Leaping lizards and a sense of hope for better


Louise Macdonald OBE, Chief Executive of Young Scot discusses the role of youth volunteering following her recent visit to the States with #iWill.

group-shotA la Buzzfeed, my top 10 reflections from the #iWill study visit to the USA to look at volunteerism and service. Reader beware…these are random and each one generates further questions of their own.

  • Context matters…but so does hundreds of years of history. It was striking just how intrinsic the strongly defined roles of Federal, State and City are to every element of policy and decision-making in the US. It means scale and universal models face challenges to thrive, but it is fertile ground for localism and focussing on community priorities.
  • Do bake sales count? Do they do more than raise the dough? A flippant question, but one which kept coming up repeatedly – how do you develop models of service and volunteerism that go beyond “sticking plaster” and really get to the heart of tackling core issues?
  • To mandate or not to mandate…that is the question. We often encountered examples where “service” and volunteerism is a compulsory part of education for young people in the USA – either a high school or at college. These opened up lots of questions about the effect this has on…
  • …Motivation. Does the original reason for coming into volunteering or service matter? Whether through compulsion or through passion – does the ROI for both young people and communities justify any means of recruitment?
  • Business does great things, but could it do more? We saw and heard about lots of great CSR programmes, with fantastic and often enviable links with philanthropic members of the business community. Yet no-one yet has cracked the code around how we support young people to articulate their volunteering experience to potential employers in a systematic way.
  • If you’re volunteering outside in Miami in the summer, look out for leaping lizards as well as mosquitoes. Enough said.
  • The gaps are wide, as they are here in the UK, but the point I’ve been left with is that it’s almost too easy to *think* the work you are doing is “open to all” – when in fact some of the structural barriers are so nuanced it’s hard to see them. It’s the difference between equality, equity and fairness. Beware also the rule of unintended consequences.
  • A sense of agency matters for young people, no matter the context – being able to see how they are contributing, that their voices and ideas are not just being heard but given equal weight in the decision-making and service design process.
  • Measuring what matters, matters…a common theme in the UK, and a common theme in the USA. When it comes to youth volunteering, it’s no different.
  • Learning alongside brilliant people is the best thing you can do as a leader. Diversity of thought; diversity of questioning and diversity of reflection all add up to something wonderful. We instinctively know this to be the case, but sadly it isn’t all that often we get to experience it in “real time”. Huge thanks to #iwill and the US Embassy, along with Global Ties US & Miami, for making it happen. But most of all profound thanks to the incredible young people we met, who were so generous, open, thoughtful and passionate – their sense of hope for better, fairer communities through social action is what leaves the indelible mark in my memory.

Louise Macdonald OBE is Chief Executive of Young Scot, the national youth information and citizenship agency supporting young people aged 11-26 in Scotland. Young Scot, along with YouthLink Scotland and Education Scotland, is one of the lead agencies of the #iwill campaign in Scotland https://rewards.youngscot.org/iwillrewards  You can follow Louise on twitter on @Louisemac


Gambling with our youth


Chiara Marin explores the problem of young people and gambling, and how the ‘Youth Problem Gambling Initiative’ run by Fast Forward can help.

chiara-marin-fastforwardCan you remember the last time you saw a gambling advert? Can you name 3 different betting shops? Have you ever gambled?

I bet you’ve said yes to at least one of those 3 questions!

Gambling is increasingly all around us. Just think about how many gambling adverts you see when watching a football match or reading a newspaper. Consider how far (or how little!) you need to walk to get to your nearest betting shop or to buy a scratch card.

Gambling can be a sociable and fun activity. However it can also become an addiction, bringing serious consequences for the gambler and affecting their family and friends. Although it’s not a new phenomenon, problem gambling often goes unrecognised. In fact, young people’s gambling has been dubbed a ‘hidden addiction’ (Drevensky, Shek and Merrick 2011, Drevensky 2012).

In 2006, a study carried out by Moodie and Finnigan in Glasgow and North Lanarkshire found a prevalence of problem gambling of 9% among those aged 11 to 16 – a much higher percentage compared to the data found in England and Wales. As the authors stated, gambling in general is commonplace among Scotland’s youth.

Although this remains the most recent survey establishing a baseline rate for problem gambling among young people in Scotland, in the last few years there has been a number of international studies looking at young people’s gambling behaviour.

