Supporting Youth Work
Blackburn with Darwen Young People’s Services
BwD Young People’s Services made this fantastic video on youth work for Youth Work Week.
Smile YMK is an art based programme running in seven secondary schools across Milton Keynes, offering young people between 13 – 19 a safe space to explore their emotions. “Often overwhelmed by the manic paced, inconsistencies of a school day, Leo found stability and peace of mind with [youth workers] Adele and Andy. Away from the grind of assessments, target meeting and compliance, Leo found himself – the polite, caring, funny lad we know him to be at home, not the stressed, troublesome teenager in the classroom.”
Circuit: young people, youth organisations and galleries, working as allies to spark change
What can galleries contribute to young people’s lives? How can arts and youth organisations form partnerships of expertise, for the benefit of young people?
These were some of the questions addressed by Circuit, a four-year national programme for 15–25 year olds. Led by Tate, it involved ten art galleries around England and Wales who worked in partnership with over 50 youth organisations.
NCS group The A Team worked with Northumberland Youth Service to design a young people focused CSE campaign. “In a very short space of time, the group have created resources that will have a lasting legacy. For me the CSE project highlights why youth work is so important and what a difference it can make to young people.”
Dunstable Town Council, youth centre provision supports young people with learning needs
Dylan*, Sarah* and Jane*, all aged 17, have autism and aspergers. They attend a junior youth group which has increased their confidence, self worth and understanding of how to express their emotion.
*Not their real names
The BRV Project (Belonging, Resilience, and Vocabulary) aims to improve emotional literacy within boys and young men and give them a better understanding of themselves. Through it they can learn the tools and techniques to recognise, communicate and manage their emotions, and realise their capacity to become active, empowered citizens.
Woking Youth Team runs a girls-only session, attended by a group of seven Asian girls. When some young women from the Traveller community started attending, youth workers brought the groups together to get to know one another.
Youth Connect at Bath and North East Somerset Council supported a young woman at risk of becoming Neet, helping her restart her education.
Christopher Forster on his experiences with YMCA Norfolk.
Youth development worker Lucy Ramsay on youth services in Rayleigh, Essex.
Ella was 16 when she started attending a youth centre. She was staying with a friend after falling out with her mum, had a controlling ex-boyfriend, and low self worth. A year later Ella has build up trust and confidence in youth workers at the centre, and has confidence in talking with the staff about her struggles, knowing she will be listened to, supported and not judged.
Milton Keynes Youth Service, Smile YMK
Smile YMK is a series of targeted projects running across Milton Keynes aiming to support and improve young people’s well-being. Designed with youth work principles and values at the forefront of delivery, this 12 week programme demonstrates that youth work is both adaptable and delivers outcomes for young people.
Smile YMK is an art based programme designed to offer young people between 13 – 19 a safe space to explore their emotions.
Projects are suitable for young people with low level mental health and or self-esteem issues and can be tailored to address current issues and or young people’s needs.
In week one young people are encouraged to explore the term ‘well-being’ through the designing of a tag which is then hung on our ‘well-being tree’. The tree of well-being is a metaphor for growth that not only symbolises the physical world but also human emotions and the forming of a group. It is a visual which focuses the group back to the term well-being but also offers young people comfort and the knowledge that others are going through difficulties too.
Smile is currently running in seven secondary schools in Milton Keynes, working with a maximum of ten young people per group.
Since September 2016 Smile has reached over 150 young people, supporting them to understand and improve their well-being.
The programme has received some overwhelming feedback from professionals, parents and most importantly, young people. This was a recent piece of feedback from a parent :
I wanted to let you know that I have just spent this evening baking a cake with my 14 year old son, at his insistence. This cake is to be given to Adele and Andy, the two youth workers who’ve been running the Smile project at Ousedale School, Olney. Tomorrow is probably the last time my son Leo will see his friends, as he now calls them. He’s sad about this, but understands they have other, vulnerable students to help and support.
