Blogging for and about Youth Work and Young People

Archive for the ‘community’ Category

The Big Society in Practice

With further reductions in Youth Services I continue to be intrigued by the concept of Big Society and how this is portrayed by some as the panacea to all the financial reductions. Now – don’t get me wrong, I’m all for contributing and volunteering in your local community and believe voluntary youth services are particularly strong.  It’s just that basing policy and services on the assumption that people who volunteer will want to do more, with little to no funding and do what we would like them to do has the potential to be either the most amazing idea ever or one that is fundamentally flawed. I tend to err towards the later.

As we move to Targeted Services due to funding reductions we are withdrawing from the universal delivery of generic youth clubs in the more affluent areas of the county. This affects many of our rural villages.  With this in mind I am one of probably many who is working with volunteers within local villages to see how they can take on the running of the local youth club. The meeting the other evening was a great example of what individuals are prepared and not prepared to do. The group are really keen to ensure that the club in their village remains open. They want to do as much as they can to do this and want us to work with them to find youth workers. However they are also really clear that they can’t do this without support and involvement from ‘professionals’ who know about systems, policies and how to work with young people.  We are able (at the moment) to offer advice, guidance and support and have also pointed them in the direction of voluntary organisations working in this field. However whilst they are happy to volunteer they don’t want to have to take on responsibility for employing staff, health and safety both on and off site….and the list goes on. Members however are equally clear that we can no longer employ staff to undertake youth work in these areas and that all the work is the responsibility of the volunteer groups. Impasse!

In some of the areas under discussion there are small groups of young people who have quite challenging behaviors. The group are aware of their limitations and can’t understand why we are looking to them as volunteers to deliver what they believe is an essential service for young people that should be delivered by those qualified to do so. This resonates for me with what Nick Wilkie wrote last September:-

“Nobody has suggested that our banks, for example, should be led into recovery by armies of well-intentioned volunteers. So surely we don’t think that equally complex social ills can be remedied entirely without professional expertise and full-time commitment?” (See full post here)

Local communities know this, volunteers know this, we know this and yet still we march towards the dismantling of universal services regardless of the potential damage this may cause. In the meantime the local communities and I are still meeting to see what we can create in spite of policy, the Big Society, and other good (?) intentions because we all know that at the end of the day the ones who are going to miss out are those most in need of support, encouragement and opportunities – young people!

Social Media & Identity in the Public Sector

Yesterday I went to an internal event about Social Media for staff from a cross section of departments within the local authority organised by marketing and communications and facilitated by Public -i . Within the Youth Service, as many readers of this blog will know, we’ve been looking at how we can use social / digital media for some time to engage and work with young people so I was very interested to see our organisational approach and understand what more we need to do.

I have been mulling over the various discussions and trying to make sense of what I was hearing.

I think I was surprised (although I’m not sure why) by the basics that we were discussing re Social Media. The first part of the session was spent ensuring that people had a level of understanding around Blogs, Social Networking sites, the internet space, forums, etc which I had assumed people would already know. Time was also spent looking at the potential of developing and enlarging the networks available on the net to reach a wider audience and engage others in our debates and service developments. One of the local sites mentioned was Jon Jollys blog as an example of reaching a wide range of people involved in a particular area of work. Another was Adur Voluntary Action. The day progressed with quizzes that supported peoples’ understanding of how wide ranging social networks are and why we should be involved in them as an organisation.

There followed some interesting discussions about brand / identity and how much you can or can’t control the space. I was particularly interested in Catherine Howe’s   take on online and offline identity which she has blogged about here. This has given me food for thought and is quite pertinent to some of the discussions we have had at Youth Work Online where there are various discussions about professional boundaries, identity and working with young people. Whilst I understand what Catherine is saying about some of the issues of identity I feel that her discussions don’t go broad enough and tackle the issues of identity in the context of service delivery and engaging with young people and other vulnerable groups online. In my opinion the need for safety and safeguarding should be as paramount in online spaces as offline. This in itself will require separation between professional and personal identities which I think is something that can be difficult to understand. Consequently any developing training for youth workers should consider and deliver on this subject.

