StreetBase Local Youth Clubs

Themes this local practice example relates to:

  • Youth
  • General resources

Basic details

Organisation submitting example

London Borough of Barking & Dagenham Children’s Services/ Integrated Youth Service

Local authority/local area:

London Borough of Barking & Dagenham (LBBD)


The context and rationale

LBBD has developed a network of local youth clubs in community settings using trained community volunteers, working with degree-qualified Youth Support Workers. The initiative has developed through close partnership working between the local authority and the police.


Background and genesis

In 2007, the Safer Neighbourhood Police Officer in Barking’s Longbridge Ward had a remit of addressing local antisocial behaviour, which inevitably brought him into contact with children and teenagers. 

Often, while dealing with complaints from shopkeepers and residents, the Officer spent considerable time engaging with young people. He concluded that although a minority were responsible for antisocial behaviour, most simply wanted something to do and a place to go, and pointed out the lack of facilities for young people locally. 

The Police Officer’s response was to establish a youth club and he set out to get community support through recruiting local adult volunteers. For resources, he approached the Metropolitan Police Force and the local authority, both of whom were financially supportive, and the local secondary school Head offered the school as a venue. Staffed by local volunteers, Abbey Youth Club opened in 2007, quickly going from strength to strength and regularly attracting over 80 young people. 

A ward Councillor recognised that something special was evolving - through genuine community consultation and collaboration, Abbey Youth Club had come to life and was giving young people their own space and positive activities. Consequently, fewer young people were on the streets at a loose end and antisocial behaviour was reduced.

Recognising that this model could be replicated, the Councillor worked with senior Council Officers to develop a new Integrated Youth Service strategy empowering community-led youth clubs right across Barking & Dagenham under the borough’s established brand for young people ‘StreetBase’.

The practice

Volunteer Recruitment

Initially, upon identifying a venue, every ward household was leafleted by Police Cadets. Subsequently, an information meeting was held for applicant volunteers at which CRB forms were distributed. Once the forms were processed by the CRB, a second meeting was held to establish a management committee and select the youth club coordinator. The issues of sustainability and community leadership were also discussed. 

However, it soon became clear that this recruitment procedure was too time-consuming and it was successfully replaced in February 2011 by the LBBD website, which provided information, contacts and an application form for the Volunteer Youth Support Worker’s role.

Club formation

When Management Committee and Youth Support Worker posts were filled by volunteers, bank accounts were opened, start-up funding allocated and equipment purchased. A further meeting clarified the club constitution, policies and procedures, equipment set-up and any other issues that needed addressing. The nomination of the club coordinator/leader in charge was also made by the volunteers.

However, it was found that this model was not sustainable. Volunteers were reluctant to take on the additional responsibilities of self-governance and the role of a management committee member or officer, mainly due to time constraints and personal commitments. The feedback from volunteers was that they had wanted to work with young people and did not want to manage the clubs. Therefore, this model was replaced by a Youth Support Service-led model, i.e., clubs coordinated by a qualified youth worker, supported by a team of volunteers with ongoing funding from the service. 

Basic Youth Work Training

It was recognised that training volunteers to engage and work effectively with young people was necessary. Initially a four-week introductory course, later extended to six weeks, was devised to give a basic understanding of working with young people. This included engagement, youth worker roles and responsibilities, the CAF, safeguarding, and health and safety. Before being placed in a club, all volunteers must undertake this basic Youth Service training course. First aid training was initially provided by the Police, but this training is now being provided by the local authority, in addition to manual handling and further safeguarding training.

The volunteers are a very diverse group. Age ranges from late teens (in employment, university students, unemployed) to volunteers in their fifties (parents, grandparents, in employment, in training, unemployed), with the majority in the 23-40 age range. The ethnicity is also very diverse. The majority group is Black African. Asian/Asian British, White British, Black Caribbean and Mixed are also represented. Females outnumber males 3/1. Christians are the dominant faith group. The motivation for volunteering falls into four main themes: giving something back to the community; supporting young people through adolescence to help them avoid making life-changing mistakes; providing young people with a safe place to socialise with their friends; and career opportunities in working with young people.

Involvement

Impressed with the Officer’s commitment, his employer, the Metropolitan Police seconded him to the borough’s Integrated Youth Service from July 2008 until August 2011 (his retirement date). His role was to develop youth clubs across the borough based on his original model with the aims of:
• providing positive activities for young people where they live;
• creating an environment where young people feel safe, have fun and participate in experiential and experimental learning;
• reducing antisocial behaviour.

Local facilities, i.e., not requiring young people to travel, were essential and were a response also to the issue of postcode rivalries. 

An ambitious programme aimed to have half of the borough’s 17 wards offering a StreetBase Local Youth Club. A multi-agency approach was used to establish the youth clubs involving:
• residents
• community/voluntary groups
• police 
• schools
• children’s centres
• community centres
• local authority departments. 

