Can youth club combine forces with the internet to create a modern desirable youth service?

The internet… the world in which many of us now live in. People can access the internet from near enough anywhere in the world, young people are growing up in an age where access to the internet is increasing and alongside this is their access to social media, gaming, online study, shopping and a whole host of other things.

Upon reflection of my own experience (I am considered a young person) I can remember back to my Primary School education where we had one computer for the whole school to access which meant that we used it around once a fortnight or possibly even less, this changed during High School when I had I.T lessons at least once a week and a library with constant free computer access. Now in 2012 I feel strange if I cannot access a computer/the internet for one day, everywhere I go there is computer access, my home, my phone (for when I’m on my travels), my family and friend’s homes, university, work, the list goes on…

If I can take an example from one of the youth clubs that I work in, we have 2 computers for people to use with an internet connection speed of around 0.2mbps (only a slight exaggeration). So as you can imagine people don’t come to us to use our internet!! They come for other things such as sport, cooking, arts and crafts and mostly for social, chill out time in a comfortable place. But for every one person who comes to youth club in our area there must be at least another 100 that don’t attend. Are they all hanging out on social networking sites such as facebook? Browsing the internet or playing games on consoles that use the internet to create gaming communities such as the Xbox live?

The reason that I am reflecting about this is that I can see a drop in the number of attendees at youth club which my team and my manager have discussed. My manager believes it is because young people are all on Xbox live and I have come to the conclusion that while we do not ‘compete’ with the internet for young people’s interest the internet is definitely an addictive, exciting place to be! So will we get with the times and become partners with the internet in the way that we work (for example utilising it for it’s benefits and combining this with our work to create a more tailored youth service) or will we soon end up in a history book/online document?

*Note I am aware that some youth services have already utilised the internet in their work with young people and if you would like to share stories of this please do so.

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What does popcorn and garlic have in common at youth club?

The answer is that they both end up on the floor!!

Last week a couple of young males went into the kitchen took garlic from the cupboard and threw it at their friends (meaning it went all over youth club). It’s surprising how quick a clove of garlic gets EVERYWHERE at youth club!!!

This week (film night) individuals had popcorn, which a different group of young males decided to throw around at each other, causing a mess that took them half an hour to clean!

In order to encourage these members (who are very nice valued members of youth club, they just like throwing food at each other) to take a more responsible approach to being at youth club we have decided to invite them to our planning meeting next term. We are hoping that planning the terms activities with us will encourage their understanding of how the youth club runs, possibly giving them respect of the centre and the activities that go on there. I also hope this will give us as staff the opportunity to  build relationships with them outside of the general youth club activities (as general youth club is quite manic).

Eventually we are hoping to have a ‘take-over’; through consultation we have established that a few members are interested in this already, the take-over would be the young people’s opportunity to completely run the club. For this to work though I think we will need to build organisational relationships with the whole group (around 40-50 people). I would hope we can do this by joining with a different small group of them every term to do the planning, slowly giving the larger group as a whole the responsibility of the club.

If anyone has any similar stories or advice/feedback I’d love to hear it,

Thank You!

Children eating, cooking and creating their own future? That’s right we don’t always have to do it for them!

The BBC News has reported on two studies which show that cookery classes encourage pupils to recognise and become more accustomed to ‘healthy’ foods resulting in a desire to eat more fruit and vegetables. Cooking isn’t just a fun, social activity it’s a skill which can be used again and again, making it a very productive form of education. Within this article a survey of 2,500 participants of the ‘Let’s get cooking’ project showed that 92% of them used their learnt skills at home.

Read the full article here http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-16854572

How can this be related to our current climate?

Cooking is a great way to educate children, young people and even adults on what food choices they have available, where to get them, how much they cost, what exactly they can do with them and how to use ingredients. Young people at the centre where I work love to cook, however we don’t just run cooking sessions due to the recession and budget cuts we tend to run ‘cooking on a budget’ sessions. Where we make wholesome meals (and sometimes desserts) which cost less than £5.00 for a group of people (on average I’d say around 10 people but it depends on what we cook)! So far we’ve made wonderful rice, potato and pasta dishes as well as experimenting with pancakes, chocolate, honeycomb and porridge (not all at the same time I might add!) The young people who participate are now experts at flavouring rice dishes, in love with porridge and can make their own oven chips from scratch, this week we plan to be making chicken burgers which I hope will go well (even if a session doesn’t go a 100% to plan it’s still a learning experience which can be built on).

