Walking the walk with the Detached Youth Work Team
“Straight away I got offered a ‘fist pump’ and the first thing they said was, ‘you’re new, we haven’t seen you before’.”
Last week, Carol Gilchrist, Head of Communities at Kirklees Council, joined the Detached Youth Work Team on the streets of Kirklees to speak to young people – here’s what she had to say about the experience…
“I qualified as Youth Worker twenty years ago in 1999 and post degree I worked for a decade in youth work before moving onto community focused work. When the Detached Youth Work Team approached me to join them on a Monday evening on the streets of Almondbury I was slightly excited to jump back into my routes of detached youth work.
I was also looking forward to joining the team as when the new Director of Children’s Services, Mel Meggs, joined the council we spoke about a year of ambition for young people throughout Kirklees. As well as the Youth Intervention Team that I set up 14 months ago to work with young people who are at risk, I was also engaging the third sector in Kirklees who were really keen to provide opportunities for young people through the new ‘Kirklees Youth Alliance’ (KYA). The council has commissioned KYA for an initial three year period to strengthen and develop the offer for young people across the district.
The Kirklees Youth Alliance is led by the third sector and they have gone on to run some fantastic initiatives with other community groups such as the ‘Healthy Holidays Programme’. In the run up to the summer of 2019 there was an agreement that we would conduct Detached Youth Work but I didn’t want it to be just the Council so we adopted a mixed model approach meaning that the staff carrying out the work would be a mixture of third sector staff and council staff.
“I think having that mixed model is vital as third sector organisations provide a different perspective to the council staff and together they share their knowledge, experiences and resources.”
Even though I was excited to get out and speak to the young people I must admit there were a few nerves. I have done limited youth work in the last ten years so while I have my own children, it’s a completely different environment when you are speaking to young people on the streets in the evening, I was asking myself, “can I relate to them?”.
The amazing thing about young people is that they make it so easy for adults because they hardly ever have any awkwardness about them. We were hanging on the street corner where they are known to congregate and the youth worker said they will be here soon and within five minutes the young people came over and there was no uncomfortableness. Straight away I got offered a ‘fist pump’ and the first thing they said was, ‘you’re new, we haven’t seen you before’ and from that point on the conversations came really naturally.
One of the team, Kirkham, brought boxing gloves and pads because the young people had mentioned it the previous week so all the young people were having a go hitting the pad and that brought us onto a conversation about a community boxing group. I know of a boxing group in the area and they said, “oh yeah we’ve heard of it but we’ve never been”, and before they left they said they were going to give it a go and attend a session. For me that was a really positive outcome from the evening.
This was a really positive outcome but it’s not rare for the team to be making a difference likes this. The team have intervened in violent issues which could have escalated and they’ve safeguarded a number of young people who they have come across while out doing the detached youth work and then referred them into the appropriate agencies. The team are really well equipped to deal with a variety of issues and they are so flexible in their approach to engaging young people. If we didn’t have staff out in the evening then we wouldn’t have been picking these issues up and they would have been missed. We obviously can’t cover every street and speak to every young person out in the evening throughout Kirklees but every young person who we engage in conversation, safeguard or help sign post them to sports club/activities is a win for the young person and for us.
I had a brilliant time out with the team and I would like to personally thank them for all the brilliant work they do (rain or shine) engaging young people on the streets.”