Memorandum submitted by the Salmon Youth
Centre, Bermondsey |
1.1 The focus of the submission will primarily
be concerned with youth work, given my position overseeing one
of the largest youth centre in the UK, having cost £11 million
to construct over the past few years, funding having been secured
from a variety of sources including governmental, charities and
philanthropic sources. Salmon Youth Centre is one of the few world
class state-of-the-art youth work provisions to be found in this
country. To ensure that readers are clear about the facilities
to be found at Salmon, below a full list, sadly such provision
is not commonplace, while the current myplace programme, constructing
new centres will address provision in a number of areas, years
of no or minimal investment in youth work facilities and building
has resulted in a building stock for youth work being in a very
1.2 Youth Club
- Large Reception Area.
- Social Area.
- Senior Club Room.
- Bike Workshop.
- Internet Access.
- Sports Centre
- Four Badminton Court Sports Hall.
- Changing Rooms for 70 people.
- Fitness Suite.
- Climbing Wall (floors 3-7on the outside
of the building).
- First Aid Room.
- Arts Centre
- Performance Space.
- Dance Studio.
- Music Making/Mixing Facility.
- Arts and Crafts Room.
- Learning and Enterprise Centre
- Business Start-Up Units
- STEP (Full-Time Volunteer Scheme)
- Training Seminar Rooms (x2) for Short Courses
- IT Facilities
- Counselling Rooms (x2)
- Administration Manager.
- Youth Work.
- Large Open Plan.
- Learning and Enterprise Staff.
- Volunteers (Resis')Eight Single Rooms
- Resis' Kitchen.
- Resis' Social Area.
- Resis' Laundry Rooms (x2).
- Guests Roomwith own bathroom/toilet.
- Bike Store.
- Staff FlatThree Bedrooms
- Trailer and Camp Store
- Drop-In (Shop)
- Garages for Minibuses (x2)
- Patio Area on 8th floor
- Chapel/Quite Room
1.3 To set the scene for this submission a simple
definition of youth work, with some explanation of key characteristics
and points, clearly setting the context for further contributions.
1.4 "Youth work is a universal service
offered to all teenage young people. Youth workers offer caring
relationships to young people. Through participation in the educative
programmes and activities young people are helped and supported
in making successful transitions into adult life. Youth work takes
place during young people's leisure and recreation time, when
their participation is voluntary."
1.5 RelationshipsListed first because
it is the key element in youth work, a two-way, as far as is possible,
equal process, between a young person and youth worker.
1.6 UniversalThe "youth work
relationship" is for all young people regardless of any individual
condition or circumstances, respectful of all individuals.
1.7 Age groupsTeenagers are the
age group where youth work should takes place, although
some work will take place with young people above and below the
general focus age group of 13-19.
1.8 EducativeYouth work has always
been seen as an educational service, although maybe a better description
is "learning" or "thinking" service. The education
which take place is not taught in a didactic way, rather young
people are encourage to question and think "why", "what",
"how" and "when" so as to learn. "Experiential
learning" takes place!
1.9 Programmes and activitiesWhat
takes place within any given club or session. Activities could
be a sports, arts, enterprise, formal educational support, anything!
Work can take place with individuals or within group settings.
Often process is more important than product.
1.10 Successful transition into adult lifeAdults
who are able to make a valued contribution to society and community
is the result of good youth work. At this teenage stage of life
young people are experience much change, including physically,
when hormones kick in and socially, when they are expected to
"grow up". At this stage they do not have the previous
experience or "recipe knowledge" to call upon for help,
due to experiencing these feeling and situations for the first
time. The youth worker offers help to the young person in negotiate
these "experiences" and "learning".
1.11 Leisure and recreation timeUsually
evenings, weekends and during school holidays.
1.12 Voluntary participationYoung
people are able to leave at any time, should they wish, there
is no compulsion for attendance.
1.13 Youth workersPeople who care
about young people and want the best for them. All will have undertaken
some training to help them better understand the "youth work
process", helping in their interaction with young people.