If no-one in the group has experience of cooking a particular dish we use this website http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/. If anyone can suggest any other sites please comment below, and especially mention it if you know a recipe which will cost less than £5.00 to feed a group (we’re always on the look out for new things to try).

Thank you

Speaking out about the recession and cuts affecting young people

Cuts to youth and community services are an emotional topic for me both as a young person and as a youth worker. Due to these two factors I know that I am bias within this topic and so below I will try to construct a piece of writing on the youth service cuts using others opinions and provide links so that anyone who views this can look up the topic for themselves.

In October BBC news and other newspapers reported how 1000 young people had gone to London and protested against cuts to their youth services (find BBC link below). This article aims to explore young people’s opinions on youth club cuts and the reasons behind their feelings.

On July 31st 2011 the Guardian made a video report of how young people felt closure of youth clubs would make local teenagers bored and possibly give people or ‘gangs’ a reason to be violent. One week later Riots broke out in London, so what did young people express on the Guardian’s video report?

‘People are intimidated by us like, there’s nothing to do, if all my friends was here you would see the type of behaviour I’m talking about,’ Young male (1).

‘When they did close their youth centres and they didn’t even elect young people, so it was like one day the youth centre was there and then the next day it was gone,’ Erika Lopez.

‘It’s another thing when youth clubs and all that get shut down it cuts Kids roots off and links, they don’t have anywhere to go,’ Chavez Campbell.

‘There’s nothing here for us,’ Young male (1).

‘Everybody used to go to youth clubs, it’s not even like they made youth club and no-one used to go,’ Young male (1).

There seems to be two issues within this video report one is the closure of youth clubs and the other is gang-crime, which the video expresses will be further influenced by the closure of youth clubs. Young people express that with the current economic climate it’s harder for people to get jobs and money –so they may take things from others.

One of the young people Chavez Campbell from the video has a second video made after the riots that you can access here http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/video/2011/aug/12/i-predict-a-riot-video?intcmp=239.

Young people not having the opportunity to go to a place which is fully theirs and which they can use to make friendships with peers and experiment is one of the issues of taking youth clubs away from young people.

Yes I did say ‘taking youth clubs away from young people’ because young people feel targeted, this becomes apparent during the BBC article on young people protesting over the cuts to services.

“I think they’re cutting young people’s services because we’re easy targets – because we can’t vote and we can’t hold them to account,” Deyontae James.

“The government always complain that all young people – us – are out committing crime or on the streets, but if they’re going to close our youth services, where do they expect young people to go?,” Group of young people.

“They talk about gangs on the streets and giving people something to do – this is a place where we can go and keep out of trouble. They’re going back on what they’ve said.” Nickisha Sutton.

“It’s not fair that everything is happening so quickly and all at once, and young people just feel that they don’t really know why this is happening,” Thomas Ryan-Moulder.”(There were) cuts to EMA (Education Maintenance Allowance) and (now) cuts to youth services – but there’s no reason behind why youths should be targeted so harshly.”

With a change of times economically and a change in government  which seems to be the forefront of the cuts it is obvious young people feel they are getting a raw deal and being ‘targeted’. Aside from youth club closures here are some other issues young people are facing in our current climate:

Youth unemployment is 21.3% -double the rate for the UK as a whole which is was 8.1%. This is the highest youth unemployment rate since records began in 1992 (Guardian.co.uk, 12.10.11).

During Capita’s ‘Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET) Wales Conference (22.09.11) Careers Wales stated that in 2010:

11.5% of people aged 16-18 and 23.2% of people aged 19-24 were NEET in Wales,

7.1% of people aged 16-18 and 19.8% of people aged 19-24 were NEET in Northern Ireland,

13.8% of people aged 16-18 and 18.4% of people aged 19-24 were NEET in Scotland,

10.7% of people aged 16-18 and 19.3% of people aged 19-24 were NEET in England

And the 2010 European youth unemployment rate was 20.8%.

So with fewer services for young people and growing youth unemployment how will young people react? Will we see more people voicing their opinions and asking for a change, more protests or riots? (Please note I am not suggesting the riots 06/08/11 were or were not a result of cuts to youth services or lack of employment).

Thank you

 

Choose Youth rally: ‘Cuts are causing failing generation’ BBC.co.uk (25.10.11)

 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-15446724

Haringey youth club closures: ‘There’ll be riots’ – video, Guardian.co.uk (31.07.11) http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/video/2011/jul/31/haringey-youth-club-closures-video

‘UK unemployment total hits highest in 17 years’ Guardian.co.uk (12.10.11)

http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2011/oct/12/uk-unemployment-highest-17-years

Volunteers in youth clubs

Working for a youth club can be fun, exciting and offer many opportunities to people equally it can be hard, stressful and draining. This blog aims to look at what volunteering is within a youth club, what issues may arise and how to try and avoid/deal with them.

