On Tuesday 7th May the APPG held a joint event, alongside the APPG on Youth Affairs, about the importance of youth services, and the role they play in prevention and diversion of young people away from knife crime and serious youth violence.
Over 100 young people came to parliament to discuss with youth workers and parliamentarians what young people want from youth services, what effective youth work looks like in 2019, and what role youth services have in helping tackle knife crime.
As well as hearing from young people, we were joined by a number of speakers including Leigh Middleton (CEO, National Youth Agency), Dr Michael Whelan (Senior Lecturer in Childhood and Youth Studies, Coventry University), Sephora Ochou (British Youth Council), Mervyn Kaye (CEO, Youth First), and Ira Campbell (MD, Marcus Lipton Community Centre).
We were told young people want:
“Someone who has the same background…who understands mental health issues…someone to talk to who you can trust who is not a teacher or parent…someone who is consistent, who you can build a relationship with over a long period of time.”
A place that is:
“A safe haven…a place to go…a place to have fun safely…a place where you can access a youth worker who can support you with different career opportunities that are not just standard careers…where you can socialise”
For these services to have the funding:
“To finance trips so they can get out, see other places, be exposed to opportunities…to offer qualifications…[to be flexible to respond] to the local needs of the area – not a one size fits all approach…like Onside, is perfect because it had a variation of things it provides.”
More can be done:
“To invest in youth workers, you’ve got to pay them properly!…there has been a de-professionalising of the sector…the majority of youth workers are not qualified. This didn’t use to be the case.”
And finally to act sooner:
“We engage with parents as soon as their child dies but not before. This needs to change. These parents need empowering.”