UN International Youth Day: Insight from youth work professionals

This UN International Youth Day, we asked VRU partner Berkshire Youth to share their insights and experiences as youth work professionals on the challenges facing young people.

Today is International Youth Day, highlighting youth issues and celebrating the potential of young people as active partners in the global society. It’s a good time for us to reflect on our work with Berkshire’s young people (who are often vulnerable and disadvantaged) and why it’s so important.

David Seward, Berkshire Youth CEO

David Seward, Berkshire Youth CEO, said: “Earlier today, the VRU published a blog by 20-year-old Ayishia Jones which highlighted the difficulties and barriers that many young people face as they transition from childhood to young adulthood. Young people have enough choices and issues to negotiate as they transition into adulthood; good quality youth work provides the support, challenge and encouragement needed to become the best version of themselves and to avoid the medicalisation, or criminalisation they may otherwise face. Young people need safe, appropriate and relevant support to prevent the need for statutory intervention. Youth work is a tool provided by well-trained and supported professionals.”

Kelly Leach, Berkshire Youth’s recently-appointed Youth and Community Manager, added: “The most challenging part of youth work is the lack of investment in preventative services and the overall undervaluing of youth work as a professional service for young people. We find ourselves in a constant battle of having to source and negotiate funding for the work that we do. This becomes a real frustration for us when every single day we spend our time engaging with young people and communities who are very clearly at risk of, or are already living in, a reality of deprivation, lack of support and missed opportunities, as Ayishia has clearly outlined.

Kelly Leach, Youth & Community Manager, Berkshire Youth

“Right now, I am immensely excited about the Waterside Centre in Newbury and our vision for it to become a hub within the local community and the catalyst for further youth work services across West Berkshire. We envisage that the Waterside Centre will be a space for young people to access support, engage in personal development and positive activities and build strong relationships within their community. We hope to continue developing a network of professionals who will support and complement our youth work offer. We know the value of the work that we do and the relationships that we build with young people and the wider community, so I am really keen to make sure that, as we build and develop our new offer from the Waterside Centre, we also strive to showcase the power of youth work and highlight the profession of being a youth worker.”

Berkshire Youth has young people at the heart of all that we do, so we caught up with some attendees of our Waterside Centre Summer Holiday Programme to hear their thoughts. Here’s what Matilda (aged 11) and Ella (aged 13) told us.

Matilda said: “Meeting new people, getting outdoors and trying new activities is what I’ve enjoyed most about the holiday club so far.”

Ella added: “The Waterside Centre Holiday Club Programme has been a great way for me to stay active, socialise and have fun with other young people over the summer.”

The Thames Valley Violence Reduction Unit continues to work closely with local partners – including a wide range of voluntary sector providers of youth services – to support their work, with a focus upon driving sustainable solutions, not just short term funding for one-off projects.