; • experience and deal with challenges; • enjoy themselves (Audit Commission, 2010). Youth work gets no explicit reference here; yet what is youth work if it does not deliver these outcomes for young people? It is through youth work that contact is made, a constructive relationship developed and young people supported to build their own capability.

It is indefensible that the sector allows government to misappropriate the ‘goods’ of youth work in this fashion while denying the name of the practice. Even worse there are now those at senior levels in the sector who have been willing to collude with government defining ‘sport leaders’ and the like as ‘youth workers’. It is youth work, and youth work alone, threaded through a range of interesting activities and places which reaps the benefit for young people. Without the skilled intervention of a trusted adult, a positive activity is merely a means of passing the time. Those of us involved in seeking to influence policy during the time of the previous administration needed to describe youth work in a contemporary language, for example by using terms offered by HM Treasury (DfES and HMT, 2007).

One potential negative dilemma to emerge over the past decade is whether youth work has or is losing its place as a discrete practice in the policy-driven context and burgeoning emphasis on partnership and integration. Talk of growing crisis in the broad field of youth work practice seems tangible. The current economic climate has ushered in a culture of instability (verging on fear) surrounding funding and subsequently job security. The space for creative and innovative responses to the changing lives and lifestyles of the rising generation runs the risk of being squeezed by bureaucratic regimes of measurement and encoded practice outcomes.

What my primary research has found:

The role of the youth worker is to create relationships of trust and respect with young people and work with them in ways that combine enjoyment, challenge and learning. Successful outcomes will largely be dependent on the relationship between the youth worker and the young people.’ (Department of Education for Northern Ireland, 2005:13)

Youth work is essentially a partnership with young people. They benefit from the process and also determine how the service should be delivered. The voice of young people is now underpinned by statute and guidance, though weakly expressed and implemented. Young people should be supported to understand this potential in the context of the current struggle. Youth work helps young people learn about themselves, others and society, through non-formal educational activities which combine enjoyment, challenge and learning. (Mckee et al, 2010: 8).

connecting the concept of dyadic relationships to the concept of praxis is a useful starting point for a deeper exploration of practitioner-young person relationships. Dyadic relationships involve two people in a relationship that includes some level of interdependency. However not all dyadic relationships are mutual, gratifying, or constructively reciprocal.

Simmel’s (1902) sociological perspective proposed that dyads are stable units through which solidarity and intimacy build. But he also viewed conflict between individuals as, paradoxically, capable of promoting a sense of social unity and cohesion. This is because they imply both engaged reciprocity and conjoint but contested concern about the shared principles that are pre-conditions for conflict (Ashley and Orenstein 1985/2001; Simmel, 1973). Both parties care enough about what they dispute to make it a source of connectedness as well as dissent between them.

One effect of closely interactive dyads is that the more one party discloses in conversation, the greater the likelihood that the other will reciprocate. Each party incrementally takes risks in step with the other by placing increasing trust in him/her. Both become more motivated to extend the relationship because of the level of mutuality it generates and the cathartic effects of disclosure (Wolman, 1973).

It is in the interstices of meeting individual need and statutory obligations that this skilful work of practitioners sometimes constitutes praxis. praxis brings action together with practical reasoning, beliefs and knowledge, in a way that is significant to professional practice.  Professionals utilise knowledge in ways that are founded in theorized reason but moderate and adapt it by applying ‘practice wisdom’. One definition proposes that: Praxis refers to the link between theory and practice, and the struggle that exists in all intellectual movements to transform existing (oppressive or marginalizing) societal conditions into meaningful reflection, action and change. Praxis is a complicated and intricate phenomenon because it entails a reconstitution of culture, institutions, relationships and social interaction, such that a more humane, emancipatory climate of pro-social civic life prevails (Arrigo, 2001: 219–220). The dyadic relationship is in this sense essential to effective praxis. But so is the discretion to apply ‘practice wisdom’.

