Critical Youth Work

Podcast 042: Thinking Critically About Youth Work

Critical Youth Work

In todays episode of the Ultimate Youth Worker Podcast, “Thinking Critically About Youth Work: Part One”, Aaron speaks with Dr. Brian Belton about the need for youth workers to be critically reflective about who we are as professionals.

Over the years we have had some really great deep web chats with Brian, but this is the first face-to-face!! I mean he lives in the UK and Aaron is here in Australia! Critically thinking about youth work is something that both Brian and Aaron are very passionate about and we hope these two podcast sessions help you to re-think what you thought you knew about youth work.

Thinking Critically About Youth Work: Part 1

Podcast 042 Brian Belton

Brian Belton (FB: @Dr. Brian Belton LI: @Brian Belton) is an international consultant and academic specialising in youth work, supervision and identity studies. Previously he was the Director of International Education, Research and Training at the YMCA George Williams College, London.

Coming from an East London/Gypsy family, Brian played a leading role in the youth gang life of that area in the late 1960s/early 1970s.  While attending Burke Secondary Modern School, Plaistow, he had his brushes with the law (at times more of a large broom). However, with the guidance of Jesus (and a couple of tough but fair coppers) he entered youth work as a volunteer and part-time practitioner in the docklands of the late 1970s.

While working in youth work related situations around the world, including Israel, the Falkland Islands, Germany, the USA, Thailand, Hong Kong, Zambia, South Africa, China and Canada, Brian’s interest in identity and ethnicity flourished and today he is an internationally recognised authority on Gypsy Ethnicity, and the rights of Roma in Europe, having written widely on that subject, delivering papers most recently in the USA, Austria, Greece, Sweden and Slovenia as well as around the UK.  In has recently concluded a three year research programme focusing on the social exclusion of Roma with partners in Spain, Germany and Turkey.

Gaining his professional qualification from the YMCA College and went on to became a Senior Youth Worker in Bethnal Green, employed by the ILEA before achieving a BSc at City University.  Returning to the ILEA he took charge of a major community project in Islington. Spending some time as an area youth officer, Brian successfully completed Masters studies at the University of Essex.

On joining the staff of the George Williams College he started his doctoral work, and gained a PhD in 2000

Currently Brian is developing a growing, worldwide network of practitioners and academics concerned with the exploration of youth work and is starting a project looking to develop a profile of youth work across European Commonwealth Countries, in association with the Commonwealth Secretariat.

Please enjoy this podcast!

Dr. Brian Belton

What was your favourite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.




You’re listening to the Ultimate Youth Worker Podcast with your host, Aaron Garth [00:20]

Dr. Brian Belton Biography [01:30]

Paediatric Nurse Julian frames how he has seen youth workers [06:30]

A good number of people were defensive about youth work [09:30]

Lets think about this… [09:40]

First comment from Sarah [10:30]

Chris Comment [10:47]

Asking the right questions about doing youth work [12:30]

Is doing our best at thing that we aren’t good at a good idea? [14:00]

School/youth work project [15:00]

Jacks and Jills of all trades [17:30]

Policy and law missing from youth work education [17:45]

Youth work as a colonial experience [19:00]

Youth work should not be clandestine [23:00]

Youth work and empowerment [24:00]

Authority, Responsibility and Power [26:20]

Youth work is a journey [30:45]


“Most youth workers I’ve come across seem to act like 3rd rate teachers, clueless social workers, amateur psychiatrists (kiddie curers) or jaded child minders”. – Julian, paediatric nurse

“I think what he [Julian] was talking about is how we have been corralled” – Brian Belton

“We need probably to think a little bit harder about what we want to be, what we can be and what we should be” – Brian Belton

“If anything worries me a little if i am serious, it worries me that if we can’t look at our practice in this way, in this reflective critical manner” – Brian Belton

“Too much agreement kills a chat” Elderidge Cleaver

“Why do we want to do what you might call our best? Isn’t there a case for actually asking the whole question about doing stuff?” – Brian Belton

“The idea that we can be all things to all people and that we should be congratulated for just doing our best, seems to me to be very misguided”- Brian Belton

“i’ve often talked about youth workers as being, we’re sherpas. We walk alongside you. We carry a bit of the load. So that you can take YOUR journey. Whatever journey that is. Whichever mountain YOU are going to climb” – Aaron Garth


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Aaron Garth

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe, Esther, Niamh and son Ezra.

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