Many thanks to Alisdair McCarrick, Youth Worker at the Warwickshire Association of Youth Clubs for these thoughts on how practitioners in the county have sought to raise awareness of youth work’s worth.
Warwickshire Youth Services – Raising Our Profile
Like so many youth services across the country Warwickshire has seen its provision in the statutory sector stripped away with a reduced workforce and fewer purpose-built centres in which to offer support to young people. Those staff members who have managed to survive the annual cuts, rounds of redundancies and changes to their job roles continue to operate with a level of passion and commitment that the youth work fraternity will no doubt be familiar with.
It was against this backdrop of budget cuts with further such cuts expected that Warwickshire County Council youth workers decided that now was the time to highlight the immense worth of youth work and its unique ability to build and maintain relationships with vulnerable and often emotionally complex young people in order to give them the guidance and support that would improve their prospects of a better future. Local authority youth workers decided to reach out to colleagues across sectors asking them to provide case studies highlighting how the ‘youth work approach’ has helped the lives of individual young people in ways that no other agency or professional is capable of.
Colleagues from WCC, WAYC, Wellesbourne Youth Club and WCYP came together to share their stories in the hope that this would help to motivate us a workforce in order to continue supporting children, young people and families in what has become an increasingly challenging working environment. Bernard Davies from the In Defence of Youth Work campaign helped to facilitate discussions and promote the impact of the ‘youth work approach’ to working with children and young people.
Once shared our anecdotes were then typed up and printed into a booklet called ‘Youth Work Stories’ which was circulated within our professional networks and handed out at a full cabinet meeting at Warwickshire Council during which elected members were discussing the next round of public spending cuts. This was an ideal opportunity to raise awareness about the value of youth work to young people, their families and wider society.
Going forward we now have a regular mailshot that goes to a variety of stakeholders including councillors updating them on new youth work success stories and we have also booked to speak at the full cabinet meeting later this year in order to encourage members to consider how the value of our work.
There is no doubt that those of us who trained in youth and community work are practising very differently to the ways we are used to and that we would be most comfortable with but despite this our values and commitment to young people continue to ensure that, against all odds, we are uniquely positioned to build relationships with young people that have an immensely positive impact on their lives.
The booklet – Youth Work Stories – Warwick District
Interestingly too Alisdair’s blog touches implicitly in his observation that “there is no doubt that those of us who trained in youth and community work are practising very differently to the ways we are used to and that we would be most comfortable with” upon the issues at the heart of the forthcoming IDYW national conference on Friday, March 17 in Birmingham – YOUTH WORK: EDUCATING FOR GOOD OR PREVENTING THE BAD?
We hope very much to see both Alasdair and your good selves at this opportunity to kick around together the dilemmas.