History of Youth Sector by Reena Begum (Business Administration Manager)

Posted on: 17/11/2020 in
Martin Luther King Jr once said “We are not makers of History. We are made by History” A strong quote that helps define not just a History of our past efforts but how we learn from it.

On the 26th November 2020, I will be celebrating my Second work anniversary with Young Hammersmith and Fulham Foundation. Oh my, how has the time flown by, I remember like it was yesterday, being appointed for the role of the Office Manager, eager to start and also nervous, hoping to make a first good impression with my new colleagues. I have had experience working in the third sector before, but not much involvement around youth sector. So, I was keen to learn!

My role gives me the flexibility to be versatile, so in the last two years I have watched and got involved in the amazing works my colleagues do in the front line of bringing together the public, private and voluntary sectors to effect positive change for young people.The passion and determination to succeed for our members and partners and constantly thinking of new innovated ways to help our members sustain in their direct localised delivery within the youth sector.

This got me thinking along with the inspiration from my colleague Linda’s blog on ‘Virtual Socialising’. How could I take my love of history and archaeology, which I am currently studying in undergraduate BA (I know what you probably thinking, she’s working and studying at the same time, where does she find the time?! LOL), and incorporate it with the sector that I work in.

The light bulb moment kicked in! And I decided to look into the history of youth sector, how did it all begin, where and why. Some common questions a future trainee historian would ask?... (aka ME! LOL).

So, my research begins and do not worry this is not some lengthy essay (Shhhh! Do not tell my university lecturers LOL)

The history of Youth Sector goes back to the industrial Revolution in the 18th Century, when for the first-time young men would leave home to migrate to big towns.

This started a wave of a new youth culture in urban areas. The local people decided instead of viewing it has a negative impact they chose to embrace it and provide opportunities to address the needs for young men.

Between 1844 -1900 The YMCA organisation set up my George Williams in London to cater for the spiritual and emotional needs as well as physical needs for young men who left the comfort of their homes and families.

Unfortunately, the early years of the youth sector within London was discriminative amongst genders. Young women was not seen has a priority and was deemed to suit the role of homemakers. On the contrary, Maude Stanley in 1878, a pioneer youth worker acknowledged the discrimination and started to focus around helping young women and she went on to establish the Girls Club Union.

The true birth of youth work started with the local people and wanted to invest in the future generation and give them a platform for the young people voice to be heard. It was not until the aftermath of Second World War and in the Service of Youth, the British government started seeing the importance of youth work and started to organise service to deal with youth within war time Britain.

In the 1960s, it was known as the golden age for youth work, from the publication of ‘The Albemarle report and the development of youth work in England and Wales’This report had a significance influence on how youth work can be developed and around what was perceived as an emerging ‘youth problems’. The main argument of the report analyses how media amplified growing concerns in the new climate of crime and delinquency by the youth and the ‘youth problem was predominantly viewed as a working-class problem. As a result, the committee made proposals aimed at forcing the service to develop a contemporary, youth friendly approach. Based their youth work and needs of young people through their lived experience and not just from the narrative of the media perspective.

I really enjoyed reading this report that influenced the youth sector in Britain, please read the full report at your own leisure, I have hyperlinked the title of the report…Happy reading!

Coming in power by the Labour party in 1997 saw the shift in changes from decline of state-sponsored youth work. They empathised on the dealing of social exclusion and rather focus ‘youth services’ they aimed at dealing with ‘services for youth’. The overall effect of these movement radically altered the perception of youth workers and how their time was best valued within the youth sector by engaging with young people to understand their needs, rather than completing mountains of paperwork.

I found this research very interesting of where it all began and some of the significance changes made to the voluntary youth sector from local people taking initiative to British government incentives after the national services of young men. I can write pages of pages on the history of youth sector, but I will stop here in case I have bored you LOL.

From my perspective as history researcher and working in the sector, lot of changes have been made over the years within the sector for us to be where we are today. However, have we truly learnt from the past is the question I am wondering?! Negative narrative around youth problems from the media and poverty associated with youth problem still pretty much exist today, will it still always be a problem within society, or can it be changed in the long term?! One thing we definitely learnt from the past is not to discriminate among genders, youth sectors today provides support to all genders regardless of differences.

I hope you enjoyed my little research and who knows this could be a start of a more in-depth research for future dissertation…. How exciting! 😊

These are the websites that I found useful for my research:

Inspirational History Quotes:


Author: Pierre Bourdieu – What is youth work? Exploring the history, theory, and practice of work with young people


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Below is a picture of Maude Stanley