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!!
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.
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!
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!