Introduction

There has been an implicit understanding (‘promise’) that each generation will leave the next generation better off. This may longer hold true. In shaping a positive agenda we need to address their lives as young people in the present, as well as being an investment for the future in the face of societal, technological and economic challenges. This paper sets out a ‘new’ promise or Youth Covenant.

“Youth” is the adolescent developmental phase between childhood and adulthood that brings significant physical and emotional changes. It requires particular skills to support young people at an important time for making significant life choices, to safely explore risky impulses, form new relationships and take on new challenges. Adolescence starts around the beginning of puberty and finishes in the late teens, but with critical stages of transition from 8 years old and as young adults typically up to 25 years in particular for vulnerable or marginalised young people.

Where help and investment in early years and older people is well-recognised and reflected in public policies, the Youth Covenant helps ‘make the case’ with a clear narrative in support of adolescence as a period of life that brings significant physical and emotional changes; the latest neuroscience tells us that the teenage brain undergoes huge physical changes during adolescence which impact on behaviour, self-image, social interactions and decision-making. It is also an important time for making significant life choices and decisions, increasingly complex social interactions and dealing with an online world. The Youth Covenant provides a framework for the youth sector and providers to take a lead with young people, supported but not prescribed by Government.

Aims

A high-level strategy for young people to support their place and sense of belonging as a nation and across communities: what we want for and expect from young people

  • A ‘covenant’ to guide expectations, support and services for young people
  • With special consideration for vulnerable young people who may suffer abuse, neglect, exploitation, or homelessness, and for whom the state acts as corporate parent

Why youth work

The Youth Covenant is underpinned by the values and contribution of youth work. Where youth work is a form of education which provides a safe place to develop so-called ‘soft skills’ and a social network, to improve young people’s well-being and personal and social development including:

  • Life skills (family and relationships; physical and mental health; digital and social media)
  • Economic (engaged in education and employment; financial literacy; social mobility)
  • Social integration (community and decision-making; social action; anti social behaviour)

Therefore youth work needs to be (and be seen to be) transformational, harnessing skills of young people not fulfilled by formal education

  • Where youth work provides a safe place to be creative
  • Providing and developing a social network and friendships
  • With a trusted adult (who knows what is needed)

Contact: LeighM@nya.org.uk, NYA CEO

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