Seven inspiring young people from across the country are sharing their stories of how youth work has transformed their lives as part of a national campaign mounted by the National Youth Agency to raise awareness of the impact of youth work on young people’s lives.
The Youth Work in all places and spaces film has been launched at the start of Youth Work Week, from 6-12 November, to help raise awareness of this often-overlooked profession.
The film features 15-year-old Maia who was supported by a youth worker at the Nottingham University Hospitals Youth Service, having been diagnosed with a spinal cord injury which affected the use of her legs.
Maia’s illness struck during the Covid pandemic which meant that she couldn’t see both parents together on her hospital ward. She got behind on her education and became isolated and lonely. The opportunity to join in with fun activities at the regular youth club, whilst accessing the support of trained youth workers helped Maia feel more in control of her health and treatment at the hospital.
“No matter what health condition you’ve got there’s always somebody there who will understand. If you need help with an appointment or you didn’t quite understand what a doctor meant, a youth worker can always explain or help you get the answers you need,” said Maia.
The film brings to life the unique role of youth workers in providing holistic support for young people which considers all the challenges they are facing, be that at school, home, or in the community. It shows how youth work supports better mental wellbeing, builds confidence and can help engage young people with school or further education, as well as open up opportunities to develop their leadership skills within their youth club.
Before attending the Oasis Hub youth club associated with her school, (the Oasis Academy in Waterloo, London), 15-year-old Idrianna, was struggling to articulate herself and feeling defensive, often ending up in arguments with teachers and friends. Through regular mentoring by youth workers, Idrianna was given the space to voice her feelings which helped her to learn how to articulate herself more effectively to improve the relationships with those around her.
Leigh Middleton, Chief Executive, National Youth Agency said: “These young people’s stories really drive home the life-changing impact of youth work. Crucially, it shows the value that youth work brings to wider strategies to improve the mental wellbeing of young people; improve school attendance, reduce youth crime and above all, enable young people to have agency over their own lives, feel heard, valued and supported to participate positively in their communities.
“Sadly, we know that many young people are missing out on the safe spaces, enrichment activities and dedicated support of a trusted adult which only youth work can provide, due to the devastating cuts to youth services over more than a decade, as well as a lack of professional recognition for youth work. Whilst the tide is beginning to turn, we are relentless in our mission to build the evidence of the impact of youth work and ensure that policy makers ensure that youth work is adequately resourced and recognised as an essential part of the youth eco-system.”
The film also features the stories of 16-year-old Dennis, who also attends the NUH Youth Service as a long-term patient at the hospital; 21-year-old Quincy, at Switch Up, Nottingham; 18-year-old Issa, at West Bowling Youth Initiative, Bradford; and 16-year-old Lacie at Strood Youth Centre, Medway. It can be viewed online www.nya.org.uk