Building the Bridge of Trust: youth work at Spartans Community Football Academy

Spartans Community Football Academy joined a long list of celebrated youth work projects at our National Youth Worker of the Year Awards in March. So we’re thrilled to welcome Douglas Samuel to the blog today. Why do Spartans value the youth work approach? Read on to find out…

It’s a thrill and joy to be recognised for the work that we do. However, the greatest joy for everyone in our sector comes from not knowing where our ripples end. Prior to working for the Spartans Community Football Academy, I wasn’t fully aware of the importance of the role youth work can and does play in society. I’d never stopped to think about it, or imagine a world without it.

As I write this blog, nine years on from when we first opened our doors, I’ve seen first-hand the power and ability of youth work to change lives.  It can and does make a meaningful difference for so many young people. As a result of observing our own youth workers (and their peers from other local agencies) at close quarters, these days I now dare to look forward to the day when a youth worker is recognised and valued as a professional by everyone; someone who is appreciated and valued by people with the same warmth afforded to a doctor, a nurse or a teacher. Continue reading

Supporting attainment with YMCA Bellshill and Mossend

Last month, Laura Campbell was crowned overall National Youth Worker of the Year at our (youth work) star-studded Awards ceremony. Picking up a National Youth Worker of the Year Award for supporting attainment too, she’s been managing youth work projects with YMCA Bellshill and Mossend for 15 years.

My organisation runs a variety of youth projects, of which I manage three: Befriending, Plusone Mentoring, and Early and Effective Intervention (EEI).

Each has a different aim but they all cover reducing social isolation, promoting better engagement at school, diverting young people away from the criminal justice system, and addressing anti-social and offending behaviour. But ultimately my goal is to match a young person with a supportive adult, with whom they can build a relationship and work through the variety of issues that are facing them. Continue reading

What’s it like delivering youth work on a remote island? It’s the best job in the world.

Graeme Johnston recently won a prestigious National Youth Worker of the Year Award for his work with Arran Youth Foundations. Today, he shares what’s special about leading youth work on the island.

I have been responsible for youth work on Arran for the last six and a half years. It’s been a challenge, but one I have really loved.

Winning Full-Time Youth Worker of the Year at this year’s National Youth Worker of the Year Awards meant a great deal to me. It’s lovely to be recognised for the work you do and even better for that to come from the young people who nominate you. So I thought it might be interesting to give a little insight in to delivering youth work on an island through the charity I work for, Arran Youth Foundations. Continue reading

Rights at risk: young people must make their voices heard as we leave the EU

Last week, we joined Human Rights Consortium Scotland to call for young people’s rights to be protected during Brexit negotiations. Emily, Senior Policy Officer at YouthLink Scotland, explains why youth workers and young people must make their voices heard as we leave the EU.

Far from the assumption that young people aren’t interested in politics, Scotland has seen a wealth of youth engagement activity since the inception of organisations like the Scottish Youth Parliament in 1999. In Scotland, 16- and 17-year-olds have had the right to vote in Scottish Parliament and local government elections since 2015, as well as having the right to vote in the 2014 Independence referendum. But with a lowering of the voting age also comes the responsibility of the state to “invest in measures that support adolescents to understand, recognize and fulfil their role as active citizens.”

Sixty-four percent of young people voted in the EU referendum. Of that, 71% voted to remain in the EU. There is a risk that these young people will be disenfranchised by the result, along with 16- and 17-year-olds in Scotland who were unable to vote. A whole generation of young people have been brought up as global citizens – interaction with the EU is normalised. Yet little work has been done by the Scottish or UK governments to engage with young people about what a future outside of the EU may be like. Continue reading

Fair is fair: we want equal pay for Scotland’s youngest workers

Receiving a fair wage for the work you do should be a given in a modern society, regardless of your gender, background or age. That principle of equality is what powers YouthLink Scotland and the youth work sector we represent, so becoming an Accredited Living Wage Employer did not require any debate.

We are indeed living in a significant moment in history, one which will determine our journey as a Scottish nation, our place in the United Kingdom and our part on the world stage. We have some stark choices to make with regard to the labour market and, linked to that, the health and wellbeing of the nation, and crucially our young people.

Considering our young people will be shaping our nation long after many of us are gone, we need to give them a foundation of equality so they can continue to build a vibrant society, one where everyone feels valued. Fundamental to this is equality of pay and of opportunity. As an employer, we strive not just to meet our legal requirements on pay, but to ensure we go beyond this where we can. We continue to assist young people in our workplace through various employment schemes like the Community Jobs Scotland programme, and to use our advocacy role with our membership to support all youth work organisations in their efforts to achieve that equality.

We believe, though, that more has to be done to end the age discrimination within the National Minimum Wage. If government is serious about valuing all young people then fair is fair, same work should mean same pay. Continue reading

National Youth Worker of the Year 2017 winners announced

Thirty-one outstanding youth workers and youth work projects were celebrated at last night’s National Youth Worker of the Year Awards at the Crowne Plaza, Glasgow, with ten winners crowned and another five long-serving youth workers inducted to our Lifetime Achievers community.

With increasing focus on the role youth workers play in closing Scotland’s attainment gap, it was only fitting that our highest honour – overall National Youth Worker of the Year – celebrated the success of Laura Campbell and YMCA Scotland. Laura picked up her first award of the night for Youth Worker Supporting Attainment. But the judging panel agreed wholeheartedly that her work improving the life chances of marginalised young people with Bellshill and Mossend YMCA deserved extra recognition.

Laura manages three youth work projects with YMCA, helping young people to make positive choices, reduce offending and raise attainment. In particular, her partnership work with Police Scotland and North Lanarkshire Social Work department on the Early and Effective Intervention (EEI) project has been praised as an example of youth work best practice in North Lanarkshire.

Meet our National Youth Worker of the Year winners for 2017

National Youth Worker of the Year

Laura Campbell, Bellshill and Mossend YMCA Continue reading

A youth worker’s journey: meet Natasha Kerr, Scotland’s Youth Worker of the Year 2016

With our 2017 National Youth Worker of the Year Awards just around the corner, we thought a trip down memory lane wouldn’t go amiss. Last year, youth worker Natasha Kerr took our top honour for more than 800 hours dedicated to mentoring 200 young athletes in Ayrshire. Today, Ayrshire College lecturer John McTaggart explores what brought Natasha to youth work.
natasha-kerr-1In my 20 years as a college lecturer, I have had the privilege of engaging with many thousands of young people who have come into further education with dreams, hopes and aspirations of creating a better future for themselves.

In order for people to achieve their dreams, we must create opportunities and develop a supportive environment that will help these young people to go forward with hope and without fear of failure. Further education is an opportunity for many who have had negative experiences prior to coming to college. Everyone has a story, everyone has a journey, but for one student this journey has been immense. I would argue that no learner in the country has travelled further or had a greater impact on their local community than Natasha Kerr.

Four years ago Natasha came to Ayrshire College as a shy and introverted student with severe confidence issues. The progression she’s made since then has been remarkable. Although Natasha is still working on her confidence issues, the amount of voluntary work she has undertaken, allied with 100% attendance in her four years at college, is indicative of her dedication and commitment. Her transformation from introverted student to pillar of the Ayrshire sport and fitness community is nothing short of remarkable. Since joining the college, she has dedicated her life to working within the community on a daily basis to provide a positive impact for young people. Continue reading