Not only has Leo baked a cake, he’s also drawn a picture of the two workers and framed it for them. Leo is forced to hand over his drawing book at school, because it is a ‘distraction’ Andy and Adele always applauded his artistic talents – encouraging his dream of becoming an illustrator later in life.
At school, Leo is seen as a struggling student; with Andy and Adele, he became the expert. At school, Leo has ‘social communication difficulties’; at Smile, he was made to feel a valued member of the group. Often overwhelmed by the manic paced, inconsistencies of a school day, Leo found stability and peace of mind with Adele and Andy. Away from the grind of assessments, target meeting and compliance, Leo found himself – the polite, caring, funny lad we know him to be at home, not the stressed, troublesome teenager in the classroom.
Smile was the high-light of Leo’s week, and the wonderful benefits it brought him, gave him the resilience and stamina to weather the rest of the week’s problems.
I cannot emphasise enough the importance of people like Adele and Andy working in a school like Ousedale, especially in these days when deteriorating mental health amongst teenagers is cause for concern. I was told by school that my son’s mental health was unstable and I should seek the help of a mental health specialist at A&E. After Smile, Leo did nothing but bounce around, hug everyone and yes, SMILE!
Please allow projects like this to continue, from a very grateful parent.
Circuit: young people, youth organisations and galleries, working as allies to spark change
What can galleries contribute to young people’s lives?
How can arts and youth organisations form partnerships of expertise, for the benefit of young people?
These were some of the questions addressed by Circuit, a four-year national programme for 15–25 year olds. Led by Tate, it involved ten art galleries around England and Wales who worked in partnership with over 50 youth organisations. It aimed to create opportunities for a more diverse range of young people to engage with art in galleries. It set out to support young people to steer their own creative learning experiences, and through this to develop personal, social and professional skills.
Circuit concluded this year, but Young People’s Programmes at Tate plan to continue to host conversations and build networks with youth sector organisations to advocate for positive change in work with young people.
Circuit emphasised the benefit of galleries and youth organisations investing time to get to know each other, and developing projects together. Gallery staff and youth workers tested different forms of collaboration, finding ways to understand and support each other in a period of instability caused by cuts. The programme highlighted the importance of equal partnerships, built on common values and aims, where gallery staff and youth workers could share their different approaches, experiences and knowledge, all for the benefit of the young people involved.
However, it also highlighted the challenges in building these relationships. The programme raised questions about how arts and youth organisations can work together to overcome differences and share expertise. These challenges, and ideas for ways to address them, are shared in the recently released Circuit report – Test, Risk, Change.
(Image First Site) (Image Ilona Sagar)
Impact on young people
As public institutions, galleries can offer youth organisations space and resources that give young people access to art. Circuit galleries looked at how to support young people that might not usually engage with an art gallery to take up the opportunities they can offer.
Young people involved in Circuit had the chance to develop transferable skills, and the social, cognitive and emotional benefits were also significant. Being given the autonomy to produce art and events saw participants develop confidence and an awareness that they can cause change and influence those around them.
A new documentary Make Your Place follows the lives of four of the young people involved, and is available to watch online now. It explores the challenges they face in today’s society as they seek opportunities to shape their futures, and the role that a local art gallery plays in their lives. (Image Luke Kirkbride)
Download the report and watch the film for free at circuit.tate.org.uk
We invite you to use them to provoke conversation, collaboration and action.
If you’d like to be part of ongoing collective action to champion work with young people and their cultural participation in galleries, then get in touch at
email@example.com @CircuitPHF #SparkChange
Northumberland Youth Service
NCS group The A Team worked with Northumberland Youth Service to design a young people focused CSE campaign.
This project was created after an NCS group called ‘The A-Team’ created an exceptional resource on mental health as part of their NCS experience with Northumberland Youth Service. Northumberland Safeguarding Children Board invited them to create something similar for Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE).
