A Network of Regional Youth Work Units, in England, collaborating across regions to promote good youth work and young people’s voices.
In this week’s blog, Charlee Bewsher from Youth Work Unit – Yorkshire & Humber shares her experience of recent conferences, seminars and events about the future of youth services, and what we need to be prioritising.
We’ve been thinking a lot in our office about the direction of, and challenges to, the youth sector; mostly in preparation for the various conferences, seminars, events, and meetings we are hosting or attending.
A couple of weeks ago, the Youth Work Unit hosted an event, ‘Filling the Vacuum’, for Heads/Leads of Youth Services and Organisations. The event was hosted by Youth Work Unit Yorkshire & Humber and Agilisys Transformation, an employee owned company, to explore the future of the Youth Sector and who is leading the agenda. The event also aimed to support the review of the current Youth Offer and discuss opportunities and threats, and to agree potential and a proposal for the way forward for provision. The event was developed in the context of an uncertain future and diminishing resources to support the Youth Offer and the opportunities presented by the ‘Delivering Differently’ offer from the Cabinet Office. There were presentations from two of the Local Authorities in Yorkshire and Humber, Doncaster and Wakefield, who had participated in round one of Delivering Differently.
The day, which was extremely positive, explored: Local and national challenges, good practice and innovation, the benefits of multi-agency/multi-geographically working, the risks from the loss or potential loss of the Youth Offer, the future and key influences, accountability and visibility, improvement opportunities and analytics and insight tools, and transformation linking to theory of change approaches.
This could extend to the development of apps to interact with young people, which is becoming increasingly essential as premises close and rural transport is threatened by more cuts. To support this, Agilisys have organised a day for a small intrepid group of us to meet with IBM so we can gain a better understanding of this technology and how it can be utilised to benefit young people (and if not, at least we will know about it, which is more than I did three weeks ago).
For me it was the discussion around the risks from the loss, or potential loss, of the Youth Offer that I found most frustrating (as I hear what great work is happening not only in my region but across the country), as it encapsulated all that we do; prevention and early intervention which, if lost, moves the pressure upstream. Outreach, if lost, we lose our connection to communities and early warning of issues such as anti-social behaviour, drug use or extremism. Reducing inequality, through informal education and raising aspirations, which supports long-term economic growth, if lost, puts pressure on state benefits, housing and other public funded services long term. Increasing life chances of vulnerable children, if lost, we increase the risk of young people falling through the gaps. I could go on, we all know. Why are we so bad at explaining it to others? Is it because all they see is the how?
At next week’s regional conference, ‘Countering the Myths’, we continue this discussion of the Youth Offer, with presentations on the Prevent Strategy and its implications for youth work with the change in legislation. There will also be sharing of good practice, with workshops and talks on supporting young asylum seekers, refugees and their families/communities from local projects and Migration Yorkshire. This seems particularly appropriate (remembering how far in advance you plan such things) with the on-going refugee ‘crisis’ and comments made by our Home Secretary this week. I should think it will be a lively and informative day.
The following day we start asking businesses and local politicians how devolved powers through the development of one – or more – Northern Powerhouse(s) will support young people’s life chances including their employability. Employability, as we all know, is a huge and complex issue, not only is it about having the aspiration, qualifications, skills and health to get a job, but also how you get to the job in the first place, when you have limited transport options. Should we be encouraging young people to move to the big cities, go south like Dick Whittington, or work out how we keep our talented and gifted young people here to help us build a northern future?
It’s a busy few weeks.
Charlee Bewsher, Youth Work Unit – Yorkshire & Humber