What we do……
Detached workers provide confidential advice, information and support on any or all of the following:
- Education, employment and training
- Sexual health
- Drugs and alcohol use/misuse, including information on drugs and the law
- Crime diversion including anti-social behaviour and its consequences
- Counselling, dealing with issues such as stress and depression
How we do it…..
- Develop and maintain contact with young people
- Support young people who do not access existing services
- Provide informal opportunities for social and personal development
- Support young people at risk
- Recruit for specific programmes and services
- Support young people to access other supports and appropriate services
- Provide young people with information, advice and support
What is Detached Youth Work?
Detached youth work is a distinct form of work with young people. As with all youth work it uses the principles and practices of informal education to engage young people in constructive dialogue, within a broad agenda of personal and social development. The work is underpinned by mutual trust and respect and responds to the needs of young people. The basis of the relationship between the worker and the young person is mutual acceptance and parity. Traditional notions of adult power and authority are bought into sharp focus.
All youth work seeks to work on and from young people’s ‘territory’ (as determined by their definitions of space, needs, interests, concerns and lifestyles).
Detached youth work, however, is distinct from all other forms of youth work as this concept of territory focuses primarily on the geographical: detached youth workers work where young people have chosen to be, whether this is on the streets, cafes, shopping centres etc. workers make contact with young people wherever they are. So detached youth work is often free from the constraints of centre based youth work – where buildings are specifically set up for the purpose of youth work. Detached youth workers don’t have to manage a building or property. This is not to say buildings won’t be used; indeed they sometimes become a feature of more developed practice. But in detached youth work, contact happens on the street, and relationships are developed there too.
Detached youth work is above all, about working flexibly. As they don’t have to look after buildings they can use their geographical flexibility to best meet the needs of young people. They celebrate the uncertainty implied by an open ended way of working and value this for its democratic credentials. They recognize its effectiveness in engaging, in particular, with those young people whose lifestyles are sometimes chaotic and sit uncomfortably with order and prescription.
The experience of many detached youth workers is that imposing an agenda acts as a barrier to working with young people, many of whom are already disengaged from formal learning.
The success of youth work comes from making good judgments in relation to these risks. Pushing too hard can distance young people. Not pushing enough can fail to challenge and inspire them. The agenda must, therefore, emerge from a mutually respectful relationship, where hearing the other’s voice is as important as articulating one’s own. The concept of negotiation seems to embody this; it does not suggest control, domination or license. It accords instead status to both parties and value to their opinions.
Detached youth work does NOT aim to;
‘Sell’ existing centre-based provision or other services to young people not accessing these services (we see this as out-reach work)- although if young people want to gain access to services, detached youth workers have a role to facilitate this.
Get young people off the streets’. It is easy to see detached youth work as a solution to a problem and a method for reducing the offending rates of young people by curbing or controlling their behaviour. These outcomes may occur as a result of detached youth work interventions, however detached youth workers are first and foremost informal educators- others should also see this as our primary task. We can contribute to other agendas, but it is because detached youth workers are not tasked with crime or anti-social behaviour reduction or reintegration of young people into the mainstream, that they can build relationships that have the potential to have that effect.