The key to transformation is reflection and dialogue in which the subjugated speak ‘true words’ about themselves, about the conditions in which they live, and about the necessary and inevitable process by which change (and alternative emancipatory reality) can materialize (Arrigo, 2001: 220).

But between current practice and more effective processes of facilitation lie some important obstacles. Firstly, it is far from clear whether those voices that are heard speak ‘true words’: authentic voice depends upon genuinely dyadic relations of trust and confidence. Secondly, it is also unclear whether current policies enable practitioners the scope to encourage self-determination and accept that this may lead in unpredictable directions for the young person. Thirdly, even in the most propitious circumstances, the effects of hearing and acting on authentic voice will not necessarily improve the prospects for young person.

Where do we go from here?

Arrigo (2001: 220) suggests the key to transformation is reflection and dialogue in which the suppressed speak ‘true words’ about themselves, about the conditions in which they live, and about the necessary and inevitable process by which change (and alternative emancipatory reality) can materialize. But between current practice and more effective processes of facilitation lie some important obstacles. Firstly, it is far from clear whether those voices that are heard speak ‘true words’: authentic voice depends upon genuinely dyadic relations of trust and confidence. Secondly, it is also unclear whether current policies enable practitioners the scope to encourage self-determination and accept that this may lead in unpredictable directions for the young person. Thirdly, even in the most propitious circumstances, the effects of hearing and acting on authentic voice will not necessarily improve the prospects for young person.

Pitts (2001: 8) identified the evolution of a two-tier staffing strategy that ensures that those at the front line of interaction with young people are those least well placed to subvert centrally conceived programmes by deploying powers of professional discretion. He foresaw a new division of labour in which non-professionals ‘deliver’ the ‘programmes’ and the dwindling number of professional workers become, essentially administrative, ‘case managers’. Although the validity of Pitts’ (2001: 12) early predictions would now need qualifying, his point about the reduced discretion of those who work face-to-face with young people remains highly pertinent, when he argues that: … the overwhelming desire of government to control policy all the way down to the point of implementation means that a rich repertoire of responses to the complex problem of youth crime is reduced to a narrow range of correctional techniques….

Conclusion (326)

To summarise, finding an effective way forward requires a timely, evidence-based and politically sensitive campaign to secure improvements for and with young people. Youth work requires such a campaign if young people are to continue to access the benefits it offers. There can be no suggestion that youth work is a magic potion for all social problems, but it can provide opportunities for young people to shape their own futures. we need to ensure that our ways of working with them include youth work, with its unique combination of goals, values and purposes. (Tosh, 2010) reminds us that: “No human practice ever stands still; all demand a historical perspective which uncovers the dynamics of change over time.” It is in this sense that Youth work must grapple with the present and embrace the future, but do so in a way that remains committed to its core ideals. This is increasingly clearer as it is a time when the profession continues to face uncertainty, the need to return to and learn from the past has never been clearer. Such a commitment enables us to consider the essence of youth work practice, and to remain committed to relationships with young people that enable them to direct and bring about change in their own lives and communities.

Contemporary youth work does not need to be one or the other, instead it is a collection of people with different sets of skills, different approaches coming together with the same goal, where the principles and values stay the same. Youth work is very much capable of adopting both the future and the past and creating the present. It is now that we have youth work and in order to have youth work in the future we need to pull together. As humans and practitioners we are like water; adaptable, flexible and changing but regardless of the shape, size or width of the container we are put in, we are always water.

-its still really muddled and confusuing

– I hope to continue my research in the future

Its okay.

References

Allen, J.P. (2008) ‘The Attachment System in Adolescence’, in J. Cassidy and J. Shaver (eds.) Handbook of Attachment: Theory, Research and Clinical Applications. New York: The Guilford Press.

Arrigo B (2001) Praxis. In: McLaughlin E and Muncie J (eds) The Sage Dictionary of Criminology. London: Sage Publications.

