The Detached Youth Work Programme is an outreach programme that engages with vulnerable and socially excluded young people and helps them connect with supports that will aid them in addressing their needs and achieves successful outcomes. While the target population for this programme may have needs in relation to issues as diverse as mental health, sexual health, and homelessness, most young people engaged struggle with substance misuse. Since most young people are involved in dangerous activities related to substance misuse on Friday and Saturday nights between 7 pm and 12 am, this is the time when Detached Youth Workers engage with young people on the street.
Originally developed by Youth Work Ireland Monaghan this programme identifys “hot spots” in a locality, then the Detached Youth Workers routinely visit these areas and gain the trust of targeted young people by talking to them and explaining who they are and what they do. The resulting relationship, based on mutual respect, is a productive and effective method at engaging marginalised young people and assisting them to find solutions to their problems. The effectiveness of this programme is primarily demonstrated by the numbers of young people engaged each night, how many hours are spent engaged with the youths, and how many youth are referred to other agencies that focus on the youth’s needs.
The Detached Youth Worker’s goal is to improve the outcomes of youth lives in the short term as well as the long term by focusing on their individual well-being and their social interactions in the community in which they reside. This includes working to improve the youth’s self-esteem, self-awareness, and empowerment. Building individual confidence in the youth helps the youth in the future because they will then be more independent, less inclined to engage in high risk behaviour, and have better overall health. The social implications for the youth include more stable family life, improved well-being, and increased community cohesion. In the long term, the youth are more likely to stay in school, so they are more likely to have better jobs and the community overall will be safer.
The Detached Youth Work Model can be applied to both rural and urban settings. Since the program’s launch in Monaghan in 2015, a rural area, the program has made a significant impact on the community. With about 3 workers per night session, 588 contacts with youth were made and 252 contact hours have been delivered by the project. The youth workers have discovered a dire need for mental health facilities, and that drugs and alcohol misuse are the key factors to youth self-degradation. In urban settings, such as Belfast, other services providing Detached Youth Work have found the programme to be very successful at increasing access to mainstream youth services in disadvantaged areas and supporting the specific targeting of disadvantaged areas.