The youth organisation’s report advocates the use of "on-road" support workers, who combine youth work skills with an understanding of criminology, to support young people in communities affected by gang violence.
Those in this specialist role are be able to forge relationships with young people by gaining their “acceptance, approval and permission,” the report says.
This is because such workers have credibility within communities by ensuring they have an understanding of young people’s lives, including their language, behaviour and dress code.
On-road workers are then given “unprecedented access to spaces, which many practitioners and academics alike cannot and will not access”, such as housing estates and street corners.
This is where many young people choose to spend their leisure time and also where violence can occur, says the report.
Another benefit of on-road workers is their ability to manage conflict and “navigate these environments in a safe way,” the NYA says.
The report explains how on-road workers can support young people affected by gang culture’s focus on postcodes, where those from rival areas are “banned” from travelling in certain locations.
The NYA’s Responding to Youth Violence through Youth Work report details how an on-road worker has the flexibility to work with young people at evenings and weekends informally. The on-road worker can also help develop strategies with young people to keep them safe in gang-controlled communities and help divert them away from violent crime.
Report author Craig Pinkney, a criminologist and youth sector specialist lecturer at University College, Birmingham, urges youth workers “with a passion to work with young people on the frontline” to adopt the on-road model “to engage with young people around the issues of gangs and violence in such spaces”.
His report adds: “Most importantly, recognising the key components of on-road youth work contributes to the wider academic research surrounding youth work practice in the UK.
“In particular they contribute to the wider understanding of the difficulties, expectations, challenges and roles of those working on the front-line, in inner city communities, engaging with young people in violence and gang-impacted environments.”