‘Grow your Own’ Youth Work, Philosophy and Practice, Tameside

Themes this local practice example relates to:

  • Youth
  • General resources

Basic details

Organisation submitting example

St Peters Partnerships – SPY St Peters Youth

Local authority/local area:

Tameside MBC

The context and rationale

The St Peter’s Youth Project is a community based organisation operating in Ashton, a deprived area of Tameside. Its aim was to contribute to breaking a cycle of disaffection experienced by young people, by de-commissioning existing services and implementing a ‘Grow your Own’ approach to youth work.

In 2002, extensive research and consultation was carried out in the Ashton Regeneration Area with agencies, residents, parents and young people and a wide range of issues and concerns were identified, many by the young people themselves: 

A high involvement in anti-social and criminal behaviour;
Low levels of educational achievement;
Low levels of literacy and numeracy;
High levels of youth unemployment;
A low level of parental support;
A large number of young people suffering from low self-esteem;
Many young people with low expectations for their futures;
A shortage of positive role models;
A high number of homeless young people;
A shortage of voluntary / community organisations supporting young people.

The findings also confirmed that young people in this area were growing up in segregated communities with little to support racial integration between the Asian and White community. Although there was no evidence of racism amongst young people, all of those interviewed said that they thought there should be more activities to bring the two communities together for all age groups to prevent the type of riots experienced in Oldham summer 2000.

It was felt that a holistic programme of activities was needed to break a cycle of negative behaviour, change the way in which many young people thought and enable them to develop the life skills needed to become responsible citizens: “We must break the cycle of disaffection and change people’s expectations and attitudes to life if we are to make any significant long term change within the Ashton Regeneration Area.”

In 2005, services provided through mainstream providers were decommissioned and replaced with a ‘Grow your Own’ youth work initiative, promoted by the St Peter’s Youth (SPY) project which aimed to address the issues highlighted in the area, in the belief that the solutions lay within the local community i.e. the local community are the solution and not the problem. The following outcomes and aims were adopted:

1. A reduction in crime rates and a reduction in anti-social behaviour.
2. Improved employment and training prospects and educational achievement. 
3. A sustainable, strong and cohesive community.
4. Young people are safe and healthy.

Achieved by:
- providing opportunities for young people in order that they can make a positive contribution to their community
- enriching young people’s lives leading to their economic well-being
- recruiting volunteers through the community
- promoting inter-cultural dialogue
- promoting citizenship and giving young people a voice
- promoting healthy living and providing sporting activities
- giving young people opportunities to enjoy and achieve.

Central to the achievement of these, was the empowerment and inclusion of local community members who volunteered, received training and moved into casual, part-time and full-time employment. 

Activities to achieve the outcomes would include providing young people with things to do and places to go through the volunteers and staff in the project, offering activities seven days a week. The bringing together of young people from across a geographically and racially divided community was designed to address the concerns of the project ‘sleep walking’ into segregation.

The practice

The initial ‘Grow your Own’ project was piloted with 8 unemployed young men from the local community, who received basic community sports leader training as volunteers, were CRB-checked and then worked on a summer programme delivering sports to local children. 

There was evidence that this approach had the ability to reach many more young people than commissioned statutory services, with strong evidence of strong and meaningful relationships between the providers and beneficiaries of services. 

The gradual decommissioning of failing services through a process of evaluation, which demonstrated poor value for money, no measurable outcomes and no meaningful relationships with local community, followed. Most telling of all was their inability to demonstrate what their lasting legacy was going to be once the area based grants had ended. There was no evidence that the additional services provided through grant funding would be mainstreamed by the local authority.

Following the success of the pilot and decommissioning of services, there was an increased level of ‘growing your own’ activity and training, including Levels 2 and 3 in Youth Work, higher level coaching qualifications, training in outdoor education, basic expedition leaders’ award, climbing and team building, an increase in the workforce, more representative of the local community it serves including women.

