Youth Work Week 2018

Youth Work Week 2018

Sadie White No Comment

It’s Youth Work Week 5th to 11 November and time to celebrate the varied ways our youth workers help young people from across the city.

Here we talk to Lydia James, a case worker in our child sexual exploitation service and throughout next week we will profile other youth workers in different service areas.

As you’ll see the roles are varied, but all focus on providing a holistic approach to stabilising the lives of some of our most vulnerable young people.

Lydia James, Case Worker – Sheffield Sexual Exploitation Service

How important do you feel youth work is to the young people of Sheffield?

Youth work in my role is fundamental to recognising vulnerable young people and helping them to adjust their lifestyles or seek the help and support they need to get out of unsafe or risky situations and get onto a positive track. So really we are a safety net for some of the most vulnerable children and young people in our communities, providing the stability and support they may not have encountered during their lives which has ultimately left them vulnerable to exploitation.

The day to day lives of vulnerable young people are very different to young people with “normal” lifestyles. Being a youth worker you are able to differentiate between the two and understand the difficulties/barriers vulnerable young people face. We provide young people with someone in their lives to act as an advocate, to be their voice in formal situations when they are unable to vocalise their needs and wants and to fight their corner and to be their eyes and ears in the professional arena.

What does your role as a youth worker involve?

I work in the child sexual exploitation team at Sheffield Futures. My role involves working one to one with young people who have been identified as at risk of exploitation. These one to one sessions with at risk young people focus on sexual exploitation as the core issue but also offer the holistic support that is often required, so for example, support with mental health, wellbeing, family support and making the correct referrals on to the correct services. I also provide support with attending appointments such as health, counselling, housing, education and sexual health. Other parts of the role involve advocating for young people at statutory meetings that involve social care, the police, education and the courts.

How do you help your team to achieve its positive outcomes for young people?

To really help vulnerable young people it takes a non-judgemental approach and the ability to flex your style to have informal as well as formal discussions with young people. Just being there when you are needed by the young person is also important as young people have often come from unstable backgrounds and providing a stable influence is important. This also plays into the importance of building a reputation with a young person as a service that delivers and supports their needs. Good listening skills and not dictating, instructing or lecturing them on their lives, as well as helping young people to make informed decisions, accept mistakes and move them forward to prevent making the same mistakes again.

It’s also really important to keep up to date with specialist knowledge on current trends and issues within Sheffield for example, knife crime, changes in substance use, hotspot areas and culture changes.

What do you think the challenges are for young people?

A big challenge for young people and for those with the role of supporting them is a general mistrust of services, sometimes as a result of negative experiences.

Lengthy waiting lists and the amount of time that it takes to gain an appointment can be a barrier to young people getting the help they need. Young people often ask for support when they need it right there and then- they find it difficult to pre-empt when they need support and often only ask when they are at crisis point.

And a big one for me is young people believing things cannot change – even if support is in place. Young people often have negative views of themselves/ cannot see a way out of situations/ cannot “see light at the end of the tunnel”.

Sheffield Sexual Exploitation Service

How you can support us:

Find out more about how youth work transforms lives by following our #YouthWorkMatters campaign on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Facebook.

You can also write your own message of support for @SheffFutures using the hashtag #YouthWorkMatters

Please visit to find out more about what we do and how you can support us with fundraising, volunteering or as an ambassador.



How you can help

Our charity is dedicated to helping Sheffield's young people to reach their full potential and achieve the best out of life, whatever their starting point. To help us to do more to support young people and communities we need your help. Just remember, every penny you donate will make a difference.