This year’s Youth Work Week is focused around social mobility and the role youth work can play in supporting it – Fair Chances: how youth work helps young people to brighter futures.
Social mobility is very pertinent right now. Theresa May has made a point of focusing on working towards a ‘meritocracy’ and announced a number of policies aimed at addressing it. On the back of the Brexit vote it’s clearly an issue she wants to see as defining her approach as leader.
It’s also pertinent because it’s a substantial problem. The Social Mobility Commission, a government created body to monitor progress on social mobility, has chronicled some of the worrying findings. These include a ‘geography of disadvantage‘ – a new unwelcome pattern of otherwise prosperous areas becoming social mobility ‘cold spots’ where inequality is becoming entrenched and many young people lack the ability to reach a reasonable standard of living as well as the means to leave the family home to seek it elsewhere.
For the National Youth Agency, youth work can help buoy young people up to achieve more. Young people have talent and imagination, they need support from adults to make the most of their abilities. Youth work can be the vital ingredient that helps achieve that – particularly for disadvantaged young people who may not get much family support. Having someone believe in you and be there to talk through options can help young people make the right decisions for their future. It can also help young people stick at things when it feels easier to quit – for example we’re piloting a new programme to tackle the high rate of young people who drop out of their apprenticeships, by giving them access to a qualified youth worker. Having a supportive person around who understands young people’s needs could be the difference between a bright future or long term unemployment.
We’re not claiming that youth work can tackle poverty and exclusion alone. Obviously not. But whether policymakers know it or not, youth work skills are hugely needed by young people right now. From exam related stress, career decisions and transitions to employment, young people always benefit from someone who can help them better understand themselves as well as an adult who is on their side to fight their corner.
If you believe young people can achieve great things, then you should also believe that youth work can help more of them achieve even greater things.
Happy Youth Work Week!