Blogging for and about Youth Work and Young People

 Working with young people who identify as LGBT is an area of our work that has continued throughout  all the turmoil and change over the past 18months. This is an area that is set to grow however in order to do this we need to continue to identify what their needs are and how best we can address them.

As we all know, being a young person growing up has its own challenges however this can be even more so when  when you’re lesbian, gay,bisexual, trans or questioning your sexuality and/or gender identity (LGBTQ) – or at least that’s what everyone says.

The reality is, however that there’s very little robust data currently available on LGBTQ people in the UK in general, even less so on young people in particular. According to recent reports:-

  • An alarming 65% of 16-25year old LGB people have experienced homophobic bullying at school in England.
  • The rate of attempted suicide is twice as high among the LGB population as the national average
  • In the US at least, LGB record significantly higher drug andalcohol use.

This evidence suggests that there are tangible issues here and that they have a very serious impact on all aspects of young people’s lives and outcomes. The data,however, is still missing and the response from services – therefore unclear.

So -   the question a ground-breaking new study is attempting to answer by surveying 15,000 16-25 year old LGBT people across the country is how hard is it really and what are  the specific challenges that make it so?  Youth Chances – a social research project led by the Metro in partnership with the University of Greenwich and Ergo Consulting, and funded by the BigLottery, is inviting 16-25 year olds from across England to share their story by completing the survey – here are some of them, speaking out about Youth Chances andhow it will make a difference to their lives.

The evidence collected will help to inform and influence the work of service providers and commissioners all over England and help them identify how their policies can be improved to address the real concerns of young LGBT people today.  So, if you’re working with young people, especially those who may identify as LGBTQ then please, please, encourage them to fill in the survey!

    
 

Positive Young People

I’ve been to two events recently that continue to highlight for me the benefits of universal youth services for young people and their involvement in delivering them.

The first was the wonderful day in London at the Houses of Parliment where young people and organisations were recognised for the effort they had put into the recent youth elections. As readers of this blog will know, in March this year, 20,088 young people voted in countywide elections for the current 48 members of the West Sussex Youth Cabinet and four Youth MPs.

There are three levels of Democracy Award: Bronze (for at least 50 percent voter turnout), Silver (70 percent), and Gold (90 percent). A record-breaking number of awards were given out this year to 23 schools, colleges, special schools, a middle school and youth organisations across West Sussex. Young people from each of the organisations stood up and spoke about how they had run the elections in their area. What struck me was the extent in which they had used social media and networks to get the information out and share with their friends in their areas. Some groups had organised hustings, others voted in specifc classes. A number of innovation awards were also given for use of pictorial election ballots different ways of promoting the elections.

I’ll talk more about the next event in my next post.

Social Media and Gender

Image

This picture is taken from the latest research report Social Media, Social Life: How Teens View Their Digital Lives from Common Sense Media’s Program for the Study of Children and Media. They surveryed over 1,000 13- to 17-year-olds nationally to understand how they perceive social media (like Facebook and Twitter) affects their relationships and feelings about themselves.

I have just read the headline areas which cover a number of different topics, from wanting time ‘unplugged’ to preferring face to face conversations however the area that particularly struck me from a youthworkers perspective was the bit I’ve highlighted in relation to young womens feelings / thoughts concerning social media.

I hadn’t really thought about social media in the context of gender and this info graphic I think is essential for Youthworkers. (along with the others produced on the website).

I think there can be an assumption by youth workers that social networking and online relationships are happening ‘elsewhere’ (as in not in reality, not on the ground) and therefore aren’t important compared to the actual face to face activity or work that is happening. However so much of a young persons life now (including parents)  is online that it is essential Youth Workers understand what is happening in this area and include it in their curriculum. And the point raised for me by the first picture is what are we doing for young women in this area? How are we supporting them with their thoughts and feelings in relation to what is posted, especially photographs. I’d be interested to hear about youthworkers who are exploring this in their local youth groups, and what they / you are doing to support young people in managing and living ‘online’?

The weekend before last a group of young carers from West Sussex took part in the 13th Young Carers Festival bringing together young carers from across the country for a weekend packed full of activities at Fairthorne Manor with the support of the YMCA.

This is an annual event and caters for 2000 young carers giving them the opportunity to take a break and spend time with peers, make new friends and share stories. A range of activities from outdoor sports to crafts, discos &  bands on the festival stage this is a fun-filled weekend full of activities. Read more about it from young carers themselves.

Young Carers work throughout West Sussex has developed and has become a great partnership between the Young Carers Service which is part of Social Care and the Youth Support and Development Service. Local groups have been set up across the county and now operate on a fortnightly basis giving all young carers the opportunity to take part in activities especially for them. Alongside this we have an active programme of positive activity days which happen during the holidays providing a range of personal development opportunities where young carers learn a range of different skills and increase their self confidence.

