A Network of Regional Youth Work Units, in England, collaborating across regions to promote good youth work and young people’s voices.
At the start of July, the Yorkshire and Humber Unit said goodbye to Miriam Jackson and hello to Charlee and Patrick. Being new to the Unit and its work, with the prospect of a glorious summer ahead, we embarked on a journey of discovery – visiting as many local authorities as we could.
Now, as the summer is coming to a rapid close, we reflect on what we discovered.
The Yorkshire and Humber region has 15 Local Authorities, and 10 of these have given up their time to tell us about the developments and enormous challenges within their services and to share how the Unit could continue to support Youth Work across the region.
The way services have responded to the challenging financial climate can be placed along a continuum, from one extreme where everything is still being delivered, if on a smaller scale, to a withdrawal from all ‘open access’ delivery and a hand over to the voluntary sector, with Youth Worker time focused on ‘case load’ – the Troubled Families, Targeted Youth Support initiatives and Targeted Group work. You can place each area somewhere along this line, and while areas have developed similar strategies, no two areas are the same. Regardless, all have been creative, developing new ways of responding to need. For example, developing ‘referral’ processes and applying them to all work, such as detached, evidencing impact and outcomes.
One area that is the same is the need to develop partnerships or co-productions with the voluntary sector to support the Youth Offer.
The voluntary sector has varying degrees of support, either financial such as being commissioned or bidding for pots of money or match funding in the form of access to resources, staff, capacity building and mentoring time. All of which will enable them to fill gaps; deliver in new ways or encourage the community to be more involved in delivery.
That people are creative when faced with limited options.
That managers at the highest levels and Councillors play a vital role in fighting for youth work and maintaining it. If there is no one there to fight for it, it has slipped away, possibly for good.
That staff are going through a massive change and need support.
The voluntary sector is under huge pressure to deliver on even more limited resources both financial and knowledge.
Questions remain for us however.
Are all volunteers up for the challenge of working with the hard to reach / emotionally and behaviourally challenged / drunk / sexually active teen? Or are these the ‘targeted’ groups? What do we do when volunteers can’t make sessions because their own lives have to take precedence, or they have other commitments.
Open Access / universal youth work was considered part of the Tier One Provision in supporting children, young people and their families, can it still be considered as part of the package? How are smaller youth work deliveries monitored, quality assured, and do they have capacity to do the paper work? Who is intelligence gathering – and who is that being passed to? And who is carrying out follow up work as a result?
We would love to hear your views – please share your comments on the thread below.
Youth Work Unit – Yorkshire and Humber