Craig Lloyd, Director and Youth Worker at Youth UnLimited tells us about the work they deliver in the county, thanks to support from SCF grant funding – including a recent grant for £149,930 from the HPC Community Fund.
“Youth UnLimited works with young people across Taunton, Sedgemoor and the surrounding areas using professional youth work methods, including informal street-based youth work known as detached youth work. Our youth workers go to areas where young people, who are often disengaged and at risk of exploitation, are known to congregate: parks, estates, supermarkets and shops, to engage them in meaningful conversation by developing trusted relationships.
Often these young people choose not to connect with other agencies. They may be struggling with chaotic home lives, or challenges at school or college, and are experiencing social, emotional and welfare difficulties. Many simply fall through the net and are not ‘picked up’ by statutory services.
Sometimes we engage up to 70 young people during a session, although over time – and as stronger relationships develop – we will prioritise more socially disadvantaged groups. The aim is to support them through providing informal education, engage them with other agencies or help them access appropriate support with their issues.
Sometimes a positive, confidential discussion with a trusted non-judgemental youth worker is all they need; it can be so valuable. Where they might often choose not to talk to someone seen as an ‘authority figure’ we are seen as nonthreatening and a friendly face. We can also offer more focused support sessions with them at their school, college or wherever appropriate.
The need for our services far exceeds what we can currently provide. As more and more statutory organisations struggle to meet demand and hear about what we are doing, we are now asked to focus on specific areas where there are particular concerns. We work closely with the police and local authorities as well as other charities. When the coronavirus outbreak led to the initial lockdown, we ceased all delivery. It soon became apparent that the vulnerable young people were struggling, and within two weeks we had been contacted by the police. So, we returned to the streets and parks. It was incredibly moving to see and hear some of the difficulties faced by young people and their families.
Recently, one of our youth workers engaged with a group of three girls who talked freely about hitch-hiking into their local town, carrying knives for their own safety. Over time she was able to build a relationship with the girls and found out more about their chaotic home lives, including possible abuse. Ultimately, she was able to provide a bridge between the girls and other agencies, including their schools. By building that trust we were able to put in place the vital support those girls needed.”
January 6, 2022