Paul Glaze - Good youth work practice and why it’s important to share it
Youth work services policy and practice in Wales
It’s an exciting time (and place to be) for the youth work services sector in Wales.
The sector delivers an enormous range of diverse services and opportunities which incorporate personal and social development, expressive arts, sport, emotional well-being and mental health.
Centred around a culture of learning, the sector offers youth-friendly, youth-led environments which provide transformative experiences via a wide range of projects and programmes. These add huge value to the wider education offer for young people in Wales.
At a time of incredible change, challenge and vulnerability, the sector has responded wonderfully well and has shown immense adaptability and courage in developing services to continue making critical contributions to the lives of young people. In this blog, I want to share with you the incredible advancements which demonstrate just this.
Youth Work Strategy for Wales 2019
The Ministerial foreword highlights that the Strategy ‘is intended to improve both youth work provision and our offer to young people’.
The Strategy identifies the need to develop, publish and implement a Workforce Development Plan. It also outlines plans to review and update the Coherent Route of Recognised Youth Work Qualifications to improve progression.
There is a real desire to strengthen provision in order to improve outcomes, whilst also acknowledging that youth work must be ‘planned, delivered and reviewed’. It is paramount that young people are empowered to have their voices heard in this planning process.
In addition, there is a need to match training of youth workers with the needs of young people. This will not only help us to gain a clearer understanding of the contexts within which youth work takes place, but also to improve the audits of such provision (including the sector’s skills base, skill needs and how to address current and future demands).
The aim here is to ensure that youth workers (paid and unpaid) are continuously supported to improve their practice and develop provision, all in order to support and improve outcomes. The Workforce Development Plan will need to take full account of these issues.
These are important commitments in support of ‘improving rather than proving’ practice. The Strategy evidences the impact of provision by suggesting a toolkit and resources which focus on self-evaluation, impact monitoring and ‘measuring the satisfaction of young people in the quality of youth work they experience’.
Such a toolkit has been created by the Centre for Youth Impact in its Youth Programme Quality Intervention (YPQI). YPQI encourages a continuous improvement culture within youth work organisations, including improvements in evaluation and observation of the quality of provision, and the monitoring of outcomes as matter of course. Participation in YPQI has not been as strong as expected in Wales, largely due to issues with capacity.
Quality Mark for Youth Work in Wales
In Wales, the Quality Mark is also a tool used to develop improvement and to ensure services can measure and monitor their impact with young people. The programme goes from strength to strength and has seen an impressive increase in the number of CWVYS member organisations applying to undertake the Quality Mark process.
Recent figures outline that the number of organisations awarded the Quality Mark has increased from 17 to 24; 72% of new applicants achieving the Quality Mark are from the voluntary sector; and there are currently 44 assessors (41% of whom work in the voluntary sector).
Empowering the workforce to develop skills, share learning and embed an improvement culture (whilst being supported within an assessment process) facilitates the development of confidence and ability, whilst allowing the needs of young people to be met.
Youth Work in Wales: Principles and Purposes
Youth Work in Wales: Principles and Purposes sets out the key principles which underpin youth work and provides an overview of its nature, purposes and delivery. The content of the document applies specifically to youth work in Wales but is likely to be consistent with youth work principles.
Interim Youth Work Board for Wales
The Board’s final report clearly sets out its positive comments regarding workforce development as well as supporting the continued development and roll-out of the Quality Mark. Recommendation 13 states: ‘Welsh Government needs to build on its commitment to support and develop the youth work profession with a career structure offering progression’ and that by creating ‘a more effective workforce’ with an emphasis on ’training, education and CPD provision’, ‘there will be positive consequences for the quality of the services that are provided for the young people of Wales’.
The Council for Wales of Voluntary Youth Services (CWVYS) is the representative body for the voluntary youth work sector, enabling a collective voice for those delivering services for young people throughout Wales.
Working pan-Wales, CWVYS currently has a vibrant and diverse membership of 137 organisations and is pro-actively engaged in strategic and operational developments in support of the sector and of/for young people.
It provides a frontline service for voluntary youth organisations and an important vehicle through which Welsh Government delivers the Youth Work Strategy for Wales and a range of important projects.