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Youth Work Week 2021: Champions of Youth Work

8th November 2021 by Kathryn Morley, Chief Executive, OnSide

We’ve wrapped up what has been a fantastic Youth Work Week, where we’ve thanked and celebrated youth workers and youth work champions.

We’ve heard from a wide range of voices this week, including youth workers, young people, our fantastic CEOs and supporters of Youth Zones nationwide, all united in sharing what youth work means to them.

For Tom, Head of Youth Work at Warrington Youth Zone, youth work is about providing a safe space for young people to be themselves. For Nesar, a Youth Worker at Future, Barking and Dagenham Youth Zone, it’s about empowering and enabling a positive change in a young person’s life. While Edward, a member of Grimsby Youth Zone’s Young People’s Development Group brilliantly summarised youth work as being there for someone.

Ultimately youth work is about providing support, belief and inspiration. It’s about genuinely being there for young people. No time has this been more important than during the pandemic. There are over 370 full time and part time youth workers across the OnSide Network who all went above and beyond to ensure young people had access to the support they needed, when they needed it. Welfare calls, online activities, doorstep visits, food parcel and laptop deliveries and face-to-face support for our most vulnerable young people, when many other services simply fell away.

You can read more about what youth work and Youth Zones across the Network achieved over the last year in our 2020/21 annual review. Over 100,000 free meals were distributed, over 45,000 welfare calls were made. An incredible £6m was raised to support young people through the pandemic response. Thank you to our generous supporters who showed up for young people during this time, you truly are champions of youth work.

Taking a look back highlights the vital role youth workers and Youth Zones play in their communities. It’s also evidence if ever it was needed of the importance of investing in youth provision to ensure more young people across the country are given the opportunity to shine. Therefore we welcomed the Chancellor’s Budget announcement of plans to provide funding to support up to 300 new youth facilities. The funding provides a fantastic opportunity for grassroots youth organisations and local authorities to work together to ensure young people have access to high quality universal and targeted support services.

Now is a critical time for young people, the pandemic has had a deep impact on their education, health and wellbeing, the effects of which will sadly be felt for a long time. The lessons of the past 18 months have strengthened our committed to making sure more young people have access to local youth facilities staffed by trained and skilled youth workers. You can read about how we will achieve this in our new Strategic Plan.

Youth workers are my heroes, and I am grateful for the passion and enthusiasm they show in all they do. You are what make Youth Zones incredible – thank you. I’ll leave you with these wonderful words crafted by Esme, a Network Ambassador and member at The Way, Wolverhampton Youth Zone from her fantastic poem about what youth work means to her

“We need youth work you see, it saves lives and sets us free. We aren’t all misfit teens, simply putting us on the track is the key”.

Click here to listen to the poem – enjoy!