We had some really interesting and thought-provoking presentations last week at our Policy Convention: Youth Work is Human Rights Work and a big thanks to all of the contributors.

YouthLink Scotland, CEO Tim Frew

One of the presenters reminded me of how a misguided conceptualisation of “youth” and “adolescence” can be used to deny young people their rights. The same could be said of the term ‘transition’. Check out this article which covers a similar theme.

Being critically aware of the problematisation of “youth” and “transition” by adults and social policy makers is vitally important if we are to fulfil our obligations as trusted adults in young people’s lives and as critically reflective practitioners. Outcomes 6 and 7 of our newly refreshed Youth Work Outcomes and Skills Framework remind us of the vital role youth work plays in raising young people’s consciousness. We want to support young people to “grow as active citizens, expressing their voice and enabling change” and to “broaden their perspectives through new experiences and thinking”

The iwill Scotland initiative is just one of many great examples of young people leading the way in shaping the world around them through volunteering and social action and it was great to see their work featured in a debate in the Scottish Parliament last week.

Whatever our understanding and use of the term “transition”, it is clear that young people are at the front row of change both personally and in the world around them. Too often they are bearing the brunt of significant societal upheaval, whether it be child poverty, climate change, or the lingering impact of COVID. With child poverty on the increase we must recognise that even though youth work has little ‘control’ over the economic and political forces that affect young people, we can and must seek ‘impact’ through our many and varied services to prevent and alleviate poverty and inequality in Scotland. The National Youth Work Conference in November and accompanying Link Magazine demonstrated that impact in spades.

As well as these significant societal changes we have also been engaging with the Scottish Government around social policy changes affecting children and young people, whether it be continuing to advocate for full implementation of UNCRC or taking an active role in the discussions on education reform. I have been motivated by the active participation of the sector in these discussions, galvanised by the many young people who have felt let down by the system. I remain hopeful that despite the gloomy outlook and the difficult times we have come through, a new National Youth Work Strategy will signal the intent of policy leaders to make good on the promise that Scotland becomes a place where all young people grow up loved, safe and respected so that they can realise their full potential. For that outcome to become a reality, youth work’s critical role in delivering such positive outcomes for young people needs to be fully recognised. That’s what’s on my Santa wish list – what’s on yours?

Tim Frew, CEO, YouthLink Scotland