Street Based Youth Work
We occasionally facilitate street based youth work, only when there is a need for this sometimes this is to combat anti social behaviour.
If street base youth work was a permanent part of our core offer where there was an existing relationship in place that’s has been built through trust and transparent boundaries we would:
1) Provide Young People with access to information learning, opportunities, information and resources ‘on their own turf. ‘
2) Simulate challenge and create opportunities for young people to feel empowered.
3) Our aim is to facilitate a reconnaissance (using gathered existing intelligence and our own) and move into engagement (please see below methodology).
Reconnaissance: Identify areas where young people are
Engagement: Engage with young people & Identify young people’s own values, issues, needs, ambitions, etc.
Delivery: Design and implement appropriate interventions with the young people
Evaluation: Evaluate the work at point of contact
Youth work focuses on personal and social development – the skills and attributes of young people – rather than to ‘fix a problem’. It is an educational process that engages with young people in a curriculum that deepens a young person’s understanding of themselves, their community and the world in which they live and supports them to proactively bring about positive changes.
Detached workers work with young people on their ‘homeground’ – on streets, waste ground, in cafes, clubs, bars and discos. This means having to become part of the scene by gaining their acceptance; once a level of trust is established, the possibilities for fruitful and exciting work are endless – but gaining that acceptance can be hard. When you are paid to establish relationships on the streets even more pressures are felt.
During the reconnaissance period, the major responsibility a worker has is to research their patch in order to collect information which will be used to plan the long-term objectives of the project. At the same time, however, there is a need to establish credibility through personal and professional relationships with young people, adults and agencies in the area. These two needs will sometimes be in conflict as different agencies will have ideas about what could be done.
It is important for workers to be allowed enough time to carry out their reconnaissance of the locality. It’s tempting to become involved in ‘doing’ things too early, only to find out that expectations have been set up that in the long-term are not appropriate. This process can to take six-to-nine months; (although less as we know the area) the reconnaissance period begins with the first day in post and should end with the presentation of a final reconnaissance report which is given full discussion at a meeting with the manager(s)of the project.
We may identify ten different possibilities for action in ten different places. In these six to nine months it is important to keep options open and not to get caught up in programmes of activity that will close off other future possibilities. These decisions should be left until the end of this research process, when there will be more information available on what is going on in the area. Workers will need time to get settled in without pressure to achieve anything other than the gathering of credibility.
There is pressure on workers to ‘achieve’ or ‘produce’ something early on to prove that the project is giving ‘value for money’. Some of this pressure will come from managers and others and anxious to know what has been established. But very real pressures are ones that come from within workers themselves, and these are to do with the need to establish an identity .
Charter for Street Based Youth Work
A charter states the entitlements young people can expect from detached and outreach youth work and also what support the workers can expect. It recognises the specific areas of difficulty that street based workers experience and therefore what needs to be put in place for them to be able to work successfully and be recognised for having done so.
Young people, who choose to engage, are entitled to workers:
who are appropriately trained, committed and accessible where/when they need them and who will be able to respond to a range of issues affecting them.
who will promote their entitlement to ‘have a voice’ and be genuinely involved in decision making and democratic participation within all levels of the engagement.
who can provide accurate and up to date information and guidance on the issues that are affecting young people’s lives and signpost them to relevant agencies for specialist support. Workers can also advocate on behalf of young people, where requested, and sustain personal support throughout.
who can maintain confidentiality within the parameters of the organisation’s code of conduct, law and child protection protocols and procedures. The limits of these will always be communicated to young people in a sensitive manner and consider the personal situation, identity and territorial aspects of the relationship.
who deliver programmes of informal and non-formal educational (in the broadest sense) experiences to meet the identified and negotiated needs of young people.
who will work in partnership with agencies to access resources and provide a range of opportunities to enhance young people’s skills and knowledge and their build capacity and confidence. Through this process they will protect the integrity of the work and raise the professional contribution of the team.
who will regularly profile the communities in which they work to identify and understand needs, avoid duplication of and/or gaps in services, and inform about changing trends and issues to improve engagement strategies. who value young people and their contribution regardless of their social class, gender, race, sexual orientation, ability, disability, political and/or religious beliefs. They will challenge anti-discriminatory attitudes and behaviours appropriately through a process of offering alternatives so as to broaden young people’s perceptions.
who are radical in their approaches in challenging risk taking behaviours in young people who already may find themselves socially excluded and disengaged with other services/appropriate role models. This process of ‘considered risk’ will empower young people to make informed choices and workers will support them in the choices that they make (whilst maintaining youth work professional and ethical parameters).
From the organisation, Street Based (Detached) workers are entitled to:
the encouragement to be inspirational, passionate, professional and enjoy their work with young people and communities. appropriate supervision and support mechanisms which are meaningful, reflective and provide an opportunity to share practice and ‘off load’ issues. This includes access to counselling services.
exposure to their peers to share practice and direct the work of the team.
access to resources to provide the service to meet identified needs. This includes a range of information and advice literature and services (c-card scheme, etc.)
genuine concern and preparation for their duty of care within health and safety. This includes access to an on-call emergency duty manager at all times of delivery, allocation of personal safety equipment and operating within a no lone working policy.
access to a range of professional training and continuous professional development opportunities including ensuring opportunities for promotion and career progression shall be available, where possible.
a commitment to protecting the integrity and identity of street based (detached)ü youth work to funding bodies, partners, elected members and the wider community that we work within. Management will avoid being prescriptive with expected outputs for the work (e.g. crime reduction targets, etc.) and recognise that the nature of the work can isolate workers from traditional institutional structures.
acknowledgement that the work may require them to take ‘considered risks’ and this is accounted for in risk assessment and policy documents.
Their work being evaluated through the impact on the process of their intervention as opposed to quantitative standards and/or performance indicators. Intrinsic to this is involvement of young people in agreeing the outcomes of the engagement.
a commitment from managers to dedicate the required amount of time to sustain engagement with young people in their communities until one or both parties decide it appropriate to exit the relationship.
Issues about which it will be important for the team to be constantly aware and prepared include:
Thinking about personal appearance, voice and behaviour when meeting young people. It is important to be true to who you are and not in any way false.
2. Openness & Proof of Identity
You need to be able to state clearly who you are and what you are doing in a way which is understandable by young people. You need to be able to prove this with a photo ID badge with your organisational logo and a phone number on which people can use to verify it.
3. Flexibility & Empathy
Be prepared for a range of responses ranging from quiet suspicion to open hostility. How would you feel as a teenager if approached by your adult self? As far as possible think of ways of pre-empting these responses and how to deal with them effectively – this may or not include a small bribe or ice-breaker!
4. Props & Freebies
E.g. drinks, leaflets, games) These may help smooth the initial approach and make meeting more positive but be careful it is not expected every time. Props and freebies should not be used to gain power over young people as this would go against the ethos of the work.
5. Ask, Listen & Learn
Asking the right questions may or may not require preparation. Question preparation should not go too far though as the young people’s responses should be actively listened to. Recordings of the engagement and the responses should be kept.
It is crucial to have discussed beforehand the boundaries of the engagement process – in other words: - who not to work with (e.g. if too young/ too old) - what situations are not acceptable (e.g. verbal/ physical abuse; criminal activity; child protection) - the steps to be taken if boundaries are pushed