The In Defence of Youth Work campaign saw the light of day at Youth and Policy’s  History conference in March 2009.  The impetus came from the circulation of an Open Letter, which can be found on our site. At heart the Campaign seeks to defend and extend youth work as a distinctive educational practice founded on a voluntary relationship with young people and shaped by their agendas. Such an approach continues to be undermined through the imposition of predetermined targets and outcomes. Across these last five years we have tried to be a reference point of support and criticism for all those sympathetic to our definition of the cornerstones underpinning a democratic youth work practice.

  • The primacy of the voluntary principle; the freedom for young people to enter into and withdraw from Youth Work as they so wish, without compulsion or sanction.

  • A commitment to conversations with young people which start from their concerns and within which both youth worker and young person are educated and out of which opportunities for new learning and experience can be created.

  • The importance of association, of fostering supportive relationships, of encouraging the development of autonomous groups and ‘the sharing of a common life’.

  • A commitment to valuing and attending to the here-and -now of young people’s experience rather than just focusing on ‘transitions’.

  • An insistence upon a democratic practice within which every effort is made to ensure that young people play the fullest part in making decisions about anything affecting them.

  • The continuing necessity of recognising that young people are not a homogenous group and that issues of class, gender, race, sexuality, disability and faith remain central. 

  • The essential significance of the youth worker themselves, whose outlook, integrity and autonomy is at the heart of fashioning a serious yet humorous, improvisatory yet rehearsed educational practice with young people.

In doing so we have organised conferences, seminars and workshops ; we have produced an acclaimed book, ‘This is Youth Work : Stories from Practice’, which is available for download ; and have maintained a stream of analysis, information and debate through our mailings, this web site and  latterly our Facebook group.

In truth the landscape of work with young people continues to fracture. Against this fraught background our Campaign retains all its relevance.

Keep in touch and get involved via the site and Facebook

To contact us email indefenceyw@gmail.com

We will set up a mailing list soon – watch this space!




  1. Hi I’m just wondering are you going to facilitating more seminars for youth workers like the one being held tomorrow?

  2. Sarah – we’re a bit nervous about tomorrow but if the format works it’s very likely we’ll do more. Best wishes.

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