A Network of Regional Youth Work Units, in England, collaborating across regions to promote good youth work and young people’s voices.
Having a regional overview, one can see the oncoming devastation to youth services and services to young people. Headlines such as ‘Youth centres, libraries, children’s services in firing line as Trafford council slashes another £24m from budget‘ and ‘Major Youth Services shake up‘ are becoming more common.
In light of this, articles such as one that recently featured in Children and Young People Now, “Call for Youth workers to tackle gang mental health problems…” make me smile, albeit wryly. It is a great suggestion as is the one I heard on Radio 4’s ‘Any Questions?’, the one of youth workers engaging with young people to challenge radical and extremist views in all communities. But it is as if I live in a parallel universe. Where are these youth workers? Where is the co-ordination, the training and the professional development? It is easy to be despondent (and probably with good cause).
Then you look around again and there is some fantastic work being done and youth work values and principles being upheld. I couldn’t help but be heartened by Kathy Ashworth’s input to the Young Lancashire AGM last Tuesday night. Despite the service budget being reduced by over 50% over the last four years, Lancashire Young People’s Service still advocate for, and adhere to, a set of values that would be familiar and welcome to all of us who know what good youth work can do.
In Knowlsey a celebration day for young women, ‘Big Love Little Sista’ celebrated the work of 106 young women. Sponsored by Knowlsey Public Health and a partnership between Knowsley Youth Mutual And Big Love Sista this celebration saw the young women speak out about their journeys, the support they have received from youth workers and each other. There were girls, young women, parents, youth workers, artists all surrounded by more than 100 six-foot tall ‘pop-ups’, which had been created by girls and young women.
Over eight weeks, youth workers and artists brought together young women from across Knowsley including looked after children, vulnerable and at risk groups and young leaders. Strong relationships have been formed as the programme looked at wellbeing, mental distress, sexual health and preventative work around domestic violence through creativity and coming together.
Then there was the fantastic effort made by young people and youth workers in the North West for Make Your Mark, which saw the votes go from 67,000 in 2013 to over 148,000 in 2014 . Across the whole country the votes went up to over 865,000. Young people and youth workers made that happen and at a time when there is concern about the democratic deficit it should be feted and hailed as the achievement it is.
If this blog seems a bit all over the place and disjointed that’s because it is – because it reflects how I feel. One minute despairing, one minute inspired. What is very obvious to me is that all the things the media get so concerned about and use to create suspicion and fear are areas where good youth work can have a very positive impact. Yet what we see are more and more cuts of these very services that can make a difference, and a narrative that tells us we don’t measure the impact enough. Ahh impact… now there’s another story…
Elizabeth Harding – North West Regional Youth Work Unit