Youth Work – Moving Past Lockdown

Its National Youth Work week and this year Youth Work has a lot to celebrate!  Ok, so there’s been this world-wide pandemic going on (and an election apparently), but through it all there’s also been Youth Work. 

I have just attended Scotland’s National Youth Work Conference hosted by YouthLink Scotland and although it was yet another digital gathering the faces I could see were enthusiastic, resilient and smiling!  During lockdown Youth Workers were able to stand out in communities and do what Youth Workers do best – listen, support, learn and respond.  The Voluntary Sector in the Highlands has been incredible and continues to be incredible with little or no recognition and in many areas without the emergency response of voluntary youth workers and community volunteers there would have been no available response.

But this year has been more than a virus ridden year to put to the back of the cupboard and forget – much more …

Scotland is leading the way in the UK by incorporating the UNCRC into Scots law – this shows Nationally our commitment to young peoples rights, I am proud to have supported young people to be a part of that process over the last year.  And what a step forward that is to have people in power can be held to account for every decision they make that effects young people.  

The Youth Guarantee may be as a result of covid, but it roots are well developed!  More recognition that in Scotland we have young people are our heart and really do care about what kind of future we leave for them.

Youth Work has been working alongside formal educators much more equally to support young people and has taken huge steps this year to be Nationally recognised to have a big part to play in closing the poverty related attainment gap in Scotland.

“Youth work complements the formal curriculum, creating more flexibility and choice for young people and enabling their development as confident, successful learners.”

– Quote from YouthLink Scotland’s case study report ‘Youth Work’s Contribution to the Scottish Attainment Challenge

National funders are recognising the value in supporting grass roots, community based, partnership work and with that comes an exciting opportunity for Voluntary, Community based Youth Work to grow and develop where it hasn’t been able to.

And that’s just a few of the changes nationally that mean Community Based Youth Work is raising its profile and making a difference.  Locally we have seen amazing work with amazing young people, we’ve mentioned a few in previous blogs so please go and have a read, there really is inspiring work going on.  

There are so many good news stories, but my all-time favourite Youth Work story from underdog to hero is the story of The Place in Alness.  Left homeless and destitute they have turned their story into one of being able to deliver some of the best and most beautiful Youth Work in the Highlands … and arguable in Scotland.  They have been visionary in manoeuvring themselves during, even without covid, the most difficult time they have faced and, when many may have given up, what has happened has meant that young people in their area have been supported, have been volunteering, have had many more opportunities to try new experiences,  but above that have been able to have FUN!  Their story is incredible and it isn’t done – you can read about it and keep up-to-date with what they are up to on their facebook page and website – and I do urge you to!

The Field, The Places new home in Alness looking beautiful!

“The future is bright …. The future is Youth Work”

There have been a whole load of studies done this year and whether it be because of covid or not the evidence shows that mental health is a main concern of a high percentage of young people.  Youth Workers have their work cut out for them, but changes in the way that Youth Work is being viewed by decision makers mean that slowly it is being recognised that the ‘top-down’ nature of the way work with young people has been done in the past needs to be different.  A recognition of the importance of partnership, real evidence-able community engagement and move towards fairer distribution of resources means that Community based Youth Work in the voluntary sector will be able to be seen as leaders and experts in what it is best at.   The future isn’t going to be easy, but lets be honest, the past wasn’t easy either!

It doesn’t take big statements or headlines to make a difference, in fact in many cases quite the opposite.  In my complicated mind, Youth Work works a bit like a sound technician – the show will go on without them but it just won’t be the same.  Youth Work changes lives!

“Youth Work has enabled me to manage with issues in life better”

– Young person, 16yrs

Whatever is going on in the world there will always be young people, and that means that there will always be a need for youth workers to stand up for their rights, walk with them when they need it and shout with them when their voices aren’t loud enough! 

Go Youth Work!