Blog: NYA chair Michael Bracey on redefining youth work

8 Nov 2017

This week (6-12 Nov) is Youth Work Week,  the National Youth Agency’s annual celebration of great youth work in England. 

It’s a welcome week off from all the usual doom and gloom. It’s a week to be positive about the tremendous impact youth work is still having on the lives of young people up and down the country. And it’s a week to be optimistic about the future.

Yes, austerity has had a huge and negative impact. Many services have disappeared and others are on the brink of closure. Even worse, the numbers of new youth work students is falling fast.

But continually and almost exclusively focusing on the decline of youth work isn’t helping. What we need is a growth mindset, much like the one we try to encourage in young people.

Our story is a compelling one. Youth work, often misunderstood as purely recreational, is about relationships, empowerment and education.  It speaks to the big issues of our time, from mental health to social mobility and provides a catalyst for positive and sustainable change.

Its history goes all the way back to the birth of the industrial revolution. Youth work struggled then, and it struggles now.

So instead of lamenting the demise of youth work, Youth Work Week gives us the opportunity to rediscover and redefine it for a new generation.

The fight to get funding back is over. Instead join the NYA in calling for new investment in the next wave of youth services and let’s start to see those students embarking on their training as our pioneers, rather than the ones we expect to have to turn out the lights.

In short, let’s be optimistic about the future for youth work because young people deserve our support now more than ever.

The National Youth Agency supports professional, purposeful youth work. You can find out more about Youth Work Week at