Overall, literature indicates how important it is to have effective early intervention in place, through educational and prevention programmes for young people. In order to do so, it’s fundamental to offer appropriate training opportunities to practitioners working with young people. Teachers and youth workers are the people best placed to address the topic of problem gambling with young people. Indeed, these practitioners are more likely to meet young people who already have problems with their gambling, particularly if they are working in deprived areas or with young people engaging in other risk-taking behaviours.

Fast Forward, a national youth work charity addressing young people’s health and well-being, has been working since 2014 to promote preventative and educational programmes on youth problem gambling, using a harm reduction approach.

The ‘Youth Problem Gambling Initiative’ started in April 2014 with a pilot in Edinburgh and the Lothians. This project then received a further 2 year funding from the Responsible Gambling Trust, which enabled us to offer our training programme across Scotland from January 2016.

Our CPD sessions support practitioners to acquire the tools and knowledge to prevent the onset of ‘at-risk’ gambling behaviour among the young people they work with, increasing the availability of information and support.

Training participants also receive a copy of the ‘Youth Problem Gambling Toolkit’. This is a new manual, created to support practitioners with information and resources they can use in their work when addressing the topic of youth problem gambling.

In the first 6 months of this year, we ran 14 training sessions involving a total of 137 practitioners.

The data collected through these sessions highlighted the need for this training. Nearly 18% of attendees said they had previously provided support on problem gambling at least once to young people aged 11-15, and about 45% to young people aged 16-25. However, respondents to our survey reported lacking sufficient knowledge and resources to confidently offer educational activities and effective support on this topic. Our training programme aims to bridge this gap.

We received very positive feedback after each training session, with attendees also expressing how they plan on taking forward the learning.

“I will include a question regarding gambling when I’m profiling tenants debts and income in relation to checking an issue which prevent them paying their rent.”

“I will discuss this with team regarding delivery in schools and youth groups.”

“This will make current delivery more interesting and interactive.”

 “I am more likely to raise the issue of gambling.”

We are also collecting feedback from those attendees who have started using the toolkit. This will allow us to include practitioner suggestions and ideas in the final version of the toolkit, which we plan to launch online next year.

Further information:

Would you like to attend a training? Check out our online Eventbrite calendar! www.eventbrite.co.uk/o/fast-forward-9788362240 We’ll run more CPD sessions in the coming months, including some which will be tailored specifically to teachers. Stay tuned to hear about our future developments!

To receive the newsletter and other updates regarding the Youth Problem Gambling Initiative, please email Chiara Marin, project officer, at: chiara@fastforward.org.uk

Useful reading includes work researching the links between social gaming and online gambling, the role of advertising, as well as that of family and peer groups in introducing children to gambling. For an overview, a good starting point is the recently published report ‘Children and young people’s gambling: research review’ (2016) by Professor Valentine for the Responsible Gambling Trust.

For further information on problem gambling, please consult: www.gambleaware.co.uk

Digital skills


Sky UK believe that every young person has potential, they just need the right opportunities to unlock it. Nishy Lall, Sky Academy Manager, explains.

pg-26-nishy-lallSky Academy is made up of five free initiatives.

  • Sky Sports Living for Sport – is a schools-based initiative using skills used for sports and sports stars to build confidence and life skills.
  • Sky Academy Careers Lab – full day careers experience for 16-19 year olds to build employability skills.
  • Sky Academy Starting Out – work experience, apprenticeships and graduate opportunities at Sky.
  • Sky Academy Skills Studios – a halfday interactive experience giving eight to 18-year-olds the chance to come behind the scenes at Sky and make their own TV report, linked to topics they are studying at school.

Through our initiatives we’ve set ourselves the target to reach out to 1 million young people by 2020.

We’re committed to investing throughout the UK and, in March 2015, we launched Sky Academy Skills Studios in Livingston, investing in young people across Scotland to give them an opportunity to come to Sky and participate in this interactive learning experience which is linked to the Scottish Curriculum for Excellence. Teachers have the choice of 20 different topics for students to create a news report using state of the art technology. Since launching 10,000 young people have benefited from attending Skills Studios. Also, this year in Scotland we will be holding Careers Lab days for 16 to 19 years olds to help further develop skills by giving them the chance to take part in practical workplace challenges at Sky and learn about jobs in media, business and technology.

