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Child and Youth Services in Germany

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Tasks and fields of work > Assistance and support

Youth social work

... is an aid to integration for socially or personally disadvantaged young people

  • that supports them in academic and vocational training,
  • helps them integrate in the labour market, and
  • assists them in integrating in society.

… bridges the gap between school and working life

… is provided in the shape of

  • youth social work in schools (school social work),
  • vocational services for young people (youth vocational counselling),
  • integration projects for, e.g., young members of the immigrant community, and through outreach (streetwork).


Youth social work refers to the infrastructural services offered by child and youth services to assist young people in transitioning from school to working life. These kinds of services are aimed at a specific target group that Article 13 of Book 8 of the Social Code (SGB VIII) describes as requiring heightened assistance in overcoming social disadvantages or personal difficulties. In other words, youth social work operates at the interface between the education system and the labour market.

This field of work remains largely undefined. At its core, it provides socio-educational assistance as young people transition from education via vocational training to working life. However, it also can involve placing individuals in suitable housing with socio-educational support (while they undergo professional integration); low-threshold outreach services for difficult-to-reach target groups, such as streetwork or mobile youth work; and youth migration services, whose integration and support activities are aimed at young members of the immigrant community.

Youth social work in schools, or school social work forms part of the youth work field and is aimed at socially or personally disadvantaged pupils. Its socio-educational services complement those offered by the school and help to address any deficits that students may have. This helps both schools and pupils to better achieve their primary formal education objectives (and in turn ensure employability upon graduation). Over the last two decades, however, the concept of social pedagogy in schools has become quite remote from its origins as stated in Article 13, meaning that school social work from primary to upper secondary level – often funded by the schools or school authorities themselves – is frequently an entirely natural element of the school system.

In 2021, the relevant legislation was amended to reflect this fact. Article 13a now states that school social work is to be understood as socio-educational services provided to young people in school settings. Article 13a also references the competences of Germany’s 16 federal states in the field of education and in turn, the 16 different education acts by stating that the specificities and scope of school social work are to be defined at federal state level. Under federal state law, it is possible to delegate the provision of school social work to other providers in accordance with other types of legislation.

Youth vocational counselling comprises vocational services such as youth workshops, in-training assistance, and vocational training services provided in external training facilities for adolescents and young adults whose personal and/or social situation means they are unable or barely able to participate in regular vocational training. These services are a socio-educational complement to the services offered by the Employment Agency and job centres to adolescents and young adults who encounter problems as they try to get started on the labour market.

Both areas of youth social work (school and work-related) (see Child and youth services and cooperation with schools and Child and youth services and the labour authority) operate in the context of powerful social systems with which child and youth services, with its socio-educational profile, must align itself. In operating at this nexus, child and youth services mostly has to operate as if at an away game, as it were; it must leverage its potential in entirely different organisational and conceptual contexts. The overbearing nature of these other systems is also reflected in the fact that youth social work is normally funded from different sources (the federal states and according to Books 2 and 3 of the Social Code). From a legislative point of view, child and youth services takes the back seat in these systems and can only make a comparatively small contribution to meeting the needs in this area. in 2017, nationwide spending on youth social services amounted to EUR 614 million, meaning that just 1.4% of the entire child and youth services budget was spent on youth social work. According to the Federal Statistical Office (2018, 13 ff.), at the end of 2016 there were 645 school and vocational youth social work providers, of which 63 (just under 10%) were publicly run.

Further reading
  • Kooperationsverbund Jugendsozialarbeit: Selbstdarstellung. See:
  • Pingel, Andrea (2018): Jugendsozialarbeit. In: Böllert, Karin (ed.): Kompendium Kinder- und Jugendhilfe. Wiesbaden, p. 737−754.
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