Ashley D and Orenstein M (1985/2001) Sociological Theory: Classical Statements, 5th Edition. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon

Avis M. (1995) Valid arguments? A consideration of the concept of validity in establishing the credibility of research findings. Journal of Advanced Nursing22, 1203–1209. In Webb, B. (2002), Using focus groups as a research method: a personal experience. Journal of Nursing Management, 10: 27–35.

Bowlby, J. (1988). Attachment, communication, and the therapeutic process. A secure base: Parent-child attachment and healthy human development, 137-157.

Boykin McElhaney, K., Immele, A., Smith, F.D., Allen, J.P. (2006) ‘Attachment organization as a moderator of the link between friendships quality and adolescent deliquency’, Attachment and Human Development, Vol. 8, No. 1, pp. 33-46.

Brandon M, Schofield G and Trinder L (1998) Social Work with Children. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Bryman, A. (2004) Social Research Methods (2nd edition). Oxford: Oxford University Press

Cassidy, J. (2001) ‘Truth, lies and intimacy: an attachment perspective’, Attachment and Human Development, Vol. 3, No. 2, pp. 121-155.

Clarke, A. & Clarke, A. (2000). Early experience and the life path. London: Jessica Kingsly Publishers

Cooper, F. (2012) Understanding Boundaries in Social Work and Social Care. London: Jessica Kingsley

Creswell, J.W. (2007). Qualitative inquiry and research design: Choosing among five approaches (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Davies, R. (2013). ‘Youth work, protest and a common language’. Youth and Policy, 110, 52–65.

Department for Education and Employment. (2002) Transforming Youth Work: Resourcing Excellent Youth Services. London: HMSO.

Department of Education Northern Ireland. (2005) Youth Service. Online: http://www.deni.gov.uk/youth_work_ strategy_pdf_216kb (accessed 14th December 2016)

Drake, Deborah H.; Fergusson, Ross and Briggs, Damon B. (2014). Hearing new voices: re-viewing youth justice policy through practitioners’ relationships with young people. Youth Justice, 14(1) pp. 22–39.

Field, R. (2007). Managing with plans and budgets in health and social care. Exeter: Learning Matters.

France, A. and Homel, R. (2006) Societal Access Routes and Developmental Pathways: Putting Social Structure and Young People’s Voice into the Analysis of Pathways into and Out of Crime. Australian & New Zealand Journal of Criminology 39 (3): 295-309.

Green R, Mitchell P and Bruun A (2013) Bonds and bridges: Perspectives of service-engaged young people on the value of relationships in addressing alcohol and other drug issues. Journal of Youth Studies 16(4): 421–440.

Harris A and Allen T (2011) Young people’s views of multi-agency working. British Educational Research Journal 37(3): 405–419.Jeffs, T. (2011). ‘Running out of options: re-modelling youth work’. Youth and Policy, 106.

Ilan J (2010) If you don’t let us in, we’ll get arrested’: Class-cultural dynamics in the provision of, and resistance to, youth justice work. Youth Justice 10(1): 25–39.

Keating, D.P. (1990) ‘Adolescent thinking’, in S.S. Feldman and G. Elliot (eds.) At the threshold: The developing adolescent. Cambridge: Harvard University Press

Kobak, R.R., Cole, H., Ferenz-Gillies, R., Fleming, W., Gamble, W. (1993) ‘Attachment and emotion regulation during mother-teen problem-solving: A control theory analysis’, Child Development, Vol. 64, pp. 231-245.

Lyme RegiSapin (2013). Essential skills for youth work practice, 2nd edn. London: Sage.

Matthews, B. & Ross, L. (2010). Research Methods. A Practical Guide for the Social Sciences. Harlow: Longman.

McKee, V., Oldfield, C. & Poultney, J. (2010). The benefits of youth work. London: Lifelong Learning UK.

McNeill F and Maruna S (2008) Giving up and giving back: Desistance, generativity and social work with offenders. Research Highlights in Social Work 48: 224–339.

McNeill, F. and Maruna, S. (2008) Giving up and giving back: Desistance, generativity and social work with offenders. Research Highlights in Social Work 48: 224-339.

