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Youth Work

National Quality Standards Framework for Youth Work

The National Quality Standards Framework for Youth Work was launched in 2010.

NQSF establishes a single, standardised framework that will act as an overarching structure to ensure and enhance quality service provision.

On launching the framework, Minister Barry Andrews stated:‘The National Quality Standards Framework for youth work (NQSF) is primarily a support and development tool for youth work organisations and projects, which places young people at its centre,’ said Minister Andrews. ‘While the concept of standards in youth work is not altogether new, it is clear that there was a need to establish a single, standardised framework that would act as an overarching structure to ensure and enhance quality service provision’.

‘The implementation of the Framework is a strategic priority for my Office,’ noted the Minister. ‘I encourage all stakeholders to implement and engage cooperatively and constructively with the NQSF, which will prove to be of significant and sustainable benefit to youth work and to the young people who engage in these services,’ he concluded.

Also speaking at the launch was Diarmuid Kearney, CEO of Youth Work Ireland, who said: ‘in launching this National Quality Standards Framework for Youth Work, Minister Andrews is echoing the determination of the sector to work for a society where all young people are valued and involved’.

Representing the youth work sector, Eddie D’Arcy, President of the National Youth Council of Ireland, welcomed the NQSF initiative saying: ‘feedback from organisations involved in the pilot NQSF phase has been particularly positive with all organisations expressing satisfaction both with the framework and the positive outcomes for their own organisations.'

‘The approach taken for the design, piloting and implementation of the NQSF is one of partnership between voluntary Youth Organisations, the Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (OMCYA) and the Irish Vocational Education Authority (IVEA). The same approach has also led to the production of the other two valuable programmes being launched today and is an approach valued very much by the voluntary Youth Organisations,’ continued Mr D’Arcy.
After the launch of the NQSF, the Minister introduced two publications aimed at supporting those working in the youth sector – Addressing Homophobia: Guidelines for the Youth Sector in Ireland and Starting Out – A National Induction Training Programme for Volunteers engaged in youth work practice.

Minister Andrews welcomed the publication of the Guidelines for Addressing Homophobic Bullying, which were developed by BeLonG To Youth Service and funded by the OMCYA. ‘These guidelines will help ensure that youth work policies and practices work proactively to ensure the inclusion of all young people within safe and supportive youth services’, stated the Minister. Commenting on Starting Out – A National Induction Training Programme for Volunteers, Minister Andrews noted: ‘this is a significant publication outlining an agreed training programme, which will support volunteers who are fundamental to the provision of youth work’.

To download the publication visit: NSQF 2010 publication

What is youth work?

Youth work has been enhancing the lives of young people and adults in Ireland for more than 100 years. It was given formal statutory recognition in the Youth Work Act 2001, which defines youth work as:

A planned programme of education designed for the purpose of aiding and enhancing the personal and social development of young people through their voluntary involvement, and which is complementary to their formal, academic or vocational education and training and provided primarily by voluntary youth work organisations.

Youth work is above all an educational and developmental process, based on young people’s active and voluntary participation and commitment. It is often defined as ‘non-formal education’. Youth work is for all young people, with particular focus on those aged 10 to 25 from all aspects of Irish life, urban, rural, all nationalities and social classes. Youth work is provided primarily by voluntary organisations, with statutory support from the Department of Education and Skills and the Education and Training Boards.

Our vision is for all of our young people to have ambition for themselves, to be confident individuals, effective contributors, successful learners and responsible citizens; and to be nurtured, safe, active, healthy, achieving, included, respected and responsible. We believe that youth work has a significant role to play in realising this vision for young people.

The purpose of youth work:

  • To build young people’s self-esteem and self-confidence;
  • To develop their ability to manage personal and social relationships;
  • To offer worthwhile and challenging new experiences;
  • To provide learning opportunities to enable young people to gain knowledge and develop new skills;
  • To build young people’s capacity to consider risks and consequences and make informed decisions and take responsibility;
  • To help young people to develop social awareness and a sense of social solidarity;
  • To give young people a voice in decision-making which affect their lives;
  • To enhance young people’s role as active citizens;
  • To listen to and hear what young people have to say.

