Moving forward. A strategy for improving young people’s chances through youth work

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The Scottish Executive’s (2007) National Youth Work Strategy displays many of the same concerns (and weaknesses) as those revealed in the English and Welsh strategies. Surprisingly, given the concern with community learning in Scotland, the document fails to locate youth work fully within civil society and doesn’t fully get hold of youth work as a feature of community learning and development.

Download Moving forward (pdf) [from].

Moving Forward, the Scottish Executive’s national strategy for youth work (2007) claimed that youth work had a significant role to play in:

…delivering our broad vision for Scotland’s young people – that they are nurtured, safe, active, healthy, achieving, included, respected and responsible. Youth work opportunities can also support young people to live their lives as confident individuals, effective contributors, successful learners and responsible citizens. (Scottish Executive 2007: 4)

The long term vision for youth work had two main elements:

  • all young people in Scotland able to benefit from youth work opportunities which make a real difference to their lives; and

  • a youth work sector equipped and empowered to achieve ongoing positive outcomes for young people now and in the future.

Moving Foward recognized the value of youth work in contributing to young people’s personal growth and to the growth of the communities they live in. It saw value in both:

  • open access youth work activities, open to any young person who wishes to attend, offered by local authorities and voluntary organisations; and

  • specialised targeted provision designed to meet the needs of young people who are particularly vulnerable or who have specific needs. (Scottish Executive 2007: 4)

However, the document still tended to frame the former, rather surprisingly given the concern for community learning in Scotland, in relation to the latter:

As well as enhancing the lives of young people from all backgrounds, universal youth work opportunities can have an early intervention and prevention role. It can engage in positive activities young people who might otherwise become involved in anti-social behaviour, alcohol or drug misuse, or who would leave school with few qualifications and skills, perhaps not progressing into education, employment or training (entering the ‘ NEET’ group). Universal youth work opportunities can also offer vulnerable young people a non-stigmatising route into finding more specialist support where they might not be ready to go directly, e.g. to a project for young people with specific problems e.g. mental health issues. (op. cit.)

The rhetoric of community remained in the document – for example – in the support for the for statement of purpose that first appeared in Working and learning together: to build stronger communities (Scottish Executive 2004) – but it is set within many of the themes that appeared in new Labour’s English Connexions strategy around joined-up services, social exclusion, targeting and individualization. This rather undermined the community credentials of the document and made the strategy look more ‘English’ we had come to expect. The orientation was basically oriented to case-management and youth development, rather than to community learning and development.

Significantly, Moving Forward, also failed to really get hold of the essential characteristics and possible contribution of youth work. In contrast to the Welsh National Youth Service Strategy there was little recognition of the real significance of ‘active participation’ and a rather worrying drift away from voluntary participation (Scottish Executive 2007: 16). It is also interesting that the writers chose to ignore the statement on the nature and purpose of youth work developed by the youth work sector in Scotland (YouthLink 2007).

Lastly, like the English and Welsh documents, Moving Forward failed to address in any meaningful way questions around the spiritual health of young people and the long-standing concern with spirituality and wholeness that characterizes the contribution of many workers within the sector.

Scottish Executive (2007) Moving Forward. A strategy for improving young people’s chances through youth work. Edinburgh: Scottish Executive.

YouthLink Scotland (2007) Statement on the nature and purpose of youth work, Edinburgh: YouthLink Scotland. [ on the Nature and Purpose of Youth Work.pdf].  

Download Moving Forward (html or pdf) [from the Scottish Executive site].

Check out the English Ten year strategy for services to young people (2007) and Welsh Assembly National Youth Service Strategy (2007).

How to cite this piece: Smith, Mark K. (2007). ‘Moving Forward. The Scottish strategy for improving young people’s chances through youth work’. The encyclopedia of pedagogy and informal education. [ Retrived: insert date].