A decision was made to join with a local charity, St Peters Community Partnership, in order to ensure future sustainability and a more resourceful project, maximising funding available to charities through grants, giving the project and the people more autonomy and control. 

Through this process, funding was attracted from the Rank Foundation, Big Lottery and Working Neighbourhood Fund of £1.2 million until December 2011 and looking forward, a further £570,000 has been obtained which will fund activity until December 2014. 

Those involved: Initially the work was managed through a task group consisting of all of the agencies committed to our objectives including Police, Connexions, Local Councillors, Health residents, voluntary sector, primary school, housing and Local Authority, chaired by the Director of Children’s Services Tameside MBC. More recently, we are both managed by a youth committee and a sub-group consisting of local residents, Trustees of charity, the local authority Director - child and family team, health representative, third sector and inter faith coordinator.

Referral: The project prides itself on providing ‘free at the point of delivery’ services to any young person aged 5-19 years in the ward and the ‘Grow our Own’ volunteers’ project is open to any resident with the right qualities and attributes who is committed to supporting our objectives.

In the future, the project will build on its universal ‘free at the point of delivery’ services and is presently training family workers, many of whom are volunteers from the local community, to provide more intensive support to vulnerable families who may be referred through Children and Family Teams through the Local Authority. We are also in discussions about how we manage and deliver services from the Children’s Centre within the area.

Evidence and evaluation - making a difference to children, young people and families

The ‘Grow your Own’ approach has contributed to the following achievements in the area against the desired outcomes which were:

1. A reduction in crime rates and a reduction in anti-social behaviour.
2. Improved employment and training prospects and educational achievement. 
3. A sustainable, strong and cohesive community.
4. Young people are safe and healthy.

Target: a reduction in anti-social behaviour by 40 per cent leading to a safer community for all measured through incidents of anti-social behaviour reported to the police. 

Result: Youths Causing Annoyance – achieved a 61.5% reduction in 2011. 

Trend: The annual moving average, in April 2007 was 57.67 incidents per month; in March 2011 this had fallen to 22.17 incidents per month, which is a 61.5% reduction in the monthly average. The trend line indicates a continued downward trend.

The project, according to a Tameside MBC residents survey in St Peters Ward comparing attitudes from 2007 and 2009, also showed:

• 23.4% fewer people said teenagers causing a nuisance was a problem.
• 21.9% fewer people said they are worried about witnessing gangs on the streets.
• 29.6% fewer people have acutally witnessed gangs on the streets.
• 19% fewer people thought teenagers hanging around was a problem.

The project would point to the following factors to explain this progress:

• The high volume of acitvity and uptake of young people in sessions.
• The increased level of activity at 62 hours a week, 7 days a week. 
• The empowerment of young people, giving them a voice, hope and sense of place.
• The delivery of sessions through peer education models that provide role models the young people can relate to and aspire to be like.
• The working in partnership with agencies such as the Police, to intervene earlier before gangs and youth causing annoyance become problematic for local communities.
• The working with local communities and parents as well as young people in a holistic community development model.
• Active involvement through the youth committee evaluations, and the volunteer scheme provide clear pathways for young people to learn and grow and contribute to the solution not the problem.

Target: A youth forum benefiting directly through training 150 young people who will have improved life chances and develop as responsible citizens 

For this particular outcome the project has had to be ‘needs led’ and flexible in the meeting of young peoples needs. The youth committee that now exists is a committee of 13 young people, the direct benefit of which has culminated in open elections with every member able to stand and vote and with 22 young peole standing for election. Indirectly the youth committee has been a benefit to hundreds of young people through their work to organise, acitivities and training such as a Question Time event, One Extreme to Another Drama production, St Georges Unity in the Community event, lobbying for and achieving Saturday night provision, residentials, visits and campaigning including House of Lords – Community allowance, participating in the Borough-wide youth forum.