How does it happen?

With a focus on process in which the active and critical participation of young people is essential, the methods adopted and the programmes and activities engaged in by youth workers and young people are very diverse, including:

  • Recreation, sport and indoor/outdoor pursuits
  • Arts and culture, including drama and the Irish Language
  • Citizenship, social action, youth participation, rights and equality issues, the environment, development education and politics
  • Welfare and well-being including health promotion, relationships and sexuality, stress management, first aid, drugs, alcohol and smoking
  • Life skills, such as leadership, teamwork, planning and decision making, communication, problem solving, initiative and responsibility
  • Critical Analysis and creative and reflective thinking
  • Intercultural and international awareness activities and exchanges
  • Information technology

What are the values of youth work?

The values of youth work match the purpose of education and are fundamental to the process, raising the confidence of individuals, their contribution to society, and their value as citizens. These values are

  • Empowerment of young people
  • Equality and inclusion
  • Respect for all young people
  • Involvement of young people in decision-making
  • Partnership
  • Voluntary participation

What are the benefits of youth work?

Youth work adds value to the lives of all young people, helping them develop lasting skills and attributes, and can particularly affect the lives of young people who are vulnerable or disadvantaged, or are most challenged by school. It can help to build confidence, provide role models, open up new experiences and give young people a sense of belonging.

For young people

Youth work is both educational and enjoyable; both fulfilling and fun along with those that take part have more opportunities and more options for the future.

For communities

Youth Work is about adults and young people working together, building community spirit and playing an active role in the development of their communities

For society

Youth work tackles real social issues, it combats disadvantage, it enhances democratic life and it’s huge value for money!


Definitive features

  • Youth work is about voluntary participation
  • Young people are involved in youth work because they choose to be, because they want to do worthwhile, enjoyable things in their free time in the company of their friends and interested, supportive adults, both paid and volunteer
  • Youth work ‘starts where young people are at’
  • Youth work is flexible and versatile in its approach. It starts with young people’s own interests and ambitions and helps them to expand their horizons
  • Youth work is about partnership
  • In youth work the young people are active partners in making decisions, planning programmes, setting priorities. The youth work relationship is based on dialogue between young people and adults



Youth Work Act 2001

In December 2001, The Youth Work Act became Law. It confers certain responsibilities onto the Minister for Education and Science, namely to develop and co-ordinate youth work programmes and services including co-ordination with education and other programmes. The purpose of this act is to provide a statutory framework for the provision of youth work programmes and services by the Minister, VECs and by the National and Regional Youth Organisations.

See the text of the Act:



Volunteering opportunities in youth work

This page is a one-‘start’-shop for anyone interested in volunteering in youth work. It brings together information on where you can find volunteering opportunities, what a prospective volunteer can expect and what will be expected of you, as well as support, advice, research and a wealth of free downloadable resources!

What is Youth Work?

The Youth Work Act 2001, defines youth work as: A planned programme of education designed for the purpose of aiding and enhancing the personal and social development of young people through their voluntary involvement, and which is complementary to their formal, academic or vocational education… find out more >>

What is the National Youth Council of Ireland?

The National Youth Council of Ireland (NYCI) is the representative body for national voluntary youth work organisations in Ireland. NYCI is not a youth work service provider but represents and supports the interests of voluntary youth organisations and uses its collective experience to act on issues that impact on young people... find out more>>

What is the role of the volunteer in Youth Work?

Youth organisations continue to be volunteer-led and voluntary youth leaders provide a very high percentage of direct work with young people through youth clubs, youth projects, youth services and youth information services. The role of the volunteer is central to youth work provision in Ireland.

Find volunteering opportunities in Youth Work: has a comprehensive database of volunteering opportunities which you can search here >>

Remember to choose your local volunteer centre and select the category ‘Youth/Children’

What supports can a volunteer expect from youth work organisations?

