A Network of Regional Youth Work Units, in England, collaborating across regions to promote good youth work and young people’s voices.
I’ve been reading the recent report from the Children’s Rights Director for England, in which young people in care and in secure training centres talk about the things that would help to keep them out of trouble.
The report uses young people’s own words to explain their perceptions of what would work for them, and no-one will be surprised to hear that the two main themes are:
• More supportive families
• More affordable local activities and places to go
Access to a range of support services – so you can choose who to go to – also came out strongly.
It’s a good report and adds another dimension to the evidence that locally based positive activities (youth centres and street based work are specifically mentioned) make a huge difference in preventing young people from getting involved in crime and help them to grow up as part of communities.
The police know it, young people know it, youth workers know it, a lot of elected members know it and yet the Government and senior officers in many local authorities won’t invest relatively small amounts in locally based youth services in order to save more in reducing the uptake of expensive specialist services and custody.
As local authorities prepare for yet more budget cuts in the coming year, the focus once again is on ‘targeted support’ for young people. Increasingly this seems to be defined as individualised case work with young people whose needs have been identified through a CAF or other needs assessment framework, and have passed a defined ‘threshold’ demonstrating that they are already on the way to problematic behaviour.
It’s safe to assume that the numbers requiring this support will grow as resources are taken from preventative local provision which might stem the flow of young people at an earlier stage.
The Regional Youth Work Unit at Learning South West and Partnership for Young London recently produced the evaluation report ‘Whose Outcome is it Anyway?’ for the Youth Innovation Zone piloting youth work with young people in troubled families in Wiltshire and Bath & NE Somerset.
The young people involved in the project said they really valued the relationship with the youth workers, the fact that they were available without needing to make an appointment, and got a lot out of working together in one authority. They valued the way in which the youth workers made sure that they based their work on issues that young people identified as important, rather than externally imposed agendas. Both youth workers saw part of their role as supporting the young people to take part in local open access youth provision, so they had sustainable networks and support when the project ended.
The Young Foundation’s Framework of Outcomes for Young People identifies key capabilities that enable young people to make successful transitions to adulthood. These capabilities are more easily gained in situations where young people are collaborating in groups rather than in individual interventions.
Surely, before youth work disappears altogether as a local authority responsibility, policy makers will realise what they and young people will miss once it’s gone?
Regional Youth Work Unit at Learning South West