A developing aspect of our work is the creation of a group of older Young Carers (16+) who will be setting themselves up as an independent group to represent the voice of Young Carers and look at Services for them. I’ll report later how it goes!!

Record numbers Vote!

WoW! The figures are in and (somewhat belatedly) I am amazed that against a backdrop of restructuing the Youth Voice & Engagement team have managed to encourage and support a record number of young people to participate in the West Sussex Youth Cabinet & UK Youth Parliment elections.

It’s the 11th year elections have been held and they have grown more sophisticated over time with an electronic voting system now in place.  However we have mixed and matched this with the more traditional system of ballot papers to ensure everyone can participate. A total of 20,088 young people voted casting a total of 39,163 in both elections, meaning that 23 percent of young people in West Sussex aged between 11 and 19-years-old took part in the democratic process – an amazing accomplishment.

Candidates included young parents, young carers, and young people with multiple needs as the team worked to ensure that as many young people were engaged in the process as possible. There were also some polling stations in foyers, youth centres and mobile provisions.

Almost all the young people voted on to the Youth Cabinet were new to the role and a weekend residential (more later) was planned to start inducting them into their roles.

So – congratulations to all involved and lets hope that this is the beginning of an amazing year for youth voice!!

 

Election Fever!

March is election month for young people here in West Sussex! 

Voting is taking place to elect young people to the West Sussex Youth Cabinet, the UK Youth Parliment and also to some of our local Youth Councils. 

With voting now open the new Voice & Engagement Team are busy supporting colleagues across the county to enable young people to have their say. Over 60 schools, colleges, youth centres and the youth offending service are all signed up and over 40,000 ballot papers already pre ordered.

What is the West Sussex Youth Cabinet?

The West Sussex Youth Cabinet is a group of 48 young representatives and the 4 UK Youth Parliament representatives, who are democratically elected by young people from all around West Sussex.people from across the county. The Youth Cabinet represents the views of the young people in their areas at county level. Young people attend monthly Youth Cabinet meetings around the county. collect and disseminate the views of their constituents and get involved with a variety of projects promoting young peoples views and solutions. They also liaise and get closely involved with the WSCC Cabinet and meetings with elected members.

Young People have been learning about the Youth Cabinet and preparing election manifestos a range of which can be seen here.

What is the UK Youth Parliment?

The UK Youth Parliament has over 600 representatives (369 seats for elected MYPs (Members of Youth Parliament) and over 230 Deputy MYPs, all aged 11-18.

MYPs are usually elected in annual youth elections throughout the UK. Any young person aged 11-18 can stand or vote. In the past two years one million young people have voted in UK Youth Parliament elections.

Once elected MYPs organise events and projects, run campaigns and influence decision makers on the issues which matter most to young people. All MYPs have the opportunity to meet once a year at the UK Youth Parliament Annual Sitting.

Here in West Sussex young people are voting for 2 MYPs and 2 Deputy MYPs. Have a look at some of their manifestos here

We are anticipating that this will be one of the biggest democratic youth participation events across West Sussex this year and will keep you updated on progress!

Quite a mouthful isn’t it!!! For young Careleavers aged 16 or over this is an important participation network that works alongside the National Leaving Care Benchmarking Forum supported by the National Care Advisory Service.

In West Sussex young people have only recently been involved in the Young Peoples Benchmarking forum (YPBMF)supported through our Children In Care Council Co-ordinator. The young people have gained a significant amount through being involved in this forum, especially meeting other careleavers from around the country and contributing to getting their voice heard. 

On Thursday last week West Sussex Youth Support and Development Servivce were priviledged to be able to host a meeting on the south coast (many of the previous meetings have usually been held further North which has involved a considerable amount of travel for those concerned.) The YPBMF is facilitated by Catch 22 and along with a range of staff about 20 young people attended the meeting. Unfortunately Tim Loughton the Childrens Minister was unable to attend however he has recheduled to meet with the group in the New Year.

For me it was great to meet a pro active group of young people who are enthusiastic and positive about making changes to our systems and services in order to improve outcomes for others. Something that really struck me from their conversations was the breadth of disparity between local authority provision for Care Leavers. We often hear talk of the postcode lottery with regards to Health Services however these young people are experiencing this very thing from their Corporate Parents about their own living & educational needs. Although there is guidance concerning Care Leavers there is no clear offer to young people who are leaving care as this is very much defined by the local authority who have overall control of the budgets. This means that it can be very confusing for a young person to know what to expect and who to hold accountable.

The young people spent time looking at the questions that they hope to put to the Minister in the future, especially those to do with their entitlement and needs. Catch 22 staff were excellent at facilitating the session, particularly supporting young people to think about potential responses to their questions and how they could ensure that they got a real answer rather than a politically correct one. This was a great example of facilitating young peoples voice.

Many thanks to Catch 22 and the forum for providing food for thought and I hope that in the future they will be given sufficient time to raise their carefully thought through concerns. I look forward to hearing how they get on!

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