Originally the project believed a youth forum was the best way to meet the needs of young people, a forum that would bring young people together more flexibly as the project beneficaries changed as young people moved on. However, the young people involved wanted a tighter structure. Their participation in the forum led to those involved being a consistent minority of the membership who decided to put to members themselves as candidates, going through a democratic process involving elections. This led to a youth committee with a constitution and a set of aims in line with the overall project’s objectives. This has given them a greater sense of autonomy, responsibility and empowerment, with them organising annual elections, youth committee meetings and surgeries, training and becoming a voice for young people in the area.

This has also shaped the project evaluation with them deciding to evaluate through a process called ‘Youth Truth – Spy through the eyes of young people’.

Target: 60 volunteers recruited from within the community who will have their employment prospects improved, with 50% going into paid employment. 

Over the life of the project 88 volunteers have been recruited, CRB checked, trained and have gone on to help deliver 7 days a week acitivity, with over 50% moving into employment. The volunteers have, over three years, delivered 7,193 hours, this equates to 47 hours per week for 50 weeks each year.

• The volunteer programme has provided clear pathways for young people with some going from volunteer to paid employee, and one progressing to university and now in his final degree year.
• More could be done to capture the journeys of volunteers through case studies and gathering information on improvement to prospects as well as confidence, self esteem and qualifications gained.
• Volunteering provides a good connection to the local community the project serves. Less throughput and more focus on volunteer engagment should be considered, with reduced expectations on service delivery.
• Anecdotally and through testamonials, volunteers are happy with their role of being as equal to staff in the project. Volunteers have equal access to training and developmental opportunities as casual workers and are invited to all staff meetings.
• The project for the first two years ran monthly staff and volunteer meetings, but in the last year, these have been bi-monthly due to the increased expectations on service delivery. 

Target: Improved community cohesion by 40 per cent over three years evidenced through a reduction in hate related crime therefore creating a community that is a safer place to live 

Trend – reduction of 34.5% in hate crime over three years 2008-11.

The annual moving average, in April 07 was 7 incidents per month; in March 11 this fell to 4.58 incidents per month, which is a 34.5% reduction in the monthly average. The trend line indicates a slight downward trend.

The project underachieved on this outcome by 5.5% on what for us is an important objective, ‘to ensure a sustainable, strong and cohesive community’. The project through research concerns expressed by residents and the geographical split into 90% Asian and 90% White with no-go areas, makes a concious effort to bring young people from different backgrounds together through its 7 day a week provision.

The improvement of 34.5% reduction is based on a relativley small figure with 86 incidents in 2006/7 compared to 55 incidents in 2010/11. However, this still makes St Peters Ward a hotspot for hate crime within Tameside. The Police representative on the HighSPY sub-group suggests that many of the incidents reported at Ashton Police station actually occur outside of the area but, because they are reported within the Ward where the Police station is based, are attributed to the Ward. Taxi drivers are the case in point. The project would also point to the fact that it has done work to promote the reporting of hate related crime and has done training with staff and become a reporting centre both within the White and Asian communities.

Target: 650 young people participate in regular physical activity and by doing so have improved physical health

SPY in the first quarter of 2010 had contact with 543 different individuals, who participated in some form of physical activity. Over the year there have been 10,689 contacts with young people doing physical activity. This gives a global figure of 1,178 young people over the three years of the project. Unfortunately, the management information system provided through Tameside MBC Youth Service was unable to say how many of these young people were different. The project has 805 members, all who have access to 32 hours of physical activity per week.


The most striking of all has been the substantial added valued calculated and captured in a report quantifying Social Values of the Community Sector. It was calculated that SPY’s social return on investment stated:

‘The forecast net SROI for the St. Peter’s Youth Project based on the core outcomes used in the SVMF is 77:1. That is, an estimated £77 of social value will be generated for every £1 spent on the project between April 2010 and March 2011’. We are in the process of having this report independently reviewed and we believe strongly that our project creates great value for your grant investment and for our community.’ (Commissioned through Northwest Together We Can 2010) 

The quality of the work SPY has done and the contribution to Tameside’s success as a Beacon Council has been acknowledged.

