Network of Regional Youth Work Units England blog

A Network of Regional Youth Work Units, in England, collaborating across regions to promote good youth work and young people’s voices.

A response to Children and Young People Now…

shoesAn article in Children and Young People Now caught my eye this week, “Decline of regional youth work units ‘threatens local services’”.

As the CEO of the North West Unit I was rather surprised to find out RYWUs were in decline. Yes, there are now only six rather than eight, yes it is rather dangerous to rely solely on support from local authorities (but to clarify – Units do have other funding streams) and yes the world is continually more challenging.

This led me to reflect on RYWUs, their culture and vision and their work. In recording some of this reflection, I hope to limit the potential for future confusion about what the RYWUs do.

For the RYWUs to continue to develop and achieve the high standards needed to support young people and address disadvantage, it has been critical to understand, and share, a clear and meaningful set of values with members and stakeholders.

It has not been sufficient for the Units to sit back and be passive, so we have been taking our skills, knowledge and quest for excellence, and putting them to work with young people and organisations, local authorities, VCS and other enterprises, to achieve our goals.

The RYWUs intention is to develop ways of embedding a culture of excellence in youth work and young people based settings. This can be done by creating a positive learning environment; supporting organisations in the sector and demonstrating the effectiveness of youth work.

Successfully implementing this vision has drawn upon the quality and strength of our partnerships, the skill and competence of our organisations and our willingness to embrace and embed change. We have taken this approach in our work with all types of organisations that support young people.

The RYWUs recognise that, in the current climate, it is imperative that we seek to effectively invest in young people and support them to take an active role in society; a role in which they can contribute to the economic, political and social agenda of the communities in which they live. To achieve this we have widened our partnerships and have built and strengthened our links with the private, voluntary and statutory sector to support our sustainability.

The RYWUs are ambitious in their drive to make a positive difference for young people and as a network, we acknowledge that do this, we must embrace change. Here is the dilemma; in my head I hear the clamouring to hold on to principles and values. There is a view that people who hold those values and principles dear are dinosaurs. I do not see the two things as mutually exclusive and believe you can have a very clear – and dearly held – set of values and principles and still positively embrace change.

As a result, the RYWUs are never static but always in a constant state of development. So to me the article in C&YPN is in no way a reflection of the nature or vision of the RYWUs and undermines the work that is being carried out across the country. Contrary to the image of decline and apathy the Units are thriving, creative and ambitious, adapting and changing both strategically and operationally.

Elizabeth Harding
North West Regional Youth Work Unit


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