Stories of Asylum: being patient, taking time and building trust

Sharing and interpreting stories are dear to the heart of IDYW’s desire to explain what youth work is. Hence we are especially pleased to draw your attention to the appearance of a booklet, ‘Stories of Asylum’, the outcome of a year-long relationship between youth workers and young asylum seekers, in itself a testament to being patient, taking time and building trust.


Stories of Asylum

A youth work project in Warwickshire.


As youth workers, we met a group of young asylum seekers through a detached youth work project. We met some of them hanging out in the local park and gradually got to know them and their friends. They were aged between 15 and 19 and came from a variety of countries – Afghanistan, Iraq, Eritrea, Syria to name just a few.

We have been talking to them about their experiences in their home country (one young man left because the Taliban wanted him to wear a suicide vest), their journey here (often ending in a lorry) and their experiences of being in the UK. They were surprised we were interested. No one had asked them to tell ‘their story’ before.

One of the young people expressed a wish to share his story with young people at his school so that they might understand him better. He felt sad that he was called ‘ISIS’ and that people didn’t know the reasons he is here. From that, an idea formed of gathering a range of stories from these young people, printing a booklet and giving it to their school. The young people helped to fill in a funding bid to the local town council to pay for the printing of the booklets.

The story-gathering took place over a year. It needed trust to get the story on paper and time to ensure they were actively involved in the process. Other work took place – trips to get to know their local area; visits to the library to find books they could borrow in their home language; introductions to local places of worship plus some touristy outings.

The booklet is now printed and the second part of the project now begins – ensuring it is used well in schools. Young people are all involved in the promoting of the work, for example, through radio and newspaper interviews.

Hollie Hutchings [Team Leader]

Stories of Asylum  – the booklet in pdf

A limited number of hard copies will be available at next week’s IDYW conference in Birmingham


Guest Blog : Raising Youth Work’s Profile in Warwickshire

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.

Rallying Cry
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.

Follow Up
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.

Sharing Stories to Defend the Work – Sympathetic media coverage


Sympathetic and supportive coverage by Laura Kearns in the Leamington Observer

Youth workers share their stories

REAL-life stories are being used to highlight the importance of youth work in the face of cuts.

Youth workers from various organisations have teamed up to produce a booklet filled with examples of how youth workers have helped young people in the district.

The youth workers explain how through various projects they have helped people deal with issues including homelessness, mental health, family and fear of revealing their sexuality.

The online booklet ‘Youth Work Stories’ tries to show how the worker helped the young person and what the outcome was.

It has been compiled by staff from The Gap, Warwickshire Clubs for Young People, Lillington Youth Centre, Warwickshire Association of Youth Clubs, Wellsbourne Youth Services and The Sydni Centre.

A spokesman said: “We want community members, decision makers and influencers to hear these stories so that they can better understand why youth work is so important and so this decline can be halted. Nationally thousands of youth worker posts have disappeared and local government spending on young people’s services has on average decreased by 25 per cent.

“Youth workers take time to build relationships of mutual trust and support with young people, working in their communities, helping them make their own decisions about their own lives, and developing their confidence and resilience.”

Visit and search for Warwick to read the booklet.

Apologies that a gremlin has prevented the above link appearing in the side bar. Will sort out asap.