Sticking with the theme of identity we looked at branding and what this actually meant in online spaces. At the moment we have (as I am sure so most local authorities) a large number of policies and procedures for publishing and creating press releases and other marketing material. The majority of these are designed to protect the brand, reputation, professionalism and view of our organisation. These policies seem to come adrift in the world of Social Media which by its very nature is about others developing and sharing content with little control over where it goes. A draft policy for servivces developing work using social media sites was then issued for discussion. I was, and still am, surprised that this perpetuated the idea of marketing being about broadcasting and sending out info with little about how to enagage and involve our clients. A corporate approach was also being promoted with little understanding and guidance about using social media for professional development and networking.

At the end of the day I think I gained a better understanding of where we stand corporately with regards to Social Media. The Youth Service has already been tackling some of the issues re identity, co-design, participation and delivering services online. Whilst no means there I think we are clearer about what we need to think about and ways in which we might achieve this. And finally, although we already have links with our Marketing and Communications services I feel that now the time is ripe to work with them even closer in order to really move forward in the modernisation of our services.

Does the public perception of young people matter?

As I was driving in to work today I was listening to the Today programme on Radio Four where there was a discussion about how the public condemn all children and young people. The discussion was centred on the release of Barnardo’s Children in Trouble Campaign which includes a provocative video clip .

As well as using language that has been used in the press about young people on the video the campaign includes a survey that was undertaken to check out these expressions. In one instance more than a third of the adults questioned agreed with the statement that the streets were “infested” with children.

What I found intriguing about the interview / discussion was the blanket view of David Fraser, a senior probabtion officer, who feels that perception doesn’t matter compared to evidence in the real world and continued to talk about young people being a ‘problem’. I was very surprised at this however being prepared to be challenged, I wondered whether we do make too much of an issue about the image of young people? Are we really making too big a deal out of perceptions? Are there examples where postive impressions of young people have made a difference to the community?

Personally I believe that perception is an issue. Frequently I come across areas where young people are viewed negatively and are perceived to be the cause of all the problems a community is facing. When you drill down it transpires that it is a few young people who are causing a few of the problems, not all of them. Young people and children are often represented negatively in meetings I attend in a way which wouldn’t be allowed when discussing the elderly or other groups of individuals.  So – what do you think? Should we or shouldn’t we worry about perceptions?

Blog Action Day 08 – Poverty!

 

I’m hoping that I’m joining many other blogs today to talk about Poverty. In the guidance for joining Blog Action Day it suggests that bloggers keep their posts related to the subject they usually blog about. So I guess that means I’ll be looking at young people and poverty. 

I’ve been wondering what to write about and how to do this so intially I thought that I would start by goggling “youth poverty”. This threw up a number of interesting facts that I wasn’t aware of. In October 2007 the Joseph Rowntree Foundation did some research into youth poverty in Europe. A few of comments that struck me were:-

“Young Europeans in their late teens and early twenties are at a higher risk of poverty than all other groups except for children and older people. The risk of poverty declines significantly in the late twenties.”

“Having children is associated with a greater risk of poverty, especially in the year after birth. This ‘poverty penalty’ is highest in the UK, but in Scandinavian countries having children carries no extra risk of poverty due to their ‘child-friendly’ policies.”

“There are large variations between countries. Poverty rates among 20- to 24-year-olds range from eight per cent in Austria to 30 per cent in Finland (compared with eleven per cent for the whole population). The UK rate of 20 per cent is towards the upper end of the scale.”

I know that this info is a year old but I’m guessing that it hasn’t changed that much in that time span, and the UK doesn’t come out of it too good does it?!? Also in browsing I found out that The National Youth Agency is a supporter of the End Child Poverty Campaign and also carries information on ending Child Poverty on it’s website.