2.0 THE RELATIONSHIP
2.1 Unfortunately a lot of confusion exists about
exactly what the terms universal and targeted mean so for clarity
2.2 UniversalProvision and services
which is for all young people, regardless of their educational
ability and attainment, social class or any other characteristic
or label which might be associated to a young person. Much universal
provision will take place within a youth club or centre. Such
provision has been a mainstay of the youth service within the
UK for many decades. Although for the past 20 years such provision
has been greatly reduced, some of this has been due to funding
issues, although the youth work case has not been helped by youth
workers who have not been good at articulating what youth work
does, the values that underpinned the work and what is achieved
through youth work.
2.3 TargetedWork aimed or commissioned
for a specific group of young people, in recent years a growth
industry has developed around the group described as NEET (not
in education employment or training), with vast sums of money
and resources being directed towards this group of young people.
Targeted provision almost always seeks to address a problem, whether
actual or perceived.
2.4 Much of the confusion exists because very
often within targeted provision youth work skills are used, with
workers adopting a style more akin on to a youth worker than a
teacher or social worker. However using youth work skills does
not mean that youth work is taking place, for youth work to be
taking place there must be voluntary participation on the part
of young people. Targeted provision generally does not have this
characteristic as the young people are seen as a problem, often
encouraged or indeed compelled to attend a programme.
3.0 HOW SERVICES
3.1 Good youth work encourages young people
to take responsibility and leadership, often this equates to volunteering
within a youth project and helping develop the programmes and
projects within the clubs, probably with those in a younger than
the young person undertaking the volunteering.
3.2 Once again we need to be clear about
what volunteering is. The National Citizen Service for young people
aged 16 who are just leaving school is not a voluntary service,
it is targeted as all young people of this age are expected to
attend a three week course upon leaving school.
3.3 If we truly want to offer volunteering opportunities
to young people then they should be exactly that, a chance to
freely be involved in an activity, which has a positive outcome
for the young person volunteering and whoever they are helping.
Given that volunteering will probably be, like many other experiences
to teenagers, a new experience, volunteering within a youth work
setting offers the young person a safe environment to gain valuable
volunteering experiences which will hopefully continue throughout
their adult life.
4.0 WHICH YOUNG
4.1 When it comes to youth work provision across
the country a postcode lottery exists, depending on where you
live depends on the service that you will receive, some good some
not so good.
4.2 "So how can young people know what they
4.3 In no way is this statement meant to be condescending
towards young people, as asking the question the meaning behind
it, provides a key purpose of youth work.
4.4 A key principle of youth work is that of
supporting young people in their transition from a child into
adult. When experiencing this transition very often young people
do not have the previous experiences to call upon to inform their
thinking and decision making. Consequently a significant function
of youth work is to help and support young people gain experiences,
understanding and knowledge through their experiences within the
youth work setting. Indeed sometimes going further and providing
challenges which present the young people with new experiences
that they have not undertaken before.
4.5 Many times within youth work young people
will be taken up a mountain literally or metaphorically, enjoying,
when they get to the top the sense of achievement and view, complaining
on route about the hard work to get to the top. Then when descending,
they ask if they can go back again, because they now understand,
liked the achievement and view so want to do it again. The challenge
for the young people and the youth worker is to, on their next
adventure, attempt a higher peak. And here is where young people
help in shaping the provision. Having learned to climb one mountain
they can now choose which bigger one they wish to tackle. Now
of course the mountain could relate to a sporting activity, enterprise
projects, artistic performance or many other things. Importantly
the worker has led and as the young people become more proficient
and confidence the worker is able to withdraw and play a more
supportive, rather than leadership role.
4.6 Too often currently young people are set
up to fail. Of course we want young people to take responsibility,
be active and shape the provision being developed for them, but
very often it will need a youth worker taking the initiative in
the first instance. The notion of a youth leader may seem outdated,
but workers performing in this way must be the better option than
the current trend of giving young people responsibility for no
other reason apart from them being young people.
5.0 THE RELATIVE
5.1 Clearly the various organisations and sections
in society all have a role to play in helping young people to
fulfil their potential, for any one section or group to say that
they do not need others is just plain stupidity. This said we
do need to be clearer about what roles which sectors play.
5.2 First a general point about the youth service
which has often affectionately being called the Cinderella, poor
relative, service of education. Unfortunately in recent years,
with the development of Children's Services Departments with their
expanded remit and responsibility the Youth Service has looked
more like Bambi struggling to find his feet in this new expanded
5.3 Below specifics relating to the various groups:
5.4 Statutory SectorThe state needs
to be there to oversee the provision being delivered within a
given geographical area. Via its work force it can clearly provide
direct frontline services.
