One of our most essential and yet challenging projects has been our work with younger age children – providing a daily access point and support service to children aged 10-18. We provide a space for them to belong, activities for them to participate in and Youth Workers to provide personal, social development and address their needs. They can avoid anti-social behaviour hot spots, meet their friends and participate in positive activities. The project has engaged over 100 children and our Youth Workers have built up positive relationships through voluntary engagement and delivered issue-based sessions, one to one support and advocacy with services.
But we won’t pretend it’s been easy. When you’ve been a Youth Worker for long enough to remember what a Youth Service looked like, with a Youth Centre in every ward, it becomes really clear to see just how much has changed for the children in our community and how that impacts on the broader community itself.
In the last 10 years things have changed significantly. This generation of teenagers haven’t had input from youth workers, they haven’t had anywhere to go and they aren’t used to their behaviour being challenged in a constructive way. Imagine being a teenager with a difficult family life. You might not feel very welcome at home, but where else can you go? The option is essentially to find a street corner or park and then, more often than not, nature takes its course and a path of risky behaviour opens up before them. The things you read about in the national papers – county lines, knives and the like – they’re all happening right here in Scunthorpe. Trust us, we’ve dealt with them all directly. And, for the most part, it is going unchallenged. We quickly found through this project that not many welcomed us bringing issues to the attention of services. It seems too often, they’d rather not know, no doubt in part because they don’t have the budgets to actually address these issues successfully. But sometimes you’ve got to stick your head above the parapet. So, we will continue to do our bit and lobby for change. We won’t give up on our young people.
The benefits of our ongoing,
consistent support are starting to show. It takes a long time to build
effective relationships with disengaged children and even longer for positive
change to take effect.
But we recognise this project became a bit difficult for our customers. These children didn’t know how to behave in a youth centre, let alone a Café. Our job is to help them reach that place, but we had underestimated the severity of impact having no Youth Service had had on some of the most vulnerable. For a while, the success in engagement of local children affected the delicate balance of the Café for our customers. So, we’ve tweaked the drop in, addressed the issues and we believe, found the balance again. So, the Café remains a place for everyone, a safe, relaxing environment but one that continues to tackle the needs of our community. We will continue to provide a space for the children who need it.