So, what does a Regional Youth Work Unit actually do?
Ah, August, that time for holidays and catching up on jobs you should have done months ago. This week, here in the Regional Youth Work Unit at Learning South West, we’ve been looking back at the achievements and statistics for 2013/14 so we can put together for our annual report.
At the end of each year, I’m always surprised by the number of things we’ve actually done and the number of people we have reached, in spite of huge changes (mostly for the worse) for the youth sector and the challenge of making less money go even further.
This year’s highlights include:
Young People’s Voice:
- Our Sounds Positive Project successfully completed its fourth year of promoting positive stories about young people in local and regional media. We have trained 706 young people as Media Champions, and developed partnerships with 20 media organisations in the region. As a result, there have been 2,365 recorded positive press mentions for South West young people.
- Our South West Young Researchers group produced a fantastic report on young people’s perceptions of the content of a ‘curriculum for life’ to be included in the new National Curriculum. 32 young people were involved in the project, and 20 of them achieved a recognised research award at Level 2. Their report was submitted to the Youth Select Committee organised by the Cabinet Office as part of its review of the National Curriculum.
- Young people from the South West’s thriving Youth Parliament took part in the Youth Select Committee review. Despite major budget reductions at local and national level, UK Youth Parliament in the South West goes from strength to strength, with 58 Members and Deputy Members of Youth Parliament elected by their peers in 2013/14, many of them making an impressive contribution to their annual debate in the House of Commons, where they agreed that the top priority for campaigning in 2014 should be for votes at 16. In autumn 2013, 43,745 South West young people voted for their priorities in the ‘Make Your Mark’ campaign, making us one of the highest turnouts in the country.
Regional networks, conferences and events
- Information about our networks and events reaches 729 individuals, who all receive our monthly e-bulletin and have opportunities to attend training and specialist network meetings – and we’ve organised some great events including:
- 48 delegates have attended our ‘Making a Difference’ training, helping them to develop their skills and techniques for engaging young people in decision making about services.
- Our annual conference in November ‘Slotting the Pieces Together – new roles for youth work’ attracted 60 delegates to explore new opportunities for youth work and areas for collaboration with other sector colleagues, notably in new forms of delivering learning for young people who might otherwise abandon formal education
- In partnership with South West Forum, we delivered four Master Classes in Devon & Cornwall on measuring impact in the voluntary children and young people’s sector. Forty-two individuals attended the classes which covered qualitative and quantitative impact measurement, commissioners’ expectations, and ways of engaging young people in measuring the impact of services.
- As the provision of youth work becomes increasingly a ‘local’ priority, we built on our work with Parish & Town Councils in 2013/14 by organising a conference attended by 43 individuals from Parish & Town councils to enable them to learn from existing best practice and develop their own offer to young people.
A sustainable youth workforce
- 38 organisations – youth work employers and training providers – have become members of our South West Training Innovation Partnership (TIP). TIP aims to ensure that the supply of youth work training opportunities matches demand, despite major changes for both employers and training providers. Sadly we were unsuccessful in our Employer Ownership of Skills bid to build youth work delivery and training into a strategy to tackle regional youth unemployment, but smaller scale developments continue.
- We worked with Bournemouth, Poole and Somerset Councils and the voluntary organisations in their areas, to enable 30 learners to successfully complete a level 3 Diploma in Youth Work Practice. We have also increased the capacity for the youth sector to assess learners with 3 new assessors and an Internal Quality Assurer achieving qualifications
Creative Youth Work
- Thanks to Heritage Lottery Fund, we worked with Dorset Museums and SW TUC on a project called Heritage Heroes that enabled young people to research and produce materials about South West individuals who have made a difference by raising their voices to protect or extend their rights. The project looked at the Tolpuddle Martyrs, suffragettes and early female Members of Parliament, as well as individuals who had challenged racist regulations and extended opportunities for black and minority ethnic groups.
- We facilitated a Young Writers’ Forum in Taunton, where young people who want to develop their creative writing came together to learn and share their work. This was a great project, resulting in young people having work published in the local press, and parents noticing a big change in the confidence of group members.
And these are the highlights (and the elements I can remember) – the day to day contact with youth workers, managers and policy makers, providing advice, guidance and trying to influence policy direction to try to ensure that young people have access to good quality youth work in places and at times that suit them, with workers who are confident, creative and skilled, is not so easy to explain, and has fewer publicly visible benefits.
But it all forms part of the role we play in a region that has seen enormous reductions in funds available for youth work, through local authorities and major funders such as Big Lottery Fund. Despite the cuts, youth workers and those who understand the value it brings to young people and communities are determined to keep it going – and keep it good.
The Regional Youth Work Unit is part of the architecture that underpins and reinforces good youth work – and with the help of our members and supporters we hope we’ll be writing annual reports for many years to come!
Gill Millar – Regional Youth Work Adviser