5.5 Voluntary SectorBeing overseen
by management committees who will probably be committed to the
organisation and a local area means that the voluntary sector
organisation can be closer to the community which they serve.
There are now much larger voluntary sector organisations, some
of a national scale, who deliver services at a local level, however
the better model is for smaller community-based organisations
who are integral, part of the very fabric of a local area.
5.6 The voluntary sector is also better
equipped to undertake new and more risky work that the statutory
sector, a good example of this is detached youth work.
5.7 Private SectorsBusiness will
continue to do what it does, so young people, if they can afford
it, will make use of cinema's and bowling alleys or even a leisure
centre, maybe subcontracted out by the local authority. No problem
with this, providing we recognise that this provision is about
activity, something to do, not development or relational so not
6.0 THE TRAINING
6.1 Recent developments within the workforce
has not helped youth work. Unfortunately the grouping together
of work which takes place with young people into one homogenous
lump has meant a loss of identity for many groups of workers,
especially youth workers, who due to the nature of their work
had not been able to articulate well enough the value of their
6.2 For youth work to regain and establish its
unique identity and qualities training programmes which focus
upon the developmental and relational aspects of the youth work
process are needed. Workers need practical skills to be able to
organise the programmes and activities taking place within the
clubs and centres, also an understanding of the issues faced by
7.0 THE IMPACT
7.1 Clearly if less money is spent less work
will take place. Over the years youth work has had many efficiency
savings drives and rationalisations of provision. The worry is
that universal provision, will be lost even more in the rationalisation
of provision which results in targeted provision, dealing just
with a perceived problem.
7.2 Many of Salmon's young volunteers in their
late teens and early 20s can trace back their initial involvement
in the centre to our younger 6 to 9 club. Youth work is longitudinal
taking place over many years, and does not easily fit into the
tick box mode of measurement which exists so often today. The
results of youth work are years in the making. Youth work either
needs to be funded because we as a society believing in it and
trust in the work it does or not fund it and our communities will
be less places due to the loss of such provision.
7.3 Payment by results cannot be applied to youth
work. Youth work has a role to play, no more no less, as outlined
previously in this paper, however good youth work indeed any other
individual service working with young people claiming to have
been the only provision to have made the difference, is just being
unrealistic. Yes of course formal educational institutions such
as the school can more readily use exam results achieved, but
along the way it may well be that a youth worker has helped with
homework or coursework, during the evening at a youth club session.
8.0 HOW LOCAL
8.1 Not having a firm statutory base for youth
work, each authority only being required to provide an "adequate"
Youth Service, means that when placed against other provision
for young people such as formal education or social services,
with their stronger legally positions, youth work will more often
lose out. Youth work needs to be valued more and given a firmer
footing within legislation.
9.0 HOW THE
9.1 The qualitative aspects of work taking place
need to be taken into consideration more, moving away from the
quantitative, that which is easily measured culture that currently
pervades. Learning must be taking place, but not within narrow
confines of accreditation and certificates. Work must be developmental
moving people on from one position to a better place and most
importantly relational; developing positive relationships between
youth workers and young people, which is a model and foundation
for them to follow when building future relationships throughout
10.1 The Education Committee is to be applauded
for having started this process of looking at provision for young
people outside of formal education. However this is only a start,
there needs to be a committee or commission set up by Parliament
with the specific purpose of reviewing the current state of youth
work and the Youth Service. This group will consider submissions
from various parties, both written and via hearings, over an extended
period of time, say a year, so as to acquire as wider field of
evidence as possible. Having undertaken this task clearly recommendations
for development in the future needs to be considered and presented.
For too long, at least 20 years now maybe longer, no such process
has occurred, so is now well overdue. Youth work needs a line
in the sand to be drawn, from which we can move on. No more can
youth work continue to respond, cattail or embrace the latest
fad or trend. All of us association with youth work, government,
national and local and the practising field of youth worker must
work together to ensure that the needs of young people are met.
Having a commission or committee established to oversee a renewed
status will be an important second step, following this process
started by this Education Committee.