Merton B, et al. (2004) An Evaluation of the Impact of Youth Work in England. Nottingham: Department for Education and Science

Milbourne L (2009b) Valuing difference or securing Compliance? Working to involve young people in community settings. Children and Society 23(5): 347–363

Moustakim, M. (2012). ‘Living contradictions in the professional practice of informal education’. Les Dossiers des Sciences de l’Education, 28, 43–55.

National Assembly for Wales. (2001). Extending entitlement. Cardiff: National Assembly for Wales.

National Youth Agency (1999) Ethical Conduct on Youth Work: A Statement of values and Principles from the National Youth Agency. Leicester: National Youth Agency.

National Youth Agency, (2000) National Occupational Standards for Youth Work, Leicester: National Youth Agency.

Neuman, W.L. 2003. Social Research Methods: Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches. Fifth edition. Allyn and Bacon. Boston. Massachusetts.

Nicholls, D. (2012). For Youth Workers and Youth Work. Speaking out for a better future. Bristol: Policy Press.

Pitts J (2001) Korrectional karaoke: New Labour and the zombification of youth justice. Youth Justice 1(2): 3–16

Prior, D. and Mason, P. (2010) A Different Kind of Evidence? Looking for ‘What Works’ in Engaging Young Offenders. Youth Justice 10 (3): 211-226.

Prior, V. Glaser, D. (2006) Understanding Attachment & Attachment Disorders: Theory, Evidence, and Practice. Jessica Kingsley Publishers: London UK.

Roberts, J. (2009) Youth Work Ethics. Learning Matters, Empowering Youth and Community Work Series. London: SAGE Publications

Robertson, S. (2005) Youth clubs; association, participation, friendship and fun. Russell House Publishing.

Rutter, M. (1972). Maternal deprivation reassessed. Harmondsworth: Penguin

Schaffer, H. R. & Emerson, P. E. (1964). The development of social attachments in infancy. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 29 (3), serial number 94.

Seal, M. & Frost, S. (2014). Philosophy in youth and community work. London: RHP.

Simmel G (1973) On individuality and social forms. In: Wolman BB (1973) Dictionary of Behavioral Science. New York: Ven Nostrand Reinhold.

Smith, M. (1988). Developing Youth Work. Informal education, mutual aid and popular practice. London: Open University Press.

Trevithick, P. (2005) Social Work Skills: A Practice Handbook (2nd ed) Maidenhead: Open University Press.

Tyler, M, Hoggarth, L, Merton, B. (2009). Managing Modern Youth Work. Exeter: Learning Matters.

Webb, B. (2002), Using focus groups as a research method: a personal experience. Journal of Nursing Management, 10: 27–35.

Webb, E. J., Campbell, D. T., Schwartz, R. D. and Sechrest, L., 1966, Unobtrusive Measures: Nonreactive research in the social sciences. Chicago, IL: Rand McNally.

Wolman BB (1973) Dictionary of Behavioral Science. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold.

Webpages

http://www.nya.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/National-Occupation-Standards-for-Youth-Work.pdf

http://www.qaa.ac.uk/en/Publications/Documents/SBS-Youth-and-Community-Work-consultation-16.pdf

http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0020872806065325

http://infed.org/mobi/social-pedagogy-the-development-of-theory-and-practice/

https://indefenceofyouthwork.com/tag/emancipatory/

http://www.youthandpolicy.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/cooper_models_of_youth_work.pdf

http://www.youthlinkscotland.org/webs/245/documents/JYWiss2.pdf

https://www.escholar.manchester.ac.uk/api/datastream?publicationPid=uk-ac-man-scw:ths0009&datastreamId=Fulltext.pdf

https://indefenceofyouthwork.com/tag/radical-youth-work/

http://educationaltoolsportal.eu/en/tools-for-learning/youth-workers-agents-change

http://youthtoday.org/2010/06/radical-youth-work-developing-critical-perspectives-and-professional-judgement/

http://infed.org/mobi/paulo-freire-dialogue-praxis-and-education/

https://indefenceofyouthwork.com/2011/11/07/selling-youth-work-to-the-market-commissioning-uncovered/

https://indefenceofyouthwork.files.wordpress.com/2010/11/20252-youth-stories-report-2011_4th-1.pdf

https://indefenceofyouthwork.com/the-stories-project/

Appendix

Participant 1

When I hear professional relationship I think of a set of ethical boundaries that you uphold in order to appropriately engage with service users and work with colleagues to effectively deliver a service

