07 November 2018

When I was 15 and having what I felt was a crisis, I encountered a remarkable lady that reassured, comforted and encouraged me, and reassured me that I was not alone. She helped me work through what I felt was the end of the world (I was a very melodramatic young person!) It was at that moment that I decided I wanted to be just like her and be there to help others in need. It’s now 17 years later here I am, supporting, encouraging and reassuring young people that no matter how bad things get there are people here for them willing to help them overcome the challenges and achieve their goals.

Having worked in the youth sector for over 17 years I have experienced many high and lows; thankfully those many highs are what keep me going when the lows come along. Sadly issues like inequality, social exclusion and isolation, unemployment, poor social mobility, crime, low educational attainment and poverty are not new challenges faced by young people. These and many more have been issues that young Londoners are having to face on a daily basis.

In an ideal world there wouldn’t be a great need for youth workers as all young people would be excelling and achieving. There would be no inequality, poverty, exclusion or isolation. The fact is youth work and good youth workers are needed now more than ever. With such a rapidly growing youth population in London, one size doesn’t fit all.  Youth provision must be flexible and accessible to meet the ever changing need of young people. A youth worker’s willingness to stay late or work weekend is not something that is celebrated or even acknowledge. The valuable respite time that the families of young disabled people get while the young people are with us makes a huge difference. That is what good youth work is!

To echo the findings of London Youth’s recent  ‘Space of Our Own’ report: young people love their communities and want to actively make a positive impact on their local communities. They don’t want or appreciate tokenistic community engagement like painting an unused bench. Instead, they want to make the decisions on which benches need to be painted, and have a seat at the decision making tables as ultimately the decision being made will affect them and their futures.

Do with rather than done to.

This relies on having a space where young people feel safe, feel like they belong and feel that they have some ownership and control.
Whatever the current prevailing political and sector ‘headline’ issues are – knife crime, gender, the impact of social media – good youth work doesn’t change. It is still about good youth worker role models building good relationships with young people. Good youth work relies on good youth workers who need to be properly trained, properly supported and properly paid.

I am so proud to be counted as one of London’s youth workers because it is evident across the sector that good youth work works!

– Charline King

This blog was written as part of Youth Work Week 2018 #YWW18.

Charline is the Youth Service Manager at Rathbone Society and a Trustee at London Youth.

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