Module 5: young people, society and AOD: learner's workbook

Approaches to service delivery

Page last updated: 2004

The development of the resources brings together two approaches to service delivery:

  • work with young people
  • alcohol and other drug work
The two approaches which underpin these resources are summarised in the content below.

Working with young people
Alcohol and other drug work
Training approaches

Working with young people

A systems approach is the most appropriate model to understand and work with young people. A systems approach assumes that no aspect of behaviour occurs in isolation, rather it occurs within a wider context. In other words, to understand young people we need to consider the individual, their family, the wider community and society as a whole as well as how they interact with each other.

The systemic youth-focused approach assumes that:
  • Young people deal with challenges in ways similar to other people in society (some well, others not so well). Young people develop their coping strategies and skills by learning from others around them, through their own personalities and through trial and error.

  • The term 'youth' is a social construction. Societal values and beliefs about young people determine the way in which they are treated within society (for example, young people are viewed differently in different cultures).

  • Young people are not a homogenous group. Although young people share some common developmental issues, their backgrounds, experiences and cultures are as diverse as the rest of the population.

  • Young people participate actively in their lives, make choices, interact with others, initiate changes and participate in our society. They are not passive victims of a dysfunctional society, family or peer group.
The following social justice principles guide work with young people:
  • Access - equality of access to goods and services
  • Equity - overcoming unfairness caused by unequal access to economic resources and power
  • Rights - equal effective legal, industrial and political rights
  • Participation - expanded opportunities for real participation in the decisions which govern their lives.
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Diagram 1: Youth focused systems approach

Text equivalent below for Diagram 1: Youth focused systems approach - risk & protective factors

Text version of Diagram 1

This diagram shows the risk & protective factors that contribute to possible outcomes:
  • Local community factors
  • Societal & political issues
  • Family factors
  • Individual characteristics
  • School & peer factors.

Alcohol and other drug work

Harm minimisation is the most appropriate approach for working with alcohol and illicit drug issues. The goal of harm minimisation is to reduce the harmful effects of drugs on individuals and on society. Harm minimisation assumes that while we cannot stop drug use in society, we can aim to reduce the harm related to using drugs. Harm minimisation has three components: harm reduction, supply reduction and demand reduction.

A variety of drugs, both legal and illegal, are used in society. There are different patterns of use for drugs and not all drug use is problematical.

Large proportions of young people try alcohol or other drugs, including illicit drugs, without becoming regular or problem drug users.

Drug use is a complex behaviour. Interventions that try to deal with single-risk factors or single-risk behaviours are ineffective.

Drug use represents functional behaviour for both young people and adults. This means that drug use can best be understood in the broader context of the lives of the young people using them. Any interventions need to take the broader context into account.

Training approach

These training resources are based on the following principles:Top of page
  • Training is consistent, supports a national qualification and provides a pathway to a qualification.

  • Training is based on adult learning principles. It should:

    • build on learners' existing knowledge, skills and experience

    • utilise problem-based learning and skills practice, and

    • develop critical thinking and reflection.

  • Training is to be flexible and available through a variety of methods. Examples include workshops, self-directed learning, distance learning supported by a mentor/ facilitator and work-based learning.

  • Work-based learning provides participants with the opportunity to reflect on current work practices, apply their learning to the work situation and to identify opportunities for organisational change and development in their workplaces.

  • A key learning strategy of the resources, supported by individual, group and work-based activities, is reflection: alone and with peers and supervision. To reflect upon and evaluate one's own work, the types of intervention used and the assumptions they are based on is crucial to working more effectively.