"Youth Work" and "Youth Justice Work": What a Difference a Word Makes?

Wednesday, 13 July 2016: 16:07
Location: Hörsaal BIG 2 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Maurice DEVLIN, Centre for Youth Research and Development, Maynooth University, Ireland, Maynooth, Ireland
The field of youth justice in Ireland, as in many other countries, has moved towards an increasing emphasis on restorative rather than punitive practices and on preventative or “diversionary” measures aimed at lessening the chances of young people coming into contact with the justice system. Ireland’s Youth Justice Action Plan 2014-18 assigns an important role to Garda [Police] Youth Diversion Projects (GYDPs) in meeting its overall mission of “creating a safer society by working in partnership to reduce youth offending through appropriate interventions and linkages to services”. However, while funded by the Department of Justice, the GYDPs are almost entirely operated (and their staff employed) by youth work organisations whose mission is usually stated in terms that emphasise young people’s personal and social development, their participation and empowerment, rather than the imperative of crime prevention. These organisations now frequently house both youth justice projects and youth work projects, funded at different levels (the former more generously than the latter) and by different government departments or statutory agencies. They may also differ significantly in the extent to which young people attend and participate voluntarily. It is an aim of the Youth Justice Action Plan to “engage with other youth service providers to promote the use of crime prevention supports and a standardised working ethos in delivery of youth services”. Based on empirical research involving young people and adult workers in both types of project within the same organisations, this paper explores some of the tensions and difficulties, but also some of the opportunities and synergies that arise in these contexts. In doing so it interrogates the assumptions underpinning some of the central concepts at play, including the “work” in “youth work” and the “justice” in “youth justice”.