What makes a good relationship is a foundation of trust, a belief that that person will try their best for you when needed, trust that they will turn up and on time, trust that they will not judge you, trust that they will respect you enough to hear your thoughts ideas and opinions and actually hear you and not just want to talk over you or talk about you behind your back and mock you or exploit you but that’s in both professional and personal relationships I guess.

Participant 2

Professional relationships to me is something which you can only have in a place of work, it’s when you have a role that you embrace and engage with another professional to attain the best possible outcomes for the service or the user. Something which shouldn’t be blurred in context with a personal relationship and is easily distinguishable to an outsider “looking in”

Participant 3

it’s the manner you act around other “Professionals” and young people as apposed to how you would act around your friends and family.

I find humour is a good conversation starter or even saying something out loud that everyone’s thinking bit nobody’s saying. With maintaining a relationship other aspects such as things in common, respect, making someone feel valued and comfortable while engaging and regular interaction to maintain the  relationship. When it comes to personal relationships I think a lot of other different factors personal to the individual will start to show such as expectations, loyalties etc it’s important for the other person to see you at you worst and best so they can choose to accept it or not

Professional boundaries like you have to put yourself back in your place when your getting on with someone your working with to make sure your not blurring any lines.

Lack of resources/Money can’t do as much with one individual because you will be looked at by managers like why are they receiving so much support.

Participant 4

Behaving appropriately with adults who you work with even though you might want the strangle them because they’re useless or a racist twat

Classic example at placement I expect someone to know what to wear and not to smoke. Whereas, if a friend saw me I wouldn’t expect them to wear a certain thing

But then I’m very compartmentalised but probably some overlap depending on skill set

Like I’m quite open so when some teenage boys asked my advice about fisting I was quite happy to talk to them about why they thought that was something they wanted to do but someone else might shut it down

Everyone has their thing that they are particularly good at. I’m happy to talk about that stuff and support girls who feel sexual pressure or body image pressure. But equally, when I saw someone who I worked with who’s now sadly serving a life sentence when I was with child is a supermarket I hated it. Not because I believe he’s dangerous just that’s a different part of my life

Same as when I’m with child and I’m parenting I’m different. I would be more inclined to tell you guys the negative side rather than the quite gushy mum, I am with other mothers. You guys aren’t bothered by potty training or his grasp of complex ideas. So yes boundaries but I guess there’s some blurring but not overflowing. Not completely different people but just different. Young people don’t care if you’ve slept for 3 hours or you’re dealing with a child with a complex diagnoses so you almost turn that side of you off

But equally I’ve been criticised for playing a role so maybe it’s not that authentic, But there are common threads like compassion or humour that tie it all together, Just moderated

I think being satisfied at the end of the day and gentle with yourself important. Have you made a positive impact? Have you tried you best? But if you haven’t that’s okay too you can’t be the best at every aspect all the time. Using other people’s skill sets example being your organisation (researcher) P1 is incredibly patient and compassionate. P3 is much more calm and has a different perspective. Abs can deal with literally anything and is such a champion of others

I also think it’s important to consider your needs as well as others. Even the “rewards” you and getting aren’t always reciprocal. Some people feed your soul. Plus the understanding you might have to go hard for someone and later they will go hard for you. Even if you don’t “get anything back” as long as you’re confident that you’ve done your best to shine a little light? It’s not always about receiving but this could be because I’ve been socialised very much as a traditional woman where you come last on the list. Men may have a different view because they’re much more encouraged to

