YOUTH work evolved out of philanthropic and Christian social reform work in the late 19th century. Progressive women started to work with female mill workers to foster learning outside work, encourage better housing and improved social and educational facilities. The first youth workers' union, The Manchester Girls Clubs Workers Union, was founded in 1886 and ran for seven years. Out of this movement the idea of rescuing and advancing young people who were vulnerable evolved into an informal youth service managed by voluntary sector organisations.
In 1938 the Club Leaders' Association was formed by 10 women youth workers to create a respected and separate group of educationists to ensure the provision of high-quality informal educational facilities for young people.
Nancy Astor, the first female MP, was one of the association's first vice presidents. Several key figures wrote pioneering theoretical texts in the field include Pearl Jephcott and Josephine McAllister Brew.
Under the 1944 Education Act local education authorities have a duty to provide "adequate" facilities for young people. However in the 1950s many voluntary organisations felt LEAs were simply not doing enough to support such work.
An ensuing campaign for greater state funding led in 196061 to The Albemarle Report which said there should be separate training and qualifications for youth workers. This resulted in national collective bargaining for youth workers and led to a massive programme of investment by LEAs in the creation of youth service departments.
Over the years the youth workers' association changed its name several times, became a central association of the National Union of Teachers for 27 years (1961-88) and then asserted its independence once more as the Community and Youth Workers' Union.
Today the CYWU has 4,000 full-time professional youth and community worker members as well as part-time and volunteer members. The union, which continues to grow rapidly, is the leading body for negotiating the pay and conditions of youth service workers. It also plays a key role in shaping training and qualifications.