Click here to be taken to the End Child Poverty website.>

So what are the Key Facts

  • 3.9 million children are living in poverty in the UK (after housing costs)
  • The proportion of children living in poverty grew from 1 in 10 in 1979 to 1 in 3 in 1998. Today, 30 per cent of children in Britain are living in poverty.
  • Since 1999, when the current Government pledged to end child poverty, 600,000 children have been lifted out of poverty.
  • The UK has one of the worst rates of child poverty in the industrialised world
  • The majority (54 per cent) of poor children live in a household where at least one adult works.
  • 43 per cent of poor children live in a household headed by a lone parent. The majority of poor children (57 per cent) live in a household headed by a couple.
  • 42% of children in poverty are from families with 3 or more children

For me in practice what I often see is not only the physical poverty that children and young people are living in but stemming from it is (unsurprisingly) a lack of aspiration, a feeling of hopelessness and detachment that pervades their whole lives. So what can we do about it?!?!  There’s campaigning as already stated. For me, in my area of work what I’m trying to focus on, as well as dealing with the day to day reality of some young people’s lives, is raising aspirations and looking at programmes and projects that may inspire and support them to see that there is potentially a way out of their current experiences. Following today I will also reflect on what more I can do across the service

APYCO Blogging!

It’s the APYCO Conference – Creating Shared Space, making integration work – and there’s some interesting comments and proposals on changes within the association. How do I know this? Well, in case you hadn’t picked it up – the Association of Principal Youth and Community Officers has now started a blog, with the major support of Tim Davies. So if you’re interested in youth work and what they’re saying you might want to check it out. It’s a great way of bringing more of the youth work community on line. Who knows, perhaps more of them will start blogging!

Academies Update

I’ve posted before about the development of Academies and thought I would give an update on how things are progressing. The youth council from the area concerned wrote to Cabinet Members, District and Parish Councillors, youth officers and also their local MP, Tim Loughton to organise a meeting to express their concerns about the lack of planning and potential loss of ‘their’ youth wing. This took place this week and was a real compliment to both them and the staff working with them. They had a number of questions and queries for the invitees which they presented really positively.

Photo courtesy of Colb

Photo courtesy of Colbwt

As mentioned previously, the Academies programme does not allow for capital build of non-educational buildings. This means that there isn’t any funding available for a new youth wing (the old one will be knocked down to make space for the rebuild.) It is the first foray into Academies for both Woodards, the Charitable Trust we are working in partnership with and who will be taking on the running of the Academy, and ourselves. At the moment Cabinet Members have been in touch with Ed Balls Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families to raise the issue with a specific concern about the lack of joined up policy. I think the young people are now looking to write to him directly as well and Tim will also be scheduling some questions.

 

Locally we’re also looking at how we might define ‘Education’ in its broadest sense so that we can include informal education as a potential solution. We also discussed other possible sites with the group although everyone agreed that the school location is the best place in this situation. (more…)

National policy, academies and other thoughts.

Wow! My comment on Hazel Blears blog was acutally read and responded to….how’s that for the power of blogging and social media! Some new Community Power Packs have been launched to support discussion and consultation on the White Paper which could be useful for supporting you to get young people’s views and thoughts and their involvement in the political process (you may need to adapt them to work with young people as the couple I have read so far tend to brush over young people’s specific involvement.)

Taking about ‘political education’ – one aspect of this or participation or empowerment work that we are currently supporting young people with also leads to me wonder how much consideration is given to joining up policies? Whilst there is a welcome (ish) support for the academies programme in funding new schools the issue is that it is purely about funding new school facilities. In a county where we have a large amount of community provision on school sites this provision is now under threat as the academies programme does not allow for the rebuild of this type of provision. Some of my youth work colleagues are now working in very difficult circumstances to support young people to protest at the potential loss of their ‘youth centre’ due to this programme,whilst protesting locally and empowering the young people to be involved in local district and county council meetings, and using this as a way of teaching them about budgets and how decisions are made about funding programmes at a national level, the young people are working hard together to try and ensure that their view is myplaceheard and that they can be a part of the solution.  For the staff it is difficult as the local authority supports the rebuild (as it understandably ensures some much needed new formal educational faciltities in some areas of high need) and yet there are no funds for any rebuilding of youth provision and they are having to juggle young peoples’ expectations through a period of uncertainty.

Isn’t it ironic that this is happening against the backdrop of Myplace which is aims to deliver world class youth facilities driven by the active participation of young people and their view and needs?!? Whilst the young people in this locality would welcome world class youth facilities they would prefer it even more at the moment not to lose the ones they have just because there is a lack of joined up thinking at a national level!

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