Take time for themselves whereas as a woman I there is much of a societal idea that you’re selfish and major side eye. Plus I think woman are more likely to martyr themselves (i will do it because you won’t do it properly etc) especially with the division of labour within the workplace i.e. Making the drinks, doing extra bits that aren’t within your role because you’re the woman or want to be liked

I also think it’s important to be open and honest and ask for help(something I’m Not good at) not expecting everybody to hold your standard for example I struggle with the other student on my placemat because I think I can bring up a child by myself and juggle third year can you not at least get out of bed? But should  have my head on my own game not anybody Else’s

To that end I think it’s important to express gratitude and value to those you professional relationships a simple thank you can go a long way

I personally think everyone judges its human nature to categorise. It’s whether you act on it or not. Plus I also think talking behind someone’s back is not always malicious. Example  the lecturing team talk about us but I don’t think that’s in a malicious way, it’s not transparent but it’s equally I’d hope not with malicious intent

Professionally I go for a common ground: Normally compliment make up or shoes and go from there or ask them to explain a term to me? Or favourite McDonald’s order? Maintain: Luckily I have quite a good memory so I ask them about whatever they told me the last time I saw them. plus chuck in a good old bit chumour. Tramps is a good example a girl told her friends this ones alright. I was really mad and she said she liked my highlighter so we are friends now

Empathy is another one

Plus I find some people more difficult than others they just press that button in you that you just think nope

Participant 5

It is important that young people have a safe environment, which is accessible to all; it should be a participative style which allows young people to take responsibility. It should be accessible and non-discriminatory. Personal development and empowerment should be at the forefront of what we do. The work should start where the young people are; Physically or developmentally. Young people should be supported and enabled. The work is based on a solid and professional relationship. Confidentiality underpins the work, unless the young person seems to be at risk. The work will often proceed from a trusting relationship.

We are now less accessible to young people due to the budget cuts which in turn has significantly narrowed down the number of centres in the area. Although young people know about us as we are well established in the area with strong links to the school and community.

One of the problems for me is that we are going into a new service and they are getting pressurised to make us targeted. Our finance is wrapped up in the amount of targeted people we work with. We are also pressurised to fill the gaps and do the work the social workers cannot do due to not building up a rapport with young people. So it is really important in terms of voluntary engagement that we keep hold of the basic principles of youth work. My philosophy of youth work is one thing and the organisation is starting to drift into a place that I find really hard to deal with in terms of what I believe youth work is and we’ve got to be really careful especially when we are talking about going into a mutual that we hold onto what we think it is.

Participant 6

P6: Its the relationship, maintaining a professional relationship between myself and the children. A professional relationship between myself and my colleagues, and myself and parents and any other external body that might have something to do with the child is what I think.

T: Okay, what do you think makes a good relationship? What’s important to consider?

P6: Between myself and the children?

T: Yeah

P6: Um, I think it’s respect, respecting them, them respecting me, erm, empathy understanding where they’re coming from, having boundaries because children like boundaries. Erm, being approachable, so they can approach me with anything, understanding, being reasonably reasonable. Reasonably – always – swearing- it’s -teacher- saying in the briefing. Anyway, well, we always start with a new slate.

T: Yeah

P6: The fact that -student- has obviously just called me “a fucking lesbo” when I see him next lesson we’ll be starting afresh. And I think it’s a important to have a little bit of banter with them, but obviously knowing the lines

T: The boundaries, yeah

P6: Yeah, yeah, yeah exactly. And I think actually having boundaries and following them. So when I say detention, making sure I carry that through, so they know “actually, she does mean it”. Erm, yeah.

T: Cool, how do you create and maintain the relationships you make?

P6: I think by being consistent, erm like I said previously by being consistent the children know where they stand, so if I say detention they’ve got detention. I think it’s really easy to not do that and actually try and be their mate all the time, but actually it doesn’t stand you in any good stead because actually, if you say I’m gonna put it on ARBY (?) you’re gonna get a detention but you don’t mean it they’ll just carry on. But if they know you mean it then you will. So yeah just about being consistent with stuff.

