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Helping young people to be part of the answer

Posted on 04 November 2013

YPFN has shown how it is possible to unlock the power of young people to make real changes in the places they live. Giving them a stake while they are still young increases the chances of them becoming active and committed citizens in their adult life.Sir Tony HawkheadYoung people must be part of the solution – not merely the “customers” – when it comes to delivering youth services, according to a new study on the future of help for under-19s.

Services are most effective when they are designed and commissioned by the very people they are intended to support, the study says.

Analysis of a major project, Young People Friendly Neighbourhoods, has led to six recommendations for the future shape of youth services.

The recommendations centre on the need for community involvement at all levels of youth work, ensuring that young people and their neighbours have maximum control over services that were previously designed and delivered from “on high.”

The report’s publication coincides with the Confederation of Heads of Young People's Services convention in London on Monday November 4.

YPFN, funded by the Department for Education, was developed by Groundwork to provide openly-available activities for young people combined with intensive individual support for those who needed it.

The programme was tested in 20 neighbourhoods across England and provided 11-19 year olds the chance to shape and run services alongside local residents in their communities.

During the two-year programme, YPFN involved 2,400 young people in more than 47,000 sessions of youth work and other activities.

One of the most significant achievements of the programme was the creation in Tyneside of the country’s first youth mutual, an organisation owned and managed by the young people and community members it was established to serve. Circle Crew for Change now manages the budgets for youth and community work in its neighbourhood.

CCfC member Nicole Lee said: “I got involved because I wanted to make a difference to where I live and I wanted people to help me. I thought: ‘I’ve had the help, so why shouldn’t I help other young people?’

“There’s not a lot for young people to do around here. We’re trying to get more things up and running. In our community, the older generation don’t listen to young people, but now we have a voice they understand what we need and we understand what they need.”

Groundwork managed YPFN in partnership with social housing landlord Sanctuary Housing, youth work specialist Youth Access, and FPM, which has expertise in new ways of delivering public service.

Speaking on behalf of the partnership, Groundwork chief executive Sir Tony Hawkhead said: “YPFN has shown how it is possible to unlock the power of young people to make real changes in the places they live. Giving them a stake while they are still young increases the chances of them becoming active and committed citizens in their adult life.

“Involving landlords, local authorities and the justice system helps to build mutual respect and understanding across the generations, which can only be a good thing.”

In a foreword to the YPFN report, Matthew Taylor, Chief Executive of the Royal Society for the Arts, says: “Young People Friendly Neighbourhoods is a well-designed scheme which has achieved notable results in a short time. The principles that underpinned YPFN were sensible and an important part of the scheme’s success.

“The corollary of Young People Friendly Neighbourhoods is neighbourhood friendly young people. Locking these two concepts together through the right policies and resources can be critical to making some of our most disadvantaged areas better places to live. This report and work and ideas behind it can help bring such a vision closer.”


The report presents six propositions as a basis for debate on the future of youth services, each backed by a call to action:

Community-led partnerships: Housing associations are ideally placed to facilitate long-term neighbourhood partnerships involving all residents and agencies.
A bedrock of community relationships: Young people want and need support to make youth services work. They know what they want; youth workers and others know how to make that happen.
Commissioning by communities: Once local people have control of their neighbourhoods they are ideally placed to be the main commissioners of whatever services are available.
Community investment over time: Short-term projects have a role, but the emphasis must shift towards a longer view. The report states: “We have to find a way of providing consistent supportive relationships for children and young people through transition to adulthood. This means a planning timeframe of at least eight years and in the case of young people with particular challenges this is more likely to be 10 to 15 years.
A community premium: Studies of community commissioning emphasise the value of structures through which local people drive the provision of services. The report suggests a “local services premium” should be diverted from rents into a locally-managed pot of money.
One set of services: The distinction between open access services – available to all members of a community – and targeted services – aimed at individuals – should be broken down. Open access services, argues the report, provide effective early solutions to local problems. “Funders should focus their attention on finding ways to channel resources to poorer neighbourhoods. The people in the neighbourhoods should be empowered to decide how best to spend the resources to meet their shared needs.”

To download a copy of the report click here

Issued by Chris Burton
Groundwork UK
0121 237 5874