Over the last eight years, our neighbourhoods and communities in England have seen severe cuts to services we rely on. This includes cuts to local authority funded youth work in England of about 65%, alongside similar cuts in funding to voluntary youth organisations.
Youth work faces difficult times with these cuts and lack of political or policy leadership changing the range and extent of the youth work offer for young people where they live. Brighton is no exception to the dismal picture of cuts and uncertainty and the Council is reviewing future options about what youth services do and how they could be run.
Young people continue to describe how they need and want the non-formal support and advice, the activities and opportunities and the participation in things that affect them where they live which are provided through youth work.
So what has been happening to youth work in this time of change? Are youth workers and young people doing anything to respond? In Brighton young people have been active for the last three years in coming together across neighbourhoods and interests to share their views and to influence the future. And this October they wanted to find out what other areas in England have been doing. They invited four groups to share their experiences so as to learn from in their campaign to influence the future of youth work in Brighton. The groups were:
- Spotlight youth centre in Poplar http://wearespotlight.com
- Young Lambeth Co-op: http://www.younglambethcoop.co.uk
- Norfolk: http://benjaminfoundation.co.uk/youth-advisory-board-breckland
- Knowsley Youth Mutual: http://www.youthmutual.co.uk
22 young people and 12 workers gathered at Spotlight in London to find out how these areas held on to and developed youth work in a time of change.
The report describing their journey and key learning is available here: youth-work-in-a-time-of-change-report-oct16
Young people were pleased at the chance to meet and to share their experiences of sharing youth work in a time of change. Their messages to the young people from Brighton were:
- Keep the motivation.
- Be persistent. It’s worth it. Think about the service for young people you want.
- Show other young people in Brighton what you are standing up for. Be resilient.
- You know you are the voice. We are the voice.
- Be open to new ideas. Once you’ve started constantly look to improve. Gain new members. Reach out to other young people. Push for good quality assurance.
- Keep on fighting. We are the next generation.
- Stand together and don’t be in competition.
Part of the story shared at this event is how in England there have developed – out of extreme adversity – working models for youth led and co-owned commissioning and providing of youth work. These are pioneering services and probably unique across the globe. It is an extraordinary achievement and one we are proud to share and to celebrate.
But there was a stark warning from the young people. Their experience as a whole was that, while the changes and new organisational structures have led to more young people’s participation, this has been in the context of money being lost to youth work in the same period. These changes have in some cases benefited young people receiving youth work but not always because of the drain on resources. For most of the group the changes caused by the cuts have helped improve how things are run a bit but not a lot; many would not see the changes as a good thing in themselves and would go back to how things were run if that meant more secure resources for youth work now and in the future.
Bill Badham, Practical Participation