T: How important do you think having a positive relationship is?

P6: Oh, hugely. Yeah yeah. That’s the only way to make it work, is to have a positive relationship, because then they will come to you, they’ll work for you, and it then works both ways because if it was negative then it’s just not going to work. You have to have a positive relationship with them, their parents and everything else that surrounds them, otherwise we wouldn’t be able to do our job.

T: And last one, do you feel professional relationships have a detrimental, beneficial or neutral impact on a young person’s development, and why?

No I think beneficial because actually if you’re always maintaining a professional relationship with them, and everything that comes with them, we’re keeping them safe and secure. So if they know I’ve got a good relationship, a professional relationship with their parents, with social workers, with them, it’s boundaries isn’t it, it’s security and I think it’s beneficial, hugely beneficial.

Participant 7

T: When I say professional relationship, what immediately comes to your mind?

Uh, Boundaries. Building relationships is the base of all the things we do as youth workers. It’s about how far you can take it without it overstepping. You need to be open but not too open., so that you can’t then have any authority. You still need to be someone they can talk to but also someone that you can, should you need to, try and assert a little bit of authority, whilst still having that relationship with them.

T: So what do you think makes a good relationship? What’s important to consider?

Humour I think is the most important thing with building relationships. If you can have a laugh with someone, a young person, no matter how bad the situation is/are, the only thing that will break anyone out of a low point, even only temporarily, is if you can have that relationship where you can say something that brings them back to it. I hate the word because it got hi-jacked a couple of years ago, but if you have a little bit of banter with a young person it can take them out of that moment really. And I think that’s the mark of a good professional relationship really, that you can do that.

T: Okay, so how do you create and maintain the relationships you make?

If I knew that I think I’d write a b ook. And I think people would read it. It’d be a bestseller. Unfortunately, I think it’s an instinctive thing. I think it’s about, you know instinctively where, iyt’s a boundaries thing. You know instinctively how to build a relationship with a young person. What you say to one is completely different to what you’d say to another. You’ve got to case it in that professionalism as well.

T: Do you feel professional relationships have a detrimental/beneficial or neutral impact on a youg person development?

Absolutely beneficial. All of those things we just talked about, we’ve got some students, yound people, both at school and the youth centre going through horrendous things happening in their lives, but you need to be that break from that sometimes. You need to be that person because a lot of our young people struggle with things because of their family background and the relationships they’ve built at home, sometimes you’re a beacon, no matter how bad things are, they know they can have a somewhat normal conversation with you, and sometimes that’s all they need. For that day, or hour or half hour that’s all they need, that normality, normal conversation and again it’s that thing of being an adult in their life that they feel comfortable talking to because for a lot of them they haven’t really got that.

T: So how do you think it impacts their development?

It’s about being a role model sometimes, it’s about presenting a moral idea of what is right and what the standards of being part of the community are. A school’s a community, a youth group is a community, it’s about encouraging people in acting as part of that and being positive parts of that because it’s something that they’re not getting for a lot of them. They’re not getting it in other places. That’s what we are as youth workers. It’s not all we are, but it’s a big bundle of everything, but you really need to be a positive person in their lives, and a  positive role model. Sometimes they don’t want that but for those that do it’s why they come back, it’s why they come through the doors. Obviously youth centres are different to schools, but in a youth centre setting that’s certainly why they come back.

T: So you said it’s instinctive, do you feel that anyone could be a youth worker?

No, I mean we’ve employed people for years, we employed one person for years, she was qualified, she knew the “mathematics” of youth work, she’d read all of the right papers, she knew all the right theories, but was she a youth worker, no. She wasn’t. I think it’s one of those things that you can’t be taught how to be a good youth worker. And that’s why I think, certainly the staff team I work with, in a youth work setting I think that’s why we’ve stayed together for 10 years now, my staff team have been together for 10 years now because we instinctively are those youth workers. I think it’s an instinct. You’ve got to be the right sort of person.