Please contact the C4EO team for the above report on social return on investment.

Cultural and Organisational Change: 
The most significant change is evidenced by the reductions of youth causing annoyance. Young people now feel better listened to, better represented, better cared for and provided for with greater hope for the future. Recent research through our Youth Committee – Youth Truth process suggested the following.

When asked how do you rate from very poor to excellent:
• Do you agree that you have opportunities to enjoy and achieve - 80% said excellent or very good.
• Do you agree that the area is a safer place to live - 57% said excellent or very good.
• Do you agree you have a voice - 74% said excellent or very good.
• Do you agree the project brings young people together from different backgrounds - 84% said excellent or very good.
• Do you agree the project brings young people and the community together - 72% said excellent or good.
• Do you feel supported in developing qualities and skills for the future - 71% said excellent or very good. 

St Peters as a community charity now has the ‘Grow our Own’ strategy embedded into all of its service areas and, wherever possible, looks to employ local people through the engagement in volunteer opportunities, training, and leading to employment. Of those employed, 70% are from within the Ward.

The project given its positive outcomes particularly around cohesion was asked to develop the model ‘Grow our Own’ in another area of Tameside. That work continues around ‘Grow our Own’ principles through the investment in local community groups. We would also point to the development of a local youth consortium being developed with third sector youth organisations to enable these groups to collaborate in the commissioning of services to children and young people through the local authority. 

This followed representation from the local authority to the third sector who wants to commission through one provider, a range of different youth initiatives that in the past would have been delivered through local authority youth services.

Helping others to replicate your practice

Barriers: the initial and largest barrier we had to overcome was the resistance from the Council about a different way of doing business. There have also been barriers initially from within the local Muslim community who wanted the council to fund a Pakistani youth and community centre and saw the creation of SPY as a potential threat to their need.

Also, the additional investment necessary through the development stage of the ‘Grow our Own’ project needs to be recognised and funded to achieve the longer term benefits the project has brought about. In the present economic climate, this development work is in jeopardy as commissioner’s move increasingly to a one size fits all and quick fix approach.

Cost/Potential savings: the costs of the project have been 1.2 million since 2005. The best indications of benefits we can provide are based on the SROI model described above. It will never be fully possible to understand the differences that have been made in terms of wasted lives and wasted money. What we can say is without us, the funding and benefits brought would have gone elsewhere or not been realised. 


• We should not look to provide solutions for people and communities; we should look to those communities to provide solutions for themselves.
• True capacity building approaches do not happen quickly and do not happen without commitment, expertise, drive and vision. 
• Often the work will need to be built on low expectation and from within the community and suspicions based on previous negative experiences. Don’t promise what you cannot deliver and make sure you deliver on your promises. It is better to start small around realistic smart targets. 
• Partnership working will be essential for under resourced communities; make clear statements of intent and establish principles around your wants and needs and get people to buy into them from the start. 
• Considerable time and effort will need to be invested to ensure you invest in a few but not at the expense of the many. Democracy and a pluralist ethos will take time to establish in your ‘Grow our Own’ activities particularly when employing community members who have seen others hold onto and not share power through the old corrupt models of leadership.

• Build flexibility and accountability that delivers services on the basis of need and demonstrates this through participant feedback, but you will always get those who will initially oppose your initiative waiting for you to fail.

• Identify key objectives that are wider than your initial client group in our case young people and tap into and take responsibility for outcomes that improve a wider community benefit. For example, we aim to tackle anti-social behaviour to keep young people safe from criminal justice system, gangs and wasted lives, but this also has a wider support from within the community as they were plagued by the impacts of anti-social behaviour.

The links in this example to C4EO’s golden threads are:

  • Know your communities.
  • It takes a community to raise a child.
  • Culture not structure.


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e. contactus@C4EO.org.uk

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