In this week’s blog, Charlee Bewsher from Youth Work Unit – Yorkshire & Humber tackles youth policy, the importance of youth work, and exploring the role young people can have in developing new youth policy.
At Ambition’s conference and at the UK Youth Parliament House of Commons sitting last month, Rob Wilson MP, Minister for Civil Society, talked about the development of a new Youth Policy. On Thursday 1 December, the YWU Y&H hosted a Youth Policy Forum, for youth work managers, practitioners, and educators to come together from across the Yorkshire and the Humber region to start a conversation on the development of the youth policy.
Starting from scratch, rather than thinking what has gone before, we explored the core messages we would like in a youth policy. Central was a clear statement of the positive impact of youth work, its contribution to the lives of young people, their families, and communities. That youth work has a particular approach, based on the voluntary participation of young people; it provides informal/social educational opportunities. A framework that encompasses purpose, impact and Article 12 UNCRC, with a strong emphasis on the voice and influence on young people. An acknowledgment that youth work should be delivered by trained/qualified staff and it is more than just working with a particular age group or offering things to do.
Youth work has a role to contribute to the prevention, intervention, and support of young people, based on their circumstance not their age. There needs to be an acknowledgement that this can only be done through developing positive relationships, which take time to develop. How can crisis be prevented if you’re not in contact with the individual? This emphasises the importance of access to services and the need for open access/or a universal offer (0-4 year olds have a universal offer, they even get up to 30 hours paid for, why not other age groups?). Taking into consideration the ‘cost’ savings prevention and early intervention has for other services, youth work needs to be realistically resourced and funded.
What is realistic funding? Perhaps a better question is what is the impact of not having youth work? We are beginning to see this in the increased number of young people referred to CAMHs, teenage suicide, sexually transmitted infections, domestic violence, hate crime, etc. What is the cost of not having youth work?
We intend to ask young people. One of the 10 Make Your Mark issues this year was to save Youth Services, another was curriculum 4 life. Unfortunately, it’s quite hard for young people to save something they don’t have or don’t recognise as we use different titles for the work – youth voice, youth club, the space, etc. However, young people did choose to campaign for a Curriculum 4 Life, the youth work curriculum under any other name, clearly demonstrating they want youth work.
Stage one: Explain what youth work is and where they might have experienced it.
Stage two: What do they value, what are their needs, and what do they expect/want?
Stage three: Feedback as part of the youth policy consultation.
Stage four: Feedback to young people how they were listened to – what impact they have had on government policy and were they listening?
Charlee Bewsher, Youth work Unit – Yorkshire & Humber