T: My research is mainly on- I feel because of the cuts to the youth service we have become more about ticking boxes than what we normally do and slowly through every budget cut we’re losing what youth work is.

Definitely, yeah

T: And I’m trying to focus on the positive rather than the negative of youth work and why it’s so individualistic and it’s not something that other services can pick up.

I think you’re totally right, it has become more about tick boxes, running the organisation there’s more paperwork that needs to be done and there’s more checks, the county council want to know what they’re getting for their £10 a year, but I think that the actual sessions at the – although we’ve had to cut hours off of our sessions, I think the level of youth work that is happening, from my point of view is stronger than it’s ever been. Because I think what the youth service cuts did, the only positive you can take out of it, when we were made redundant from WCC youth service, those that wanted to do it, continued to do it, those that didn’t want to, didn’t. “Oh it’s going to be too difficult and there’s going to be more paperwork” So they left. We continued because we thought well this is what we do. There was never a question of well that’s it I guess. We put in a bid, we got the funding, and I think those that didn’t have that instinctive fell by the wayside. We lost some workers that were alright but the good ones stayed and continued to do what we do. Even with the knowledge that you’re not going to get half as much money as you used to, you’re going to have to volunteer more often than you used to blah blah blah, so yeah, forgot question.

T: I feel like some of the voluntary orgs that take on youth work they don’t have that instinct, it’s not at the core of what they do, it’s very much we need to play these sessions this is what we’re being paid to do rather than the core of it being about the young person. I feel that’s a bit lost.

As a professional you’ve got to keep that identitiy, why are you doing it because if I stop doing YW on Monday, financially my life is not going to be any different, we do it because we want to, because we love doing it, and because there’s a need for it, and we feel that need wouldn’t have been met in the town that we work in unless it was us that was delivering it, so it’s important that we carried on doing it because we didn’t want to lose the links we had built up, the network we had built and young people not being able to have the support that we’d been offering them for the last 6 years, it was really important

T: When my youth cerntre went through the cuts, we managed to keep th funding to create hubs, rather than, so we’re still council funded and we’ve turned ourselves into a youtb hub and other youth services work out of us and we’re the connection to the young people, and one of the big things as to why I carried on is the fact we are the stable adults is these YP lives, and if we just give up then we’re just more people that have walked away. Essentially I’m trying to write a book on relationships is my research I’m trying to work out what it is about the specific type of relationship that youth workers do, why it makes youth work work, why not anyone can just be a youth worker, why you can’t just get another servive to pick up those sessions and have open access, it’s not about the activities, it’s about the rappor, the relationships.

I always think that youth workers were sort of the outsiders, certainly in the groups I’ve worked with there’s always a sort of a want to do it. I always want to be the sort of person I wish I had had in my life. There is a sort of outside sort of edge to what we do.

T:Wayne said “we help others because we can’t help ourselves”, I think that’s true for a lot of youth workers.

Especially with the music stuff I do, I know that as a 15/16 yo I would have loved doing that, playing with my mates, setting up make some noise, very therapeutic. We have 25 kids down on a Saturday so it’s not one of those things where it’s like I want to do thise for me so I’m going to put it on and expect everyone to come, it’s sort of developed, it’s a major thing for some of them, and they develop their personalities around the fact that they play an instrument or they’re in a aband I think that’s one of the most important things, your identity is one of the most important things you have so if you can help a YP find one

Recording ends



Recommendation
EssayHub’s Community of Professional Tutors & Editors
Tutoring Service, EssayHub
Professional Essay Writers for Hire
Essay Writing Service, EssayPro
Professional Custom
Professional Custom Essay Writing Services
In need of qualified essay help online or professional assistance with your research paper?
Browsing the web for a reliable custom writing service to give you a hand with college assignment?
Out of time and require quick and moreover effective support with your term paper or dissertation?