So what do volunteers do? Pretty much whatever you tell them to do (with the exception of not doing what you tell them) because they work for you! They will start with a range of knowledge about your service, some may already have a huge involvement in the youth club ,others may not. There are jokes about engineers asking the new apprentice/employee to go look for the left handed spanner and these jokes are around for a reason, new people especially ones without experience will do what you ask them to. This in itself is an issue if the volunteer has no briefing within the work place, for example are the young people allowed to graffiti on the wall? Some youth workers may see this as a form of expression and ownership and some may see it as a lack of respect and attempt to deface others property. Every centre will have it’s own rules and ways of functioning , volunteers need to be aware of these before having responsibility over them.

Why do volunteers volunteer? Their reasons are always different, I have come to this conclusion from my own experience of working with many volunteers and previously being one. For example: some may need to volunteer as a form of accredited award such as the Duke of Edinburgh (DofE), others may be local individuals who are looking for a career in youth work, many young volunteers would simply like the work experience and responsibility of working before they are ’employable’ at 16.

How do youth clubs get volunteers? Usually they are members who show a level of commitment to maintaining the centre, sometimes their high school suggests they come to work in youth club for award (DofE or Welsh Baccalaureate seem popular locally). Some may just decide they like the youth club and use volunteering as a way of spending more time there.

What issues can be experienced whilst volunteering?

Using the volunteer as a member of staff, the whole idea of a volunteer is that they are working because they would like too (they have chosen to be there) and not because it is their job such as with paid staff. When too much pressure is put on people in this situation they begin to lose the incentive to continue working. Sometimes volunteers have been used to substitute for a paid member of staff creating huge pressure on the individuals . Things can be a bit more innocent than this though and sometimes volunteers are offered more work because they are good at it and youth workers think they’ll benefit from it when in actual fact the young person is just too shy to say no.

Volunteers being too informal with other groups of youth club members, for example a 17 year old who is working with a group of 13year olds might add them on social networking sites, swap number and give them hugs. This would not be an issue if they were young people hanging out together but as they are working in a youth club some would argue that they have responsibility to be professional.

Howard Secombe explains that youth work by its nature causes boundary issues, relationships between worker and member are usually friendly ones. Friends are avaible at leisure time and are often welcome in each others personal spaces (eg. their house) this could cause a ‘conflict of interest’ for youth workers and volunteers. For example what if a volunteer has a youth club member on facebook and the member posts a status explaining they have been under-age drinking on the streets, would the volunteer try to interfere with the individuals choice over the internet? Or would they wait until they are next in work to tell the other staff and deal with it as a team? This option would involve sharing information which the young person has not disclosed within the youth club and breaking the ‘friendly’ relationship they had.

Another issue with volunteers is that they will have their own opinion of what ‘youth work’ is. They may have gained this through experience or from watching youth workers. If they are not included in the paperwork, staff meetings and recording of small outcomes how will they know that youth club activities have any difference from school activities? Youth club at times can be similar to a school but their is usually the exception that is it a voluntary participative process (unless it’s taking place within a targeted scheme or accreditation). When volunteers see an activity at youth club do we explain that no-one has to participate and that people can choose to sit around and do nothing?

How to (hopefully) avoid these situations

One of the best ways to deal with these issues may be to have some form of training with volunteers. If we train volunteers in the issues that they could experience then hopefully they will understand how to deal with them more effectively, which should benefit them, the rest of the team and the youth club members. Another thing is that each volunteer is different and will want to work in their own way, there is usually no ‘job description’ for a local youth club volunteer, some would like to serve in tuck shop, some would like to shadow-work members of staff and some would like to establish their own projects such as forums, committees and trips. Not pushing them to do more but not assuming they can do less will only be reached through relationship and for that close supervision may be required.

Hear I have only covered some basic issues from my own experience and some suggestions I thought up myself, please comment on other issues and ways in which they can be improved. As always this blog is open to debate and my thoughts are not set in stone -they are merely an observation.

Thank you

 

Secombe, H. Youth Wokers as Professionals. In Banks, S (ed) (2010) Ethical Issues in Youth Work (2nd Edition). Oxon: Routledge.