Youth work has three essential and definitive features:
Youth work covers a broad scope of activities of a social, cultural, educational or political nature by, with, and for young people. Increasingly, such activities also include sport and services for young people. Its value is recognised in the Council conclusions on youth work and documented in a study released in 2014.
Youth work is based on non-formal and informal learning processes, and has a unique role as a provider of non-formal learning opportunities to all young people.
Youth work has an impact on young people's lives and helps them to reach their full potential. It contributes to their personal development, autonomy, and sense of initiative, but also facilitates their participation in society.
Youth work belongs to the area of "out-of-school" education, as well as specific leisure time activities managed by professional or voluntary youth workers and youth leaders.
Youth work is organised in different ways – by youth-led organisations, organisations for youth, informal groups or youth services, and public authorities.
Youth work is delivered in different forms and settings (e.g. open-access, group-based, programme-based, outreach, and detached) at local, regional, national, and European level.
Its effectiveness has led an increasing number of organisations – for example those working in youth justice and health improvement programmes – to develop a youth work approach. This shows the many ways youth work can be applied, enabling young people who might otherwise be alienated from support to get the services they need.