Northumberland Youth Service supported the group to take part in a weekend residential to learn all they could on CSE. They spoke to professionals who were currently supporting young people with issues relating to CSE, gathered online information and worked with an artist to come up with concepts and ideas to help produce resources that were relevant to young people. The group opted to create a poster, leaflet and wallet card campaign alongside social media to raise as much awareness as possible amongst young people. The resources were to be used across the whole country.
The campaign focused on what CSE is, who might be targeted, what the CSE process might look like, signs of exploitation to look out for and myths that currently exist on the subject. It had a strong focus on what a healthy relationship looks like and tried to demonstrate the differences between healthy and unhealthy relationships. The young people made square shaped posters to enable messages to be shared more easily online. The group recognised that by teaching people what a healthy relationship should be like, they had more chance of young people realising that they were themselves a victim of exploitation.
The #CSE #ItCouldHappenToMe campaign was launched in late 2016. It received rave reviews from professionals and young people. NHS England decided to back the campaign and in excess of 2.5 tonnes of literature was distributed. This resulted in information packs going to schools, health and youth services across the North East initially and then following its success the campaign was picked up by other local authorities and services. The resource is currently listed on Rotherham CCG’s web page which feels particularly significant given the stories that have come out from courageous young people from that area in the recent past.
This inspiring youth project highlights the value and pivotal role that youth work plays within our society. The dedication, vision and creativity demonstrated by the group emphasises the positive impact that young people can play in shaping our communities.
Emma Rudd, Youth Worker for Northumberland Youth Service said, “Working on this campaign with ‘The A Team’ has been a tremendous experience. The group, in a very short space of time, have created resources that will have a lasting legacy. I feel extremely proud of everyone who has played a part in making the campaign such a huge success. For me the CSE project highlights why youth work is so important and what a difference it can make to young people.”
The CSE campaign resources are available for free– find out more here.
Dunstable Town Council, youth centre provision supports young people with learning needs
Dylan*, Sarah* and Jane* are three friends who know each other from school and attend a weekly youth centre. They are all aged 17 and have been accessing the junior youth group for two years, which is predominately for 10 to 13 year olds. They attend this age group due to their additional learning needs, including autism and aspergers.
Dylan, Sarah and Jane all go to a special educational needs school. Youth workers first met them while running a project in the school and realised there was a need to broaden their social horizons. Working together with teachers, the youth workers quickly recognised that emotionally Dylan, Sarah, and Jane would be more suited to the younger provision due to their emotional resilience and level of understanding of different situations.
Dylan needs a lot of reassurance, often self-regulating and frequently asking others if they are ok. He finds it difficult to understand boundaries and articulate his own thoughts and opinions. If Dylan finds himself in a situation where he feels out of his comfort zone, feels threatened or unsure, he used to go into shut down mode. However over the last two years, youth workers have supported him to acknowledge that it is ok to have an opinion and that he will not get in trouble for expressing this. They have given him time and space to gain and develop his social skills, he is now beginning to take control of situations in a better way.
Sarah is a very sensitive and caring individual who often takes on other people’s problems. She is the first to be there if somebody is upset, offering them comfort and reassurance. However Sarah finds it very difficult to put into words what is causing her to hurt and be upset. Over the years, Sarah has gone from a very quiet individual, to someone who is often found dancing at the sessions. She has a great interest in fashion and has learnt how to express herself through music.
Finally, Jane is in the year above Dylan and Sarah. Jane came to the centre with another friend and was often in her friend’s shadow. However as time progressed, Jane continued to come even when her friend didn’t and slowly began to learn more about who she is, how to express her emotions in a healthy way and to ask for help when she needed it. Jane quickly began to open up to workers about struggles she faced with her friendships and the ways in which she viewed herself. She used the youth centre as a safe space to build up her confidence and gain new friends. Jane is now a young leader at the centre, being trained to run the tuck shop and to help with the arts and crafts.
