Helping young people is complex, Detached Youth Workers need Support

May 24th 2022

Post-covid, the lives of young people are more complex than ever.

As post Covid social exclusion of vulnerable European young people becomes an increased concern, more emphasis on the role of detached workers, their training and priority is needed. Targeted detached supports for young people are needed to address increasing mental health concerns, lack of trust and lack of engagement amongst European youth experiencing challenges in school, training and employment. The importance of outreach and detached work in engaging socially excluded young people has always been known by policy makers, but has been under emphasized in past crises; we need to ensure that this mistake isn’t made again.

It will be years before we can fully understand the impact of COVID-19 on the mental health and social inclusion of the young people most acutely affected by lockdowns. Our project’s research with 33 youth organisations in five countries found in 2021 that vulnerable young people and those at risk are now more vulnerable and further disconnected than before. Follow- up research on changes to the key skills and tasks of detached workers found that the needs of young people are more complex, and that consequently identifying and supporting socially excluded young people requires greater competencies and skills.

Prior to the pandemic there were well established concerns about declining mental health for European adolescents (HBSC, 2020), A link between mental health and school avoidance has been established in systematic review (Finning et al, 2019) .

Post pandemic more socially excluded young people are avoiding school, have less trust in authority and increasing challenges in coping, resilience, anxiety (Eurofound, 2021), our recent research on changing emphasis in tasks and skills in detached workers in Europe has found that detached workers need more online engagement and research skills and better capacity to reach out and engage young people.

In the last great youth social exclusion crisis, the unemployment crisis following the 2008 GFC, policy makers identified outreach and detached work as the foundation to the interventions provided by the European Youth Guarantee. Analysis of the European Youth Guarantee suggests that it insufficiently utilised outreach and detached work (Quality Matters, 2017).

Detached and outreach work requires skill, planning and focus. Policy makers and service providers need to understand the importance of detached workers and ensure that youth workers with competencies and skills are in place to secure successful transitions for socially excluded young people.

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