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The dynamic nature of risk practice: A study of youth practitioners’ accounts of risk in work with young people

TURNBULL, GAVIN,JOHN (2017) The dynamic nature of risk practice: A study of youth practitioners’ accounts of risk in work with young people. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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The concept of risk has played an increasingly dominant role in policy and practice around children and young people over the past twenty-five years. From risk-factor based ‘prevention’, ‘early intervention’ and surveillance, to the identification of young people as ‘vulnerable’, ‘at-risk’ or ‘risky’, risk has become central to the planning, management and delivery of youth practice. This has taken place in a changing organisational and professional context, where neo-liberal managerialism has led to confidence-based standardised bureaucratic systems, while notions of risk- management, blame, and mistrust have displaced trust in organisations and in professionals. The research that informs this thesis draws upon semi-structured interviews with twenty-eight front-line youth practitioners from across England in order to explore how those working with young people in informal youth contexts engage with ‘risk’ and risk discourses on a day-to-day basis. The study finds that practice is infused with different risk-based decisions and actions, and that practitioners employ complex ‘situational practices’ in order to navigate this ‘risk- world’, balancing the needs of young people, the organisation and their own interests and safety. Their decisions are multi-faceted, informed by bureaucratic processes, the perceived interests of young people, notions of humane practice and personal experiences and drivers. The study also identifies that, with organisational risk- and responsibility-aversion and a retreat from practice, the front-line practitioner is often expected to operate in a responsibilised grey area in order to respond to young people, potentially subject to individual blame or personal harm if problems arise. Young people’s risk construction is also malleable in the context of situational rationalities and, particularly with austerity-driven service cuts and risk-based prioritisation, practitioners are faced with amplifying (and at times attenuating) young people’s risk biographies in an attempt to meet needs. This, it is argued, leads to a commodification of young people, and youth in general.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:risk; young people; professional practice; youth work
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Applied Social Sciences, School of
Thesis Date:2017
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:08 Mar 2017 08:26

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