This story highlights the crucial benefit of youth centres and youth workers for young people from all walks of life. Recognising that young people develop at different speeds and acknowledging that the youth centre gives them a safe space to learn and develop social skills, gain confidence and meet new people outside of their school environment. These young people are now transitioning into the senior group, they have made new friends and are valued for who they are.
(Names have been changed)
Chilypep, BRV. Belonging Resilience Vocabulary
Chilypep is a nationally registered charity based in Sheffield and Barnsley. We work to empower and improve the lives of all children and young people by increasing their self-esteem, confidence and opportunities. The BRV Project (Belonging, Resilience, and Vocabulary) aims to improve emotional literacy within boys and young men and give them a better understanding of themselves. Through it they can learn the tools and techniques to recognise, communicate and manage their emotions, and realise their capacity to become active, empowered citizens.
Over the last year the BRV project has grown from a pilot project working with Roma boys at a local academy, to delivering bespoke sessions and workshops to training providers, colleges and Universities.
We are currently running 2 programmes, one with Haven in Sheffield, a project that supports boys who are survivors of domestic abuse, and the other with Independent Training Solutions, an alternative education provider for young people with learning or behaviour difficulties.
Both aim to empower the boys to gain an understanding of self and others through exploration & reflection within the context of their experiences. The programme is enabling them to recognise their own and the group’s core values and to develop the tools to grow their emotional intelligence. The boys are learning to navigate and manage difficult feelings/emotions in an environment that enables them to manage difficult pasts and aspire for positive futures.
“It is good to learn about all sorts of families and how I can be when things are changing”.
Aziss (14) 2017.
The BRV programme enables boys and young men to learn to like themselves and respect others in a way that bolsters rather than diminishes their sense of the emergent self. To become emotionally literate, growing in confidence and self-esteem, whilst exploring authentic- self, culture, and contemporary masculinity and hope, in order to reframe what it is to be a young male in 21st century Britain.
“The BRV project is like 200 times better than social, personal development, mentors and CAHMS. You really get involved opening up new opportunities and ways of being different. We need more BRV work with lads, don’t be scared to talk……….. For me BRV stands for opening up and looking at how we feel as young men. We are all brothers that should stand together, don’t bottle up your feelings, learn about emotions, after all we are all one family.
Darren Higgins, 19, (Independent Training Solutions 2017)
The project uses a multitude of approaches to best suit the needs of the boys and young men using art’s based methodological tools, within the context of a challenging but nurturing environment. Both ecological and individual rights to be heard, in terms of narratives are thus enabled to best promote integrational and social capital.
“We make new friends and we can share our problems together, it is safe and we learn new things, I still get angry sometimes but I can come here now”.
Dillon (11) 2017
The BRV project is growing across a variety of arenas and seeks not only to support boys and young men to gain in their life journeys through 21st century Britain, but to promote best practice via training and workshops to professionals and stake holders co-delivered and produced by the young men themselves.
“Sir listens and respects us we learn good things about ourselves”
Josef (14) 2017
Woking Youth Team
Woking Youth Team ran a girls only session for young women aged 11 to 19 years old, aimed at girls from the Asian community who may not be allowed to interact where boys may be present. A core group of seven Asian girls had been formed when three girls from the travelling community began attending sessions. The divide was clear. The girls stayed on opposite sides of the youth centre with no real interaction with each other. Youth workers ordered take away and engaged them in an exercise to compare their experiences and the expectations of their families.
Very quickly the girls realised that they had a lot in common, from restrictions on their freedom to having to know how to cook and clean. The two groups of girls exchanged phone numbers and learnt about each others’ cultures destroying preconceived ideas from family, friends or their community.
Although the girls from the travelling community no longer attend the youth centre (as they have moved to different parts of the country). Three of the Asian girls who were involved in these sessions still attend girls group and they have found a new found respect and common ground with girls from the Travelling community. Not only have these sessions around identity broken down stereotypes and educated the young people it has also made them less judgemental of non-Muslim women with a willingness to learn before forming an opinion on people.
