A Network of Regional Youth Work Units, in England, collaborating across regions to promote good youth work and young people’s voices.
The speed of change has been incredibly rapid over the last 18 months leaving many of us reeling. The impact of reductions in budgets on local authority services and the voluntary and community sector across the West Midlands has certainly been felt everywhere.
We have seen some local authority services disappear completely; others shrink quite considerably in size and shape and others change their focus from open access provision to targeted delivery only. The voluntary and community sector hasn’t escaped either having to diversify, develop new partnerships and collaborations and in some cases shrink quite considerably.
Despite all of this, those I speak to remain buoyant in the face of change. The words resilience, change and adaptability have become the watch words for youth work. Perhaps it is because of the very nature of youth work and youth workers and our chameleon like approach to our work with young people, or perhaps it’s because we are like those things that push down and they pop up somewhere else, what ever it is – I continue to be proud of the youth work profession and its response to change and pressure.
We are currently preparing for our regional youth work conference, which its theme this year is resilience and adaptability. I am pleased to say the conference is already fully booked and an interesting range of workshops and key note speakers are also booked. It will be good to gather and re-group, find out about the latest changes and the range of ways in which youth work is responding to the pressures and changes.
I remain in no doubt about the impact of youth work on young peoples lives. Speaking to a group of young people recently, they were in no doubt about the benefits of being involved in youth work, and were able to identify increased confidence, self esteem and the opportunity to learn new skills in ways that mainstream education hadn’t afforded. These responses may be ‘anecdotal’ but to those young people these experiences had been life changing and they were grateful for the opportunities youth work had been able to offer them.
As we head towards the Easter break and the new financial year ahead, I know we will continue to face changes and challenges, yet I remain confident that youth work will continue to adapt and respond despite the ever increasing pressures.
Ruth Rickman-Williams, Chief Executive Officer for Youth Focus West Midlands