New research reveals the positive impact of youth work in Edinburgh

We're delighted to publish today new research which demonstrates the positive impact youth work has on young people’s skills, confidence, wellbeing and access to opportunities. 

The Impact of Community-Based Universal Youth Work in Edinburgh study worked with youth groups from across Edinburgh to identify the key elements of youth work which helped young people achieve positive changes in their lives. 

A research partnership between YouthLink Scotland, Edinburgh University, Northern Star and Lothian Association of Youth Clubs, collected ‘significant change stories’ from almost 100 young people from nine voluntary youth work organisations working with Edinburgh youngsters. 

The research showed that young people who had engaged with youth work services learnt new skills and behaviours, became more confident, made new friends, developed positive and supportive relationships with their youth workers, and significantly improved their wellbeing.

Some of the key findings include:

  • 74% of young people said that youth work had provided them with skills for life
  • 4 in 5 young people benefited from improved confidence
  • 71% of young people said youth work helped them develop and maintain positive relationships
  • Almost a third of young people credited youth work with helping them vocalise thoughts and emotions

The research analysed testimonies from both the 96 young people and the youth workers they engaged with, giving a context for how each participant had developed over a number of years. 

One participant, aged 17, said: “When I started here, I was at CAMHS every day for my anxiety and depression. I didn’t really have any friends or anything that I enjoyed doing. I was very suicidal but coming here has made me decide to keep going when I’m at my lowest… I know I wouldn’t have the strength I do today if I had never started coming along.” 

Dr Amy Calder, YouthLink Scotland’s Senior Policy and Research Officer and part of the research team, said: “Youth work has an important role in increasing young people’s skills and confidence, by providing opportunities and, building and maintaining positive, respectful relationships. Youth workers in Edinburgh provide a key and crucial service for local young people. It offers them a safe and welcoming space where they are encouraged to have fun and challenge themselves.” 

Laurene Edgar, Lothian Association of Youth Clubs added: “This research not only reinforces to voluntary youth work organisations in Edinburgh the impact of services provided for young people, but it will be used with a variety of stakeholders to demonstrate why community-based youth work needs continued investment for prevention and early intervention."

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