Volunteers in youth clubs

Working for a youth club can be fun, exciting and offer many opportunities to people equally it can be hard, stressful and draining. This blog aims to look at what volunteering is within a youth club, what issues may arise and how to try and avoid/deal with them.

So what do volunteers do? Pretty much whatever you tell them to do (with the exception of not doing what you tell them) because they work for you! They will start with a range of knowledge about your service, some may already have a huge involvement in the youth club ,others may not. There are jokes about engineers asking the new apprentice/employee to go look for the left handed spanner and these jokes are around for a reason, new people especially ones without experience will do what you ask them to. This in itself is an issue if the volunteer has no briefing within the work place, for example are the young people allowed to graffiti on the wall? Some youth workers may see this as a form of expression and ownership and some may see it as a lack of respect and attempt to deface others property. Every centre will have it’s own rules and ways of functioning , volunteers need to be aware of these before having responsibility over them.

Why do volunteers volunteer? Their reasons are always different, I have come to this conclusion from my own experience of working with many volunteers and previously being one. For example: some may need to volunteer as a form of accredited award such as the Duke of Edinburgh (DofE), others may be local individuals who are looking for a career in youth work, many young volunteers would simply like the work experience and responsibility of working before they are ’employable’ at 16.

How do youth clubs get volunteers? Usually they are members who show a level of commitment to maintaining the centre, sometimes their high school suggests they come to work in youth club for award (DofE or Welsh Baccalaureate seem popular locally). Some may just decide they like the youth club and use volunteering as a way of spending more time there.

What issues can be experienced whilst volunteering?

Using the volunteer as a member of staff, the whole idea of a volunteer is that they are working because they would like too (they have chosen to be there) and not because it is their job such as with paid staff. When too much pressure is put on people in this situation they begin to lose the incentive to continue working. Sometimes volunteers have been used to substitute for a paid member of staff creating huge pressure on the individuals . Things can be a bit more innocent than this though and sometimes volunteers are offered more work because they are good at it and youth workers think they’ll benefit from it when in actual fact the young person is just too shy to say no.

Volunteers being too informal with other groups of youth club members, for example a 17 year old who is working with a group of 13year olds might add them on social networking sites, swap number and give them hugs. This would not be an issue if they were young people hanging out together but as they are working in a youth club some would argue that they have responsibility to be professional.

Howard Secombe explains that youth work by its nature causes boundary issues, relationships between worker and member are usually friendly ones. Friends are avaible at leisure time and are often welcome in each others personal spaces (eg. their house) this could cause a ‘conflict of interest’ for youth workers and volunteers. For example what if a volunteer has a youth club member on facebook and the member posts a status explaining they have been under-age drinking on the streets, would the volunteer try to interfere with the individuals choice over the internet? Or would they wait until they are next in work to tell the other staff and deal with it as a team? This option would involve sharing information which the young person has not disclosed within the youth club and breaking the ‘friendly’ relationship they had.

Another issue with volunteers is that they will have their own opinion of what ‘youth work’ is. They may have gained this through experience or from watching youth workers. If they are not included in the paperwork, staff meetings and recording of small outcomes how will they know that youth club activities have any difference from school activities? Youth club at times can be similar to a school but their is usually the exception that is it a voluntary participative process (unless it’s taking place within a targeted scheme or accreditation). When volunteers see an activity at youth club do we explain that no-one has to participate and that people can choose to sit around and do nothing?

How to (hopefully) avoid these situations

One of the best ways to deal with these issues may be to have some form of training with volunteers. If we train volunteers in the issues that they could experience then hopefully they will understand how to deal with them more effectively, which should benefit them, the rest of the team and the youth club members. Another thing is that each volunteer is different and will want to work in their own way, there is usually no ‘job description’ for a local youth club volunteer, some would like to serve in tuck shop, some would like to shadow-work members of staff and some would like to establish their own projects such as forums, committees and trips. Not pushing them to do more but not assuming they can do less will only be reached through relationship and for that close supervision may be required.

Hear I have only covered some basic issues from my own experience and some suggestions I thought up myself, please comment on other issues and ways in which they can be improved. As always this blog is open to debate and my thoughts are not set in stone -they are merely an observation.

Thank you


Secombe, H. Youth Wokers as Professionals. In Banks, S (ed) (2010) Ethical Issues in Youth Work (2nd Edition). Oxon: Routledge.


A participative outlook on work

Youth work within it’s aim is hugely participative.

Many texts on the purpose, origins and explanations of what constitutes youth work/informal education and what defines it explore that participation is one of the most important factors of work with young people. The choice to come to youth club or talk to a street worker is a leading factor in the relationship between an adult and young person not beginning negatively. Tony Jeffs, Mark Smith, Janet Batsleer and Kerry Young are all within the list of youth work authors outlining the importance of participation and relationship. Within the Youth Work Curriculum Statement for Wales participation is valued as one of the four pillars of youth work, giving youth workers the guideline that ‘education’, ‘participation’, ‘expression’ and ’empowerment’ are paramount to the delivery of youth work.

Within my own experience I can remember looking back on my training as a volunteer by my local authority, we are given these four pillars as a bases for our work and youth work was hailed as a changing form of education which was important to the development of people’s lives, we were encouraged to begin measuring ‘small outcomes’ of our work for example: during a cooking exercise people need to use skills such as reading, measuring, planning, cleaning, team working and communication. Alongside this consultation was to be the beginning of every piece of work: here is where the participation came in, young people were asked what they would like to do and we would plan (preferably with them) how to go about it.

