Joanne Walker-McGowan: “Working with rather than for partner organisations: re-defining the role of youth work in safeguarding young people from extra-familial harm.”

In Students by General Account

The research focuses on how youth work can safeguard young people from extra-familial harm (EFH- harm that young people encounter in places they spend their time outside of the home). Open access youth work that is informal, voluntary, relational, collective and shaped by young people’s agendas can play a distinctive role in safeguarding young people from EFH. Despite this, across Europe youth work’s potential to safeguard young people from harm is not recognised. Youth work’s role is instead defined by neoliberal ideologies. Dominant practice models for youth work frame it as a vehicle of social conformity with a role to play in supporting other key safeguarding partners, such as The Police and Social Care, in safeguarding practice. This has resulted in youth work working to the agendas of these other sectors agendas which often blame young people for harm they experience, and which are struggling to work with and protect young people from harm in their communities. The study will explore the ways a social justice approach for youth work can create safety for young people experiencing EFH. The study employs a unique ethnographic methodology to understand how safeguarding is created, practiced, and experienced in relation to EFH in an open access youth work organisation. The research will be crucial to understanding how youth work can safeguard young people on their terms and how the youth work sector can work with rather than for partner organisations to improve the welfare of young people.