This post is part of a short series written by former young people I have had the privilege of working with. Having been involved in youth work for well over 10 years, many of my old youth groups have gone on to do amazing and exciting things. Some, to my immense pride, have also gone on to work with young people themselves. I have asked a few of these individuals to write about their experiences of working with young people in their particular context.
This post is written by long-term friend Rosie Mumford:
I am currently studying youth and community work at Newport University. I have known Jon since he was my youth worker almost 10 years ago. I worked as part of his team for a few years in a voluntary role and fell in love with working with youth. Even though I was young myself, Jon allowed me to get involved and be a member of the youth team.
Until this year I have only ever been involved in Christian youth work in a voluntary role, and to my surprise it can be quite different in so many ways than working for the statutory sector. In September I got a job with Newport Youth Service, working in a youth club two nights a week. This is a great group and we do some fun activities with them although I sometimes feel that because we have to hit a certain amount of contacts in one session and involve certain things in our activities, the pure essence of youth work is lost. We have the best interests of the young people at heart and are working with them to gain ASDAN accreditations, but is this truly meeting the young peopleâ€™s needs? It is harder to build worthwhile relationships when the young people know that they are there for a reason and if they donâ€™t complete the work they can no longer come to club.
If a situation occurs in my youth club and we need to address it with the group, it is not possible to do so the next week, instead we have to write it into the programme for a future session. I miss the fluidity of youth work in the voluntary sector where, if something needs doing, it can be done with a snap of the fingers. There the work is often lead by what the young people want, and more importantly, what they need at the time. Iâ€™d love to go back to the days where youth work wasnâ€™t so target driven but I think it will take a while for that to happen (if it ever does). At the moment being able to prove you have met your targets is the only reason that some people will be in the job as of April.
With the large cuts that have come and are to come in the service it will be up to the voluntary sector to pick up the slack. This if Iâ€™m honest scares me a little. There are some amazing projects and even better workers in the voluntary sector, but what worries me are the youth clubs that donâ€™t have them. The clubs that are run purely by volunteers who have had no training, I worry for them and the young people. I believe that a minimum training needs to be put in place to work with young people in a safe environment.
When I started my university placement I was working with a group of volunteers in two of the hardest areas of the city and to my shock some of the workers hadnâ€™t been CRB checked, we didnâ€™t have a first aider, accident book or even any plasters! You could argue that we live in an over safety conscious society, but when a young person cut their arm while at the club it didnâ€™t seem so trivial anymore. This is exactly what worries me about David Cameronâ€™s Big Society; we are trusting the nation with what I deem to be one of the most important job roles in society. Would you let someone off the streets teach your children in school?
However even though there is a lot to be learnt from the statutory sector, I think that it would be great if we could go back to the way youth work was before it all got so serious. Youth workers should spend their time having fun with young people; building relationships, encouraging them, and building them up as people, instead of creating qualifications that don’t mean much and are unlikely to help the young person.