The policy context

In this page


What is youth work?

The Statement on the Nature and Purpose of Youth Work defines youth work as "an educational practice contributing to young people’s learning and development."

Youth work engages young people within their communities: it acknowledges the wider networks of peers, community and culture, it supports the young person to realise their potential and to address life’s challenges critically and creatively, and it takes account of all strands of diversity.

Youth Work has three essential and definitive features:

  1. Young people choose to participate
  2. The work must build from where young people are
  3. Youth Work recognises the young person and the youth worker as partners in a learning process

Age range

Youth work’s focus is on the 11- to 25-year-old age group with particular emphasis on 11- to 18-year-olds. It acknowledges the need to connect effectively with early intervention programmes and provision which focuses on children under 11 years.

The Youth Work Outcomes articulate the difference that youth work makes with, and for, young people in Scotland.


The Youth Work Outcomes in the wider world

The Youth Work Outcomes are impacted by, and impact on, a wide range of local, national and international policies, strategies and legislation. The Youth Work Outcomes Model highlights four of the most significant policy areas and the whole model is underpinned by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.


You can download a full-size interactive version of the Youth Work Outcomes Model here.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) is an international treaty, ratified by the UK Government in 1991. The UNCRC includes a set of moral and legal entitlements to children and young people aged from birth to 18 years – and includes 54 articles which ensure the protection of children, the provision of supports and services to children, enshrines their participation in decision making, civic, cultural and social life, and ensures that adults take responsibility for promoting these rights. This framework provides an excellent scaffold for the Youth Work Outcomes Model.

In Scotland public bodies, including local authorities, must report every three years on how they furthered the UNCRC, the first of which will happen in 2020. Scottish Ministers must keep the UNCRC within their consideration when making decisions and they must promote public awareness and understanding of the rights of children. The Scottish Government have developed a Children’s Rights and Wellbeing Impact Assessment.

Independent of Government, children’s rights are protected and promoted in Scotland by the Children and Young People’s Commissioner who is appointed by the Scottish Parliament.


The Outcomes' contribution to national policy

National Performance Framework

The Scottish Government established a National Performance Framework to provide focus for the Government and public services to work towards a shared purpose. The National Performance Framework has been revised and updated in 2018, reducing the number of national outcomes from 16 to 11. The revised outcomes have taken a presumption of mainstreaming of equalities – therefore young people’s needs and interests should be considered across all 11 outcomes. These national outcomes are reflected within Local Outcomes Improvement Plans - the mechanisms by which Community Planning Partnerships deliver improved outcomes for their communities. They are based on a clear understanding of local needs and reflect agreed local priorities, as well as the National Performance Framework. 

National Youth Work Strategy

The National Youth Work Strategy 2014-19 is a joint Scottish Government, Education Scotland and YouthLink Scotland publication. There are five key ambitions in the youth work strategy, and two of these specifically relate to outcomes for Scotland’s young people. In achieving outcomes for young people through youth work, there is an expectation that the youth work sector can contribute to these ambitions. The Strategy is supported by an implementation plan and reference group. In 2017, an Interim Report was published, recognising progress and achievements of the strategy to date. The Reference Group published the Priorities and Actions for 2017-19 in 2017.

Curriculum for Excellence

Curriculum for Excellence provides a framework of experiences and outcomes for individual learners aged 3-18, wherever they are being educated in Scotland. Curriculum for Excellence establishes its purpose through defined attributes and capabilities for learning which will achieve the four capacities of Successful Learner, Confident Individual, Effective Contributor, and Responsible Citizen. The experiences and outcomes are a set of statements which describe the expectations for learning and progression across curriculum areas. In addition to the eight curriculum areas, there are responsibilities of all (including youth work practitioners). They are: Health and Wellbeing, Literacy across Learning, and Numeracy across Learning.

Getting it Right for Every Child (GIRFEC) wellbeing indicators

GIRFEC is the national approach in Scotland to improving outcomes and supporting the wellbeing of our children and young people by offering the right help at the right time from the right people. Wellbeing is a core element of the Getting it Right for Every Child approach. The assessment of wellbeing makes reference to eight wellbeing indicators: safe, healthy, achieving, nurtured, active, respected, responsible and included. The wellbeing of children and young people is protected in legislation. The National Practice Model is a single model for the assessment, planning and action needed to identify outcomes and solutions for individual children and young people, which allows practitioners from any organisations to take appropriate, proportionate and timely action.

Quality improvement in youth work

The Youth Work Outcomes and Indicators aim to support the youth work sector to evaluate their practice and drive improvement so that youth work is the best it can be for young people.

There are other quality improvement mechanisms used in the sector for self evaluation, improvement and inspection:

There are clear synergies between these mechanisms and the Youth Work Outcomes and Indicators; mapping will take place in 2018-19 to explore these connections.


How were the Youth Work Outcomes and Indicators developed?

In January 2016, YouthLink Scotland formally launched the Youth Work Outcomes Model. The development of Youth Work Outcomes emerged from an initial discussion at a meeting of Local Authority Youth Work Managers (LAYWM) and National Voluntary Youth Work Organisations Scotland (NVYOS) in June 2014, about the need for 'shared outcomes' for Scotland’s youth work sector.

The development of the Outcome Model was sector-led, building upon the Statement on the Nature and Purpose of Youth Work. An initial draft of an Outcomes Model was created following a workshop that included representatives from LAYWM, NVYOS, and the YouthLink Scotland Policy Forum. In June 2015, the outcomes were agreed by the members of YouthLink Scotland and approved by YouthLink Scotland's board. Since then the youth work sector has led development and testing of a set of indicators which support the model and the development of this online toolkit.


More in this section

Back to top