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Detached and outreach youth work

Statement of intent


Through our A trusted adult themed grant round, we want to learn how helping to build trusted adult relationships, outside of the family environment, can lead to improve outcomes for children and young people who have been or are at high-risk of being affected by violence, offending and/or exploitation (which are sometimes called tertiary level interventions).

We know that trusted adult relationships play an important role in detached and outreach youth work. And we know that detached and outreach youth work are commonly used practices within the youth work sector. But what we don’t know – because of a lack of robust evidence – is how effective these two approaches actually are in keeping children and young people safe from violence.

One reason why there’s a lack of robust evaluations is because it’s so difficult to do. Delivery is often really different in different areas. It’s complicated and strongly influenced by the needs of young people and what’s happening in their local area.

Because of the uncertainty around the impact of detached and outreach youth work, as well as the challenges that come with effectively evaluating the approaches, we made the tough decision not to include it as part of our latest A trusted adult grant round (find out more about what was in scope here).

Instead, we wanted to take the time to better understand how detached and outreach youth work are delivered and – ultimately – how we might effectively research and evaluate their impact. To do this, we engaged and consulted key practitioners, influencers, policy leaders and researchers who have experience of detached and outreach youth work.

We’d like to publicly thank all the individuals and organisations who responded so enthusiastically to our call for information and we’re now able to share our next steps.

Update – March 2023

From our consultation, you told us that detached and outreach youth work:

  • is a popular and widespread approach undertaken by youth sector practitioners.
  • can reach children who are vulnerable and are at high-risk of being affected by violence, offending and/or exploitation.
  • has distinct principles and practices.
  • are typically delivered by organisations that are often underfunded.
  • monitoring of young people is typically challenging.

The stakeholders we consulted with also shared our belief that, although the practice is popular, there isn’t enough robust evidence to link it to improved outcomes for children and young people.

Next steps

To generate more robust research on detached and outreach youth work, we first need to understand whether it’s possible to effectively evaluate the practice. To help us do this we’re pleased to announce that we’ve partnered with the Centre for Evidence and Implementation (CEI), YMCA George Williams College and Bryson Purdon Social Research. Together they will assess the feasibility of evaluating detached and outreach youth work.

The results of this work will help us decide whether further investment in this area is likely to lead to new insight and evidence that will further our understanding of what works to prevent children becoming involved in violence.

The feasibility study will begin in March 2023 and conclude in December 2023. The results are planned to be published in Spring 2024.

Project protocol

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