As part of our series about different types of youth work, this week we have an interview with Stephen Pearson – a deputy youth services manager in the UK.
What type of youth work do you do?
Face to face, I deliver local prevention projects to young people at risk of being NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training) which is a local authority commissioned contract. The other part of my role is managing a commissioned contract from the LEA (Local Education Authority) for 3 youth centres.
What do you do in an average week?
There is no average week as it is a case of managing priorities and operational need. I am involved in supporting youth centres to obtain an NYA (National Youth Agency) Quality Mark at present and setting up sessions in schools to meet targeted young people in order to present a variety of prevention projects so that they can self refer.
How long have you been doing this type of youth work?
I have been doing youth work for approx 15 years and that has never changed, meeting the needs of young people. Working in this local context involves working for a voluntary sector organisation that is part of a consortium who work together to deliver against commissioned contracts for youth work. I have been doing this now for a year and the model in Surrey is unique and like no other I know of in the UK.
What other types of youth work have you done previously?
Open club based work, group work and project based work, forums and steering group work, detached and outreach, off site trips and outdoor education, international exchange developmental youth work, mentoring, sports coaching, various accredited programmed youth work including Duke of Edinburgh, inclusion / exclusion projects, school based youth projects, youth justice prevention programmes.
What age range do you work with?
10 to 19 year olds
What’s unique about your particular type of youth work?
It has a prevention element attached to the work. It is also built on principles of voluntary engagement of young people and young people are identified via a list derived from schools based on a set of varying criteria.
There are elements of specialist youth work in the projects which are mentoring, counselling and family intervention and other recreational activity aimed at building relationships and rapport with young people. This is a school holiday diversionary activity programme and creative media digital arts small group work projects.
Where young people choose to come through the recreational route on our projects, we work to build an effective rapport and relationship with young people so that they would choose to access additional services. As we meet them again, youth workers use a simple tool to assess needs in the young people and negotiate a support package agreed by the young person aimed at meeting that immediate need.
Where there are cases of complex needs, multidisciplinary meetings are held to discuss types of intervention that could be offered to the individual. The youth worker through their relationship with the young person would assist to forge a referral process to another professional.
What are some of the good things about your type of youth work?
Through that prevention agenda you can focus your resources on young people at risk and develop what is hopefully a fluid process to meeting their needs. Young people help shape that service with feedback and involvement in making decisions.
What are some of the challenges of being a deputy youth services manager?
Short term funded commissioned projects. You begin to get to a point where you are confident through the plan, do and review cycle and testing that you have a youth work product that works. Then you have to await for a set of criteria to be published to ascertain whether what you have done will now meet the needs of that criteria to be recommissioned and continue delivering. Difficult when some of the funding pays salaries.
Why are you passionate about this type of youth work?
I am passionate about the prevention projects because I have designed them and refined them to see them having impact and meeting needs. I am passionate about good quality centre based youth work provision because I know it works from personal experience and can serve a multitude of needs in the community it seeks to serve.
What would you recommend for someone wanting to get into this type of youth work?
You cannot teach someone to have a heart for young people or passion to want to do the job with that client group. If you feel you have the raw materials and would like to give it a go, seek out a reputable organisation that has a robust system for the management of volunteers. Get rooted in a team, listen and learn.
If you can see evidence of good youth work, there is a culture of debriefing and discussion about the youth work, good supervision and training and you as a person grow in your understanding of youth work, then you are in the right place to being mentored and coached onto whatever and however you see your gift taking you in the youth work field at your pace.
Is there any special training or qualifications required?
Life experience is beneficial but not essential. The only thing you need is ‘YOU’ as you are the one that interacts with that young person. I began my career as a volunteer and now work full time in the field.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Youth work is a vocation more than a career goal. The skill set of a youth worker is vital in society and like no other in assisting young people in their transition to adulthood. There will always be a need for youth work in the UK.
Been a youth work practitioner for 15 years in a variety of different roles. Worked both in the voluntary and statutory sector. Graduated at Brighton University with a BA in professional education (Youth & Community). Am passionate about developing quality youth services that meet the needs of young people and raising up like minded youth workers in their discipline.
You can follow Stephen on Twitter.
Please feel free to use the comments below if you have any questions about the type of youth work Stephen does. If you have experience doing the same type of youth work, we’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments as well.
You can also connect with us by:
- Signing up to receive our posts via email
- Following us on Twitter
- Liking us on Facebook
- Signing up to our RSS feed