NYCI resources for volunteers and organizations involving volunteers:


  • Volunteering & volunteer support in the youth sector

Resource pack outlining support available.
Download >>


  • Starting Out

The National Induction Training Programme for Volunteers engaged in Youth Work Practice.
Download >>


  • Child Protection

Individuals who volunteer with young people should expect to undergo Garda Vetting >>
Download the Information Pack on the Garda Vetting Consortium>>


  • NYCI Report: Lending a Hand - Young People and Volunteering in Ireland

The first comprehensive report on young people’s experience of and attitude towards volunteering in Ireland. The results provide a timely insight into the untapped potential of youth volunteering and the barriers many young people still face.
Download >>

Find out more:

If you are interested in learning more about a specific area of youth work, more information is available from the NYCI work areas below:

Links to further information:

  • NYCI member organisations are listed here. Many have branches and clubs all over Ireland.
  • Contact your local VEC (Vocational Educational Committee) and get in touch with the VEC Youth Officer via your local VEC.

Ways and Means of Working with Older Teens Conference

“Ways and Means of Working with Older Teens” was NYCI’s annual thematic conference which took place in 2009.

The conference examined the social context and the role of youth organisations; seeking to identify opportunities and develop positive, creative and innovative ways of working with and providing supports for older teens.

The one day event facilitated debate and discussion on the barriers and challenges of engaging with and working with older teenagers in the current climate, and explored opportunities and methods of improving practice and service delivery.

The conference included inputs from keynote speakers followed by a series of facilitated roundtable discussions, which resulted in the identification of best practice recommendations for workers, youth organisations and NYCI. A report will be published in early 2010 with the outcomes of these discussions.

Download the Conference Report (Accessible PDF 395KB )

Keynote address by Dr. Paul Millar



NYCI Annual Conference 2010 - Dealers in Happiness

NYCI's 2010 Annual Conference for the youth sector is “Dealers in Happiness”, took place in November. It examined the role of Youth Workers in promoting positive mental health in young people.

Venue: Emmaus Centre, Swords, County Dublin.

The conference is open to all youth work practitioners both paid and voluntary, those working with young people in other settings and managers in the community along with voluntary and statutory sectors to share good practice, experience and learning. This event will provide the opportunity for youth workers to reflect on their role in promoting positive mental health and explore practical strategies for workers to assess and respond to the mental health needs of young people. Inputs from keynote speakers will be followed by a facilitated Q&A session. Practical workshops will be hosted in the afternoon by a number of key professionals working in the field.

Registration fee: Euro 45

Download the Conference Brochure and Booking Form

To make an enquiry, or book a place contact

Lisa Hyland or Elaine Lowry on 01-478 4122 or e-mail or

Location of the venue:

Location map of emmaus centre Dublin - source openstreetview

National Youth Work Development Plan 2003-2007

This plan sets out a strategy for the first five-year plan for the development of youth work in Ireland and is the first sustained examination of current youth services and their relationship with other aspects of youth policy and provision.

It explores the challenges facing the youth work sector, depicts a vision of youth work in Ireland and sets goals and actions for the development of youth work from 2003-2007.


Interculturalism in Youthwork

NYCI seeks to promote and encourage an intercultural and anti-racist approach as a sustainable feature of youth work in Ireland. We aim to promote equality of opportunity, interaction, understanding, respect and integration between different cultures, ethnic and religious groups as we see difference as something positive that can enrich a society.

The following objectives are included in NYCI's current strategic plan.

  • Actively promote participation between all young people from diverse backgrounds on an equal footing in youth work opportunities.
  • Recognise and respect differences/diversity and strive to ensure youth work opportunities are inclusive of all communities in Ireland, including young people and youth workers from ethnic minorities and members of the Traveller Community.
  • Seek to ensure all our policies, procedures and practices reflect an awareness of intercultural issues.
  • Look to mainstream an intercultural ethos, policies and practices into the everyday work of youth organisations and within the sector.

NYCI how has a dedicated site for it's Intercultural work at