Blog: Rebekah Leedham on the Institute for Youth Work

9 Dec 2014

My role is to support the development of the Institute for Youth Work which is something that I’m particularly passionate about as a youth worker myself. Every day is different as i could be visiting youth work students, speaking at conferences, leading workshops, liaising with organisations, identifying resources, designing our website or going tweet crazy!

I began my journey with NYA as an intern. My experiences working with young people in voluntary sector, local authority and social enterprise settings had made me realise that a support network for youth workers is vital. Like many youth workers, I’ve experienced fantastic programmes coming to an end, staff teams being re-structured and the ongoing challenge of defending youth work and its importance.

There are more and more youth workers working alongside those from other disciplines as well as many who have set up social enterprises to try and address gaps that have been exposed by funding cuts. This can be very challenging and often isolating which highlights the overwhelming need for a support network within which youth workers can share best practice, receive updated information and strengthen the voice of youth work.

The past year has been a massive learning journey working for the National Youth Agency who have committed to launching the IYW and, a year later, we have over 700 members including volunteers, youth work students, managers and even retired youth workers! Many organisations have also pledged their support for IYW and it has been great, as well as sometimes challenging, visiting youth workers across the country to discuss the importance of a membership body.

I’ve also met lots of youth workers who are dubious about joining IYW as they are not sure what it stands for. The truth is that the main strength of the Institute will be the voice of its members who will shape and drive the IYW forwards. We need a Council to make this happen who will be elected by members in early 2015 so it is a very exciting time!

I strongly encourage anyone who is passionate about youth work to join and help influence the development of IYW. A very experienced youth worker recently told me, ‘youth work hasn’t changed. The context and environments in which we work may have changed but the ethos and principles of youth work remain the same.’

This is why I hope you will join with me to help shape, strengthen and promote the IYW ensuring that the values and principles of youth work remain at its heart.


Rebekah Leedham
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