Detached Youthwork – the last remaining outpost for pure youthwork

Today i paid a visit to a detached youthwork project in County Durham (Consett detached project) to meet their team, discover their history, and find out the things that energise and frustrate them. One of their staff had been doing detached work in the community for over 20 years, in fact had done detached work for the parents of some of the young people currently out on the streets, it was a fascinating insight into long term detached work, long term investment in an area, in groups of young people, in young people individually and yet despite all the work that they had done, trying to make this level of quality work, fit the criteria expected of funders was a desperate and heartbreaking challenge. It reminded me of the recent issues surrounding Kids Company, not the issues, but the lack of funding for good work.

Despite this, it was the same volunteer that said in passing, that what he was doing was the ‘pure youthwork’ – this was said to me by a council youthworker in Perth ages ago, and that was to me working for a voluntary/christian detached project. The commendation and labelling of detached as ‘pure youthwork’ still rings true, and to those of us who ‘get detached’ and also ‘get youthwork, for its philosophy/values and education, we are maybe in a privaledged position, a dangerous challenging one ( to meet ‘scary’ groups of young people on the street) to be the first point of call, to work in the margins, to do irregular shifts, to work outside – all sometimes in the name of realising that these fleeting, but momentous, voluntary, educative and inspiring moments with young people can occur. Its pure youthwork, its maybe the only place left for it, on the streets.

Maybe detached was always this anyway, and now given the reduction in attention given to young people (because people are on phones all the time), and the stretched nature of specialist services for them, detached youthwork because of its relative cheapness, might bridge the philosophy gap in practice from the closure of the youth centres to the hoped for new youthwork of the future, detached keeps the youthwork dream alive.



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