NYA Update: Comment - Recognition for youth work…?

Susan Quinn
Monday, October 15, 2012

Ask any Liverpudlian of a certain age where they were on Saturday, 15 April 1989 - the day of the Hillsborough disaster - and most will be able to tell you, as it is firmly imprinted on our minds.

Eighty per cent of those who lost their lives in the disaster were under 30, and so many were young people. Many of the survivors were also young people who witnessed scenes outside the range of usual human experience, made worse by the reaction of the police and press on the day and in the aftermath.

Twenty-three years later, some astonishing facts have emerged. I was an area youth worker at the time, affected already by experiences of friends and an acute distress at how the fans and the bereaved families were being depicted by the press.

I was called in by a local school from an area where three young people had lost their lives and where numerous young survivors from the two affected pens were struggling to cope. This started a long association and often painful journey with a number of young survivors, which was to span many years.

I was one of many youth workers in and around Liverpool who supported young people through the aftermath, using and adapting youth work methods and resources, but to be honest, struggling to find the right words and approaches.
In 1991, I wrote my dissertation on the Implications of the Disaster on the Youth Service and have recently looked at that dissertation again.

Some of those implications were about the lack of recognition for youth work and the skills that support young people out of crises. At a conference recently that explored the role of youth work with families in crisis and vulnerable situations, we talked about recognition. As I look back to those post-disaster days, it has made me realise how far the youth sector has moved – we just need to step up now.

Susan Quinn, national programme manager, National Youth Agency

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