Achievements so far

Measurement

Between October and December 2011, 169 individual young people attended and took part in positive activities, 475 times in total.

Evidence/moving in right direction:

• young people actively taking ownership, making decisions, identifying activities and gaining confidence
• improved relationships between young people and the Police 
• more positive image of young people promoted
• intergenerational community work - adult volunteers working for benefit of the community - sharing goals, breaking down barriers, joint fundraising etc.
• antisocial behaviour in the clubs’ localities reduced
• one club in a primary school contributing to transition of young people to secondary school. 

Organisational and/or cultural change

The local authority adopted the Safer Neighbourhood Police Officer’s vision and is now committed to open-access youth provision in every ward. By September 2012, there will be 12 StreetBase Local Youth Clubs operational, covering 70 per cent of wards, which is ahead of the rollout target, and opportunities for the remaining wards are being actively pursued. This is testament to local partnership working without which the clubs would not exist. 

Benefits 

For Young People:

• satisfaction of making a difference to other people and to the community 
• participation in decision making brings empowerment and often leads to further involvement in community
• encouragement and support to become involved with local organisations, thus consolidating their contribution to the community, offering them new experiences and aiding personal development
• building confidence and self-esteem through practising existing skills and developing new ones and acquiring qualifications through YAA, the DoE Award and youth leadership schemes, thus increasing employability 
• extending horizons through new activities, meeting people with different perspectives and making friends.

For Adult Volunteers:

• satisfaction of making a difference to other people and to the community
• increased motivation and new skill set, aiding personal development and increased likelihood of paid employment 
• structured programme, including basic youth work qualification, support of colleagues into paid work with first-hand information about IYS vacancies , employer’s references etc. 
• extending horizons through new activities, meeting people with different perspectives and making friends.

For the Community:

• intergenerational community work with adult volunteers working for the benefit of young people and the wider community, sharing goals and bringing down barriers
• local organisations benefit from new involvement of young people 
• increased skills leading to increased employment opportunities for members of the community
• extending horizons through new activities, meeting people with different perspectives and making friends.

Replication

Recruiting sufficient volunteers was time-consuming and labour-intensive.:

• To resolve this, the local authority launched a Youth Volunteering page on its website in February 2011, which has attracted more than 150 applications in ten months. 
Finding suitable venues was problematic as some schools and community centres were initially reluctant to host a youth club, partly due to a negative perception of young people. 
• Through engagement with children’s centre colleagues and users, the wider benefits for community cohesion and better outcomes became obvious, and six children’s centres rose to the challenge.
• The next two years will see a rolling programme of positive media coverage highlighting the achievements of young people and volunteers and the benefits to the community, thus addressing negative public perceptions. 

Sustainability of the youth clubs was difficult in some cases. The volunteer-led management committee model being followed did not function as effectively as was hoped. Volunteer workers were reluctant to engage in additional roles, including that of Coordinator thus jeopardising sustainability. Two clubs closed as a result.

• To resolve this, it was decided that paid full time Locality Youth Workers would coordinate Volunteers to facilitate the clubs, which demonstrated an increased local authority financial commitment to make StreetBase Local Youth Clubs a reality.
• Nominal charges were introduced, not only to raise income, but also to foster a sense of membership and ownership by the young people. 

Cost

The programme started with a £1,000 equipment budget and £750 to train 20 volunteers. Some venues charge rent of between £10 and £25 per hour and £7 per week for storage. Income targets have been set and £1 is charged per session. Money is also raised from tuck shop sales. 

Learning from experience

Even with training and ongoing support, some volunteer’s attendance was unreliable and occasionally, their practice unsuitable for work with young people.

Through feedback and reflection, potential problem areas have been highlighted and will be addressed more fully in future volunteer training. A guidance handbook for volunteers is being developed which will focus on the expectations and responsibilities of the volunteer youth worker.

Key leadership behaviour characteristics

The following core behaviours have been identified as part of successful elements of leadership (see National College for Leadership of Schools and Children’s Services/C4EO (2011). Resourceful leadership: how directors of children’s services improve outcomes for children. Full report. Nottingham: NCSL).

London Borough of Barking & Dagenham identified the following behaviours as key to the transformation of their service:

• Openness to possibilities
These youth clubs (called ‘StreetBase Locals’) represent a new model of service delivery, with youth workers working in partnership with local people to address issues of antisocial behaviour, through the setting up of local provision in community settings.

The ability to collaborate
The youth clubs are not only developed in partnership, their continued existence depends on it. They can only exist and succeed through a culture of collaboration and integration with the local community.

Demonstrating a belief in team and people
The delivery of community-based youth clubs represents a new challenge for youth workers. The management and supervision of adult volunteers and liaison with the local community represents a new way of working, and calls on a whole new skills set for our youth work staff.

• Personal resilience and tenacity
Youth workers are being asked to manage quite complex relationships between local people, volunteers and young people, young people who may be the cause of antisocial behaviour.

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