Enable youth work to smash barriers

Andy Hillier
Monday, April 26, 2010

Youth work is a great enabler.

It enables young people to try activities, to make friends, to speak to trained professionals and to overcome the problems they face. Youth projects also enable young people to break down barriers between communities and challenge prejudices.

For example, on page 6 we feature the story of 13-year-old Afsana Dalal who has been taking part in a film project designed to bring young people from different ethnic groups together. And this month's feature on intergenerational youth projects (see page 14) shows how young and older people's preconceptions about each other can be overcome when they work together.

Such barriers exist across the whole of the country, yet all too often it is only the most deprived areas that are given the support to run such schemes. From Haringey to Harrogate, each area has its own challenges to overcome.

The National Youth Agency has launched a research programme to investigate the problems intergenerational projects face and to highlight the difference they can make. It should ultimately add to the body of evidence that gauges the beneficial effect on those who take part and the wider community. But it is unclear how preventative programmes, such as these, which don't outwardly tackle pressing issues such as youth crime or unemployment, will fare under whoever forms the next government.

There needs to be a simple system of central funding for such preventative projects and a support programme for communities to create their own schemes and ensure they thrive. Similar approaches have worked well for initiatives such as the Myplace fund and will continue to work well in the future.

Andy Hillier, editor, Youth Work Now, andy.hillier@haymarket.com

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