Youth Connect, Bath and North East Somerset Council
R was referred to Youth Connect at Bath and North East Somerset Council as having significant mental health issues and has not attended school since year 9. She had received support from CAMHS and had limited education in English, Maths and Science. In year 11 the involvement in this dropped off and this led to many cancelled visits. R will be sitting entry level exams in Maths and English. R was deemed as being at high risk of becoming NEET.
What work was undertaken?
- Youth Connect organised a home visit to establish good communication and build up a good working relationship
- The youth worker raised aspirations by informing R of all her options and what is available to her. R really believed she would not be able to engage in any form of education after statutory school finished.
- Organised a tour of Bath college and arranged a meeting between learning support, R, her parents and youth worker. This was very successful and R’s self-confidence was improved during the visit. She managed her anxiety and seemed very proud of herself when visit was over. She met the learning support team which diminished her fears of dealing with new people.
- Helped R make a well informed decision as to what course would be best for her at this stage taking into account her needs and barriers. It was felt at this stage Bath college’s Step up progression programme would be best as would help integrate back into education with no emphasis on educational attainment.
- Helped R fill in application form and continued to visit to help keep R motivated and review her progress.
What outcomes were achieved?
After discussed work was undertaken, R was able to independently and confidently choose a course that was most suitable for her. R reported that she was “excited about the future”. Her mum commented that it was the first time in ages “she seemed excited about something.”
YMCA Central and Youth Club Volunteer
Before coming to YMCA Norfolk I was living with my partner and my child. Unfortunately, I ended up breaking up with my partner and, because there was a child involved, I voluntarily gave the family home up to my partner which made me homeless. I first went to Stoneham housing and spoke to one of their support workers who supported me in completing a HAF form which YMCA received and then contacted me for an assessment which lead to me being housed. I have since been living with the YMCA for a year. My engagement worker has helped me with getting a regular income, applying for jobs and training, and has provided me with continuous practical life skills training to help me towards independent living.
During this time, I met up with the Senior Youth Engagement worker at the YMCA and began volunteering for the YMCA Youth Clubs in Acle, Caister on Sea and Catton Grove. I have begun engaging in YMCA Training and am hopefully looking to begin a trainee-ship with the YMCA Norfolk youth clubs. My Engagement worker alongside the YMCA Youth and Community team is helping me complete this. I want to hopefully gain the skills to be able to work in the support work sector doing similar work as my engagement worker so I can help people who have been through the same struggles as me.
The YMCA has made me more motivated and in turn I do a lot more activities. The YMCA has helped me learn to manage all the responsibility in my life and learn how to navigate them in a positive manner.
I don’t have one favourite experience, I could sit here and list loads, being at YMCA Norfolk is just a positive experience.
Youth Services at the Megacentre
Lucy Ramsay, Youth Development Worker
I work as a youth development worker for the Megacentre (www.megacentrerayleigh.co.uk) , which is a Youth and Families charity in Rayleigh, Essex. There has been youth work in this building since 1994, when the charity was formed in response to a need for young people to have somewhere to go and something to do. There has been a youth club and sports facilities for young people since then. There is also a non-for-profit business on site which supports the work of the charity so that we can provide programmes for free to those who need them most. These programmes include open youth clubs, schools support, mentoring, family intervention programmes, parenting courses and family activity sessions as well as support for those with additional need.
Since youth budgets have been cut across the board, youth work is proving more and more difficult to fund. I don’t know of any other professional youth workers in this town amongst churches, charities or other organisations. The local youth service is still operating here, but has obviously reduced what work it does, due to funding cuts.
What surprises me is that people come to our building even though it’s not in the centre of town. They’re not just passing by; they actively to seek us out in order to gain much-needed support.
E (12 yr old girl)
I had an email from a parent who had heard about our youth club from a local school. He wondered if there were any places for his daughter to ‘broaden her friendship base and build her confidence’. I suggested youth club and the Be project; a group I run for girls which focuses on positive Mental Health.
