Thomas, Paul (2011) Proving our Worth? Youth Work, 'Race' and Evidence. Youth and Policy, 107. pp. 18-33. ISSN 0262-9798

The Education Select Committee Inquiry into Services for Young People has raised challenging issues around the impact and benefit of publicly-funded youth work, explicitly suggesting that the evidence base for the positive impact of such work is limited. This article suggests that such an assertion is misplaced, and contributes to the assembly of data around the positive impact of youth work by drawing on existing academic evidence to examine impact in relation to issues of ‘race’, racism and ethnic identity. In doing so, it suggests that any discussion of ‘impact’ should not simply accept limited and mechanistic understandings of impact in relation to what youth workers do with young people, but should also consider what youth work enables policy-makers to know and understand about the experiences and perspectives of young people, what it tells us about society when youth work provision is not available, and how key public policies are actually understood, operationalised and experienced at ground level. In this way, the article also argues for more youth work-based research that examines youth work’s engagement with policy initiatives and important social problems.

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