Young people who take part in Sky Academy tell us it is unique and inspiring. Their experience has both boosted their skills and has improved their understanding of their importance.

Young people also gain confidence to apply these skills, developing them over time, helping to unlock their potential. As well as capturing the stories of their experiences, we’re measuring the effects of our initiatives immediately following and then up to six months after young people take part. And we’re proud of the positive impacts we’re seeing. As an example, more than 80% of those coming to Sky Academy Skills Studios report they have improved at least one of the six chosen skills (planning, communication, resilience, teamwork, creativity and confidence); 90% are more confident in these skills up to six months after their Sky Academy Careers Lab experience; and 90% of teachers report improvements in the teamwork of students who have taken part in Sky Sports Living for Sport.

It’s really inspiring to learn about all the youth work being done across Scotland, where many of these key skills are being used to make a positive impact to communities and society. We look forward to continuing the work with the youth work sector to enable more opportunities for young people across Scotland.

W: skyacademy.com | Tw: @SkyAcademy

Sky Academy’s article is taken from the latest The Link, the youth work sector’s magazine, you can read the full magazine here: http://ow.ly/iYRH301I9RJ

Be ambitious

Pg 10 Shettleston Fuse Youth.JPG

Shettleston Fuse Youth

Paul Johnston, Director General, Learning and Justice for Scottish Government, talks about the need for ambition in our work with young people.

Youth Work Changes Lives Expo

Youth Work Changes Lives Expo RBS Conference Centre 27 January 2016 Programme #YWExpo Picture: Alan Rennie

We know that youth work is changing lives, by supporting young people to make choices that will shape the rest of their life.

In many respects, we are already seeing great progress.

The OECD (the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) recently reviewed Scotland’s education system and said that there is a huge amount to celebrate:

  • We are seeing clear upward trends in terms of attainment and positive destinations.
  • Over 9 in 10 entered a positive follow-up destination in 2014.
  • Nearly 2/3 of school leavers continue in education.

They recognised youth work’s role in their review.

“Scottish young people work increasingly towards recognised awards such as the Duke of Edinburgh Award, the Youth Achievement Award and the John Muir Award. There is thus recognition of young people’s personal achievements within and beyond school, including through partnerships which support learning.“

The OECD did make it clear that we have more to do. We are still not achieving the outcomes that we want to see for all young people, especially those from the poorest areas of Scotland.

Education Scotland inspections point to some communities where the collective work of schools, youth workers, the police and many other partners are allowing children and young people to fulfil their potential and really flourish.

2018 will be the Year of Young People, and now is the time to agree the action that will allow us to drive forward further significant improvement in the lives of children and young people by that time.

Coming back to Scottish Government as Safer Communities Director in 2013, I saw some incredible changes that had taken place during my absence. For some reason, these differences were not making the headlines. But I think they are truly remarkable.

  • Recorded crimes and offences by people ages 8 – 17 have reduced by 45%, from 78,572 in 08/09 to 43,117 in 12/13.
  • Children referred to the childrens’ reporter on offence grounds were 11,554 in 08/09. This dropped to 2,891 in 14/15, a reduction of around 75%.
  • Numbers of young people convicted of handling offensive weapons were 812 in 2006/07, which dropped to 165 in 2013/14, a reduction of around 80%.

What level can we get these figures down to by 2018 and what will it take? I know that the continued energy and engagement of youth workers will be crucial.

As we seek to make further progress, we must think carefully about how we are going to deliver improvement. How do we improve things? Improvement science tells us we need:

  • a clear aim;
  • a method; and
  • we need to measure it.

Those aims are there at a high level in the National Youth Work Strategy: think about it at local level, in the organisation or community that you work in. Get together with others to agree it. Be ambitious.

In my experience, it is crucial to test out different approaches, be willing to learn from others, and learn from success as well as from failure.

Finally, measure. If it works, share it, spread it. If it doesn’t, learn from it and move on.

I look forward to seeing more of the energy, inspiration and impact that youth work can bring, as we work together seeking to change the lives of young people across Scotland.

W: gov.scot | Tw: @PaulJScotGov

Paul Johnston’s article is taken from the latest The Link, the youth work sector’s magazine, you can read the full magazine here: http://ow.ly/iYRH301I9RJ