After a switch in line-management due to a promotion of my previous boss although much consultation was done, and many options arose they were often considered as too expensive or discouraged from continuing, this in fact had the opposite reaction of what many youth work authors describe youth work as; the young people began to ‘lose faith’ in our youth service and began to believe their ideas and hopes would not become a reality.

It has been many years since that time, I actually left the youth club in question as I couldn’t handle the oppression I felt and that I then had to put on young people, I had given up on the youth service. Luckily I was talked into other voluntary opportunities by friends/colleagues and eventually gained another job. If I had the management I had back then in my new job I would surely feel more confident to challenge it, thankfully I do not! However, I still feel the financial pinches of working within a government service which is being drastically cut.

This year a project group I work with has looked for external means, firstly they applied for funding which was unfortunately dis-continued without explanation and secondly they have written to a local counsellor for help with their aims (currently pending reply). I hope we can gain external help so that the group beings to achieve some of the aims they’d like to. These are a group of 10-20 people aged 10-17 whom are looking to create local sporting opportunities in their own areas of interest and for their own leisure/development.

In order to gain more internal and external support for the youth service pressure seems to be on practitioners to provide membership numbers and recorded outcomes from their services. I feel measuring outcomes is great but also I think something important is over-looked ‘partnership work’ and getting outsiders to look into our work and influence it. Parents, teachers, health professionals, police, fire workers, charitable youth provisions, and all the other social groups that aren’t just ‘young people’. If we could integrate these people in our work and let them know exactly what we do and how we do it I think we would have a much more recognised profession. In this way I am suggesting that youth work becomes slightly more community focused in approach however I would never suggest we take the ownership young people feel over youth centres and projects away, that defeats my point.

Please feel free to feedback, comment and make discussion, I am no expert just a pratictioner looking for ways to improve my field.

Thank You

Un-employment for young people and alternative options

It’s 2011 we’re in a recession and unemployment has been increasing. We have the highest unemployment statistics that we’ve had in 17years according to the Guardian, Metro and other newspapers reporting this week. On 13.10.2011 the Metro’s Political Editor wrote that in August this year the number of unemployed young people reached ‘the brink of 1million’. Guardian’s writer Katie Allen wrote the same one day earlier and also stated that people aged 16-24 were the ‘worst affected by the slowdown in the labour market’.

Making assumptions about the reasons why people aged 16-24 have the highest unemployment rate one might consider a number of issues. In a competitive market they are less likely to have the desired work experience employers may be looking for, may be lacking skills during interviews and their C.V’s may not have a particular ‘selling’ factor that others have gained through years of experience.

So considering this I began to wonder how we as youth workers, community workers and educators are preparing young people for a competitive job market and how the school curriculum offers people the skills they need to find work and have the best chance of gaining employment? On a larger scale I wondered how are the Government supporting young people and preparing them with vocational skills or at least planning to?

Government and localised authorities are clearly aware of this issue and refer to young people not in education, employment or training as ‘NEET’. During my time at university we have explored many options for NEET young people and indeed some of us have jobs in these areas. Pupil referral units, mentors and youth workers in schools have been introduced to encourage people who are struggling to stay in school, many colleges and organisations offer vocational type or skill based courses as well as the government having many work-focused schemes.

A ‘bad’ example of a training scheme:

Before reading the Metro and Guardian articles I over-heard a conversation from a group of boys on a local bus; they were discussing how one of them had £5 of his wages taken from him for ‘messing around’ and how one person had had £10 taken from them (which was the equivalent of a whole days wages). As a nosey youth worker, young person and concerned citizen I felt I had the right to ask these people more about their experience, they explained they were on a work-experience training scheme during which one of them while mopping the floor splashed the ‘boss’ costing him half a days wages-£5. The other individual after losing his days pay decided to go home after working a further two hours.

I can not help but be critical of this story, I told the boys that I felt this was not an example of work; when in work do we get paid £10 a day? When in work do we have our wages deducted for messing around with no option to contest? And when in work are we allowed to go home due to loss of wages? I felt the boys had been subjected to injustice and was angry.

From this experience it appears young people are being offered the opportunity to work for next to nothing so that they are technically in some form of ‘training’ I plan to explore this issue further and too find out exactly what schemes are available to help people and how much of a benefit they are within my area. If anyone has comments, suggestions or knows of successful/unsuccessful schemes aimed at unemployed people or young people in the UK please comment I would be grateful.

Thank you

What’s in a name?

Hello there and thank you for reading my first blog @ pedagogyuk.wordpress.uk

Within my blog I hope to write about social issues effecting young people and the community, with the hope that people can relate/disagree and comment.

Why did I choose the name pedagogyuk? Well to be honest most names are taken and I was surprised this one was not, pedagogy refers to the education of people and focuses on changing the educational style to fit those whom are learning, it is usually used to refer to educating minorities or majorities who may be oppressed by a current education system. Being a youth and community worker I think very highly of education both structured and subconscious and so pedagogy is a topic close to my heart.

For more info please look up Paulo Friere’s work ‘Pedagogy of the oppressed’ (which a lot of people find isn’t easily read and may chose to read a summary of the book by other authors) or take a look at this (from a youth/community work website established by Mark K.Smith) http://www.infed.org/biblio/b-socped.htm

Thank you!