E came to youth club and I introduced her to the volunteers and she got on particularly well with one of our female young leaders. She came to the Be group as well. It soon become clear that she had trouble maintaining friendships. At the Be group, she got on well with a girl from another school, and then later she re-connected with girls from her own school.
At youth club, she socialises mainly with older students. A group of them in particular like using the music room on a Tuesday night. An older, more confident, girl has been encouraging E to sing with her and a couple of weeks ago E sung a solo in front of this small group for the first time. This has greatly increased her own confidence and it was lovely to see a big smile on her face after the performance.
I have seen her increase in confidence in the time I have known her and also start to show compassion to others.
P (17 yr old boy)
P came initially with his mother to join the youth club as a member. He had been home-schooled and was not used to mixing with his peers, but recognised that he would need to do this in order to get life experience. He has Aspergers Syndrome, which had created behaviour problems in the past, but he had worked hard to overcome this.
P spent one week as a member of the youth club but then asked to become a volunteer. Straight away, he had a natural rapport with the young people. After a few months, he started volunteering with another youth club as well. He then joined in with the monthly Young Leaders training group and participated in the Anxiety Management group for teens, to help with his social anxiety.
P is an empathetic, compassionate person who has natural youth work skills and is keen to learn all he can. In a recent supervision, I asked him how he felt about his progress this year and he said that we have helped him to turn his life around. If it wasn’t for Megacentre he wouldn’t be doing anything at all. His mum commented to our family support workers that she has ‘got her life back’.
Dunstable Town Council
Young people’s centres: a safe space for neglected, troubled young people
A young person called Ella* (name changed) was 16 when youth workers first met her, she has been accessing a young people’s centre regularly for over 18 months. Ella is now 17.
After six months of working with her, officers noted a significant change in Ella’s behaviour. She informed officers she had fallen out with dad and was staying at a friends for a few days.
Two weeks later, she arrived at the young people’s centre and her behaviour and actions caused concern for officers. They spoke with Ella who confirmed she was still staying at her friend’s house but did not want to expand on why.
Ella was not seen by other professionals for a few weeks due to her leaving college. She was no longer accessing the young people’s centre and missing appointments with her support worker. She moved in with her mum but at the time, the accommodation was not deemed suitable long term.
She began to regularly access the young people’s centre again and further concerns were observed by officers regarding Ella’s dress, hygiene and derogatory language she used to describe herself and her sexual activity.
A new referral was put into social care and the case was escalated. Several serious safeguarding concerns came to light and Ella began to receive appropriate support from other professionals, with the help of youth workers, acting as brokers, signposting her and continuing to put in referrals when required.
Fast forward one year and Ella continues to build up trust and confidence in youth workers at the centre, and reports to her social worker that she finds it easiest and has confidence in talking with the staff at the centre about her struggles, knowing she will be listened to, supported and not judged.
As time has progressed, officers have seen Ella regain confidence and her self-worth and resilience begin to increase. Youth workers continue to appropriately challenge and support Ella to make informed, measured and safe choices. She is forthcoming in asking for advice and regularly seeks out staff to discuss life. She continues to live with her mum, building positive relationships at home and discusses with staff any struggles experienced.
Ella has just begun an apprenticeship, takes pride in her appearance and continues to seek support from the youth workers whom she has built relationship with. She couldn’t wait to share with youth workers how her interview had gone, and now looks to the future with hope and motivation.
There are still on-going and unresolved issues which Ella will have to deal with in the near future. However she is in a much better state mentally to cope and is secure in the knowledge that the youth workers will be a constant in her life as long as she needs them. There are no time restraints in the work going on.
Ella is just one example that highlights the fundamental need for youth services, in providing a safe space and the time given in building up trusting relationships. This enables prevention, intervention, de-escalation and brokerage in safeguarding young people as well helping them to develop into adulthood.