Blogging for and about Youth Work and Young People

On 4 November 2011, Members of the UK Youth Parliament  (known as MYPs) sat in the House of Commons and voted on which of  five issues ought to become the priority campaign for the UK Youth Parliament in the coming year. 

The Youth MPs attending from West Sussex were:

  • Liam Dallamore – Ifield Community College, Crawley.
  • Lola Cole – Steyning Grammar School.
  • Dominic Stannard – Worthing College.
  • Samuel Theodoridi – St Philip Howard Catholic School. 

As part of our ongoing development for the West Sussex County Council website for young people Yourspace we are encouraging young people to blog about their experiences. Read here for Samuel Theodoridis’ views of the day.

Courtesy of violet yume

On Friday 4th November 2 young people from the West Sussex Youth cabinet participated in the Children and Young Peoples’ select committee. They were invited to talk about the proposed reductions in Youth Services and the impact on young people. As can be seen from the webcast I think that they contributed well to the debate, highlighting key points about targetting services, access to facilities and transport and the need to invest in young volunteers – who may not come from targeted communities.

West Sussex Youth and Development Service have been tasked with reducing its services by a further £2m by March 2012. This is on top of the reductions made last year. As I noted in my last post, we are just starting to get service delivery in shape having made the reductions last year so making more in the near future will be a real stretch. This appears to have been recognised and an alternative proposal has been submitted in the Select Committee papers to look at phasing the reductions over 2 years.

The Cabinet Member for Childrens Services, Peter Evans, is now considering the feedback and recommendations from the Committee who supported the phasing option as this will give the YSDS a better chance of engaging with communities and the voluntary sector to ensure better outcomes for young people. We hope to have the Cabinet Members decision in the next few weeks.

Cuts in Youth Services

I have just read Jon Jollys post about the ongoing cuts to the services here in West Sussex.

As he rightly points out, it is a challenging and difficult time for all practitioners and managers within the service. The YSDS has already been reduced by £2m and we are now being asked to reduce the service by another £2m by March 2012. The service is currently consulting with residents & young people about these cuts and this closes on the 14th October with the select committee scheduled for the 4th November. Young people from the youth cabinet are meeting with the Cabinet Member and Director of Childrens Services to discuss these changes and input their views and thoughts about the future of the service.

Whilst this is happening we are also trying to bed in the new service which has seen significant changes in the way we are delivering and who is delivering our services. There has been a big upheaval for staff with many (including myself) being asked to change roles and operational areas. Staff are also uncertain of their future and are also being asked to deliver services in new and different ways. They are all working incredibly hard to deliver the best services for young people through these constant changes. Jon mentions the lack of communication and consultation with the community and young people over changes to the night a club opens and the staff delivering it. I agree that this should be the way we are working but have to put my hand up and admit that at the moment the fact that some of the clubs are open at all given the numbers of staff we have is a feat in itself. I oversee a different area of the county and know that I have been involved in making decisions about when we can open a club and who will staff it in isolation to the community and young people. This is partly down to the fact that with the need to further reduce the service is not recruiting new staff, any vacancies are managed internally which impacts again on the number of staff we have available so we are incredibly stretched.

Staff are also feeling devalued as their profession and years of training appear to count for nothing alongside a government agenda that believes volunteers can replace them.  With staff stretched to deliver our own targeted and prevention services there is less time to support the voluntary sector as we used to at the very time they need that support to deliver universal services.. They (and communities I talk to) continue to be frustrated by this.

So where are we headed? Personally I am currently reviewing the services I am responsible for with the teams I manage whilst also making every effort to talk to the local communities and involve them in the decisions we have to make. In little over a month we should have a clearer steer on the way ahead which will need more planning and organising.

On a national level at a time of increasing youth unemployment, unrest and lack of opportunity the very services that could support young people are being decimated. It seems obvious to me (and many others across the country in similar positions) that these cuts are happening too rapidly and are unsustainable, by the time the government realises this will there be anything left to rebuild from?

As mentioned in my previous post we have restructured the Youth Support and Development Service (YSDS) to deliver primarily across Targeted Youth Support (TYS), Specialist Services and Early Intervention & Prevention whilst working to support other organisations to deliver more universal, generic youth work.

This week has seen the launch of our Targeted Youth Support pages on our Website and the start of TYS programmes across the county. With a new request for service process, forms and monitoring & evaluation this is a huge change of our service. After 3 days of key training for staff we have a rolling programme throughout the Autumn term to bring everyone up to date with the programmes on offer. Time will tell concerning the response to the programmes although we have already had a good uptake by many services.

In the meantime we are out to consultation concerning the future of the YSDS with another £2 million reductions due to be made in the next year! All in all changing and testing times for all!

 

In the governments recent Positive for Youth discussion paper one of the areas under discussion is the negative perception of young people and what can be done about it.  How can we and young people work together to counteract negative media portrayal?

This is a key aim of  West Sussex Youth Service and West Sussex Council of Voluntary Youth Services  who joined together in partnership at the South of England Show to show young people in a different light. Working with young people we developed a main stand, “Teen Square” where young people showed their wide range of talents, and then a number of differing stands and activities to promote the services available to young people. We feel that this both successfully engaged young people giving them an opportunity to perform and showed the wider public what amazing talent we have here in West Sussex! See what you think!

I stumbled across this post having been signposted to it by Paige the young person referenced in the post. I think that it demonstrates really well how much more we can do with online services and how much we need to be thinking of this as we move forward in restructuring and developing our own services. Thank you to Michele and Paige for raising the issue.

 Carers and the internetNote: The following blog post has been contributed by Michele Lambert, Web Manager at The Princess Royal Trust for Carers.

Working day in and out on the internet, I can veer from an incessant curiousity and excitement about new technology and its applications to an occassional urge to throw my computer out of the window and make a break for freedom, to a place where the world wide web can’t reach me. It can sometimes feel like communication overlo … Read More

via CarersBlog

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!

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