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Youth Sector

How can a trusted adult outside the family help keep a child safe, and what positive activities can support young people from becoming involved in violence?

Children need the help and support of trusted adults like youth workers and sports coaches in their community. 

The Youth Endowment Fund has a mission, which is to prevent children and young people from becoming involved in violence. We plan to work closely with seven sectors (Youth, Policing, Youth Justice, Children’s services, Neighbourhood, Mental Health and Education) that make up a crucial part of the wider system that supports children. As we grow our knowledge and understanding of the evidence, working with you will be key to keeping children safe and giving them a brighter future.  
The youth sector includes a vast number of stakeholders like you who commission youth provision, fund youth provision or deliver programmes and activities to reach children. That is why we are focusing our work with the youth sector system on two priorities areas, ‘trusted adults’ and ‘positive activities’.  

Why are we focusing on trusted adults?

  • Children who tend to be vulnerable often escalate through statutory thresholds and are likely not detected by services. This leads to greater harms as they accelerate whilst not having any support in place. These children can access a trusted adult who can begin to give them the support they need.  
  • Lives are being cut short, often enough this is supported through serious case reviews as statutory systems are working under resource pressures. Youth workers as Trusted Adults can be a bedrock of support who are specialist at working with children with the highest levels of need. For example support for children is offered once a child has committed an offence, bringing them to the attention of the youth justice system. 
  • Children who mistrust adults engage better when it’s on their own terms (attending is not mandatory but voluntary). This relies on building trusting relationships that children see as beneficial thus increasing their engagement.  
  • In our approach to finding what works, we’ve strengthened the evidence base for youth work specific interventions, which are available on the YEF toolkit and summarised below. 
  • It’s important that we work with the sector to continue building evidence in the youth sector, which will leave a legacy for both decision makers responsible for keeping children safe and delivery organisations that work directly with children. 

Why are we focusing on positive activities?

  • Children access a large range of enrichment opportunities that are based in sport, the arts and the outdoors. We know that there are a number of programmes across ENgland and Wales that deliver programmes to reach children who live in neighbourhoods where this activity provides safe spaces for children to learn, build skills, improve their health and regulate their behaviour.  
  • Coaches and other type of key staff are fundamental to providing these opportunities for children and build strong relationships through their offer. 
  • The different settings allows for children with different interests to access these structured activities with a qualified adult. 
  • These enrichment programmes are popular and key stakeholders would benefit from a strengthened evidence base. This includes key decisions makers such as Sport England, Sport Wales, the Arts Council and delivery organisations working closely with children. For example sports programmes is rated to have a high impact on reducing violence but currently there are significant evidence gaps, particularly in high-quality research from English/Welsh contexts. 

Toolkit evidence

See below evidence from the YEF Toolkit about approaches to reducing violence that are often used in the youth sector:

Estimated impact approaches evidence quality
(30%+ less violence)
A and E navigators
1 2 3 4 5
Sports programmes
1 2 3 4 5
Social skills training
1 2 3 4 5
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
1 2 3 4 5
(10%-30% less violence)
1 2 3 4 5
Relationship violence prevention lessons and activities
1 2 3 4 5
Bystander interventions to prevent sexual assault
1 2 3 4 5
(2%-9% less violence)
Adventure and Wilderness Therapy
1 2 3 4 5
Arts Programmes
1 2 3 4 5
Knife crime education programmes
1 2 3 4 5
(increased violence)
Boot camps
1 2 3 4 5
Prison awareness programmes
1 2 3 4 5


Explore more approaches on YEF’s Toolkit summarising the best available research evidence on preventing children and young people’s involvement in violence.

Changing Practice

What should youth work commissioners, funders and delivery organisations do to prevent violence?  

In April 2024 we’ll publish our youth sector briefing which is aimed at any stakeholder responsible for commissioning or delivering youth provision that is focused on reducing youth violence in England and Wales.  The sector briefing will provide us with opportunities by identifying key gaps. These gaps will drive the design around commissioning research to address those gaps and give us findings both in the form of practice and potential recommendations to the system. 
The practice guidance will be launch in March 2025 after we’ve conducted a year of research, this will create implementation resources that we’ll share with key defined stakeholders likely to be delivery organisations and those responsible for commissioning.

Changing the system

How should the education system change to better prevent violence?   

In December 2025 we’ll launch the system guidance. This will build on the new knowledge we have acquired from the research commissioned informed by the sector briefing findings from Aril 2024. The system guidance will set out to summarise 5-7 clear recommendations derived from the research of what we’ve found to work. The system guidance is likely to address senior leaders, policy leads in government departments, funders and commissioners of youth provision. The goal is to get the system guidance which summarises actionable evidence-based recommendations into the hands of key stakeholders who can respond by pushing these recommendations in the youth work system.  

A central feature of building guidance at YEF is undertaking consultation and challenge with key stakeholder groups. Our work this time is supported by an expert panel, including senior youth provision professionals, academics with expertise in youth work approaches and a YEF Youth Advisory Board member.  

To gain knowledge of what works, we are evaluating our funded projects in the youth sector, of which are listed below.