The changing face of Borders youth work

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the impact of youth work in the Borders is substantial and a recent report by the region’s YouthBorders organisation also reveals that for every £1 of funding from Scottish Borders Council, local youth groups are attracting a further £3 from independent funders.

A major shift in the way youth services are funded and delivered has been going on over the past two years, and here in Berwickshire we are ahead of the game.

YouthBorders brought together the 27 youth groups across the Borders and funders who have helped them provide services, the message coming across loud and clear that services were going to have to join forces if funding was to continue.And that’s just what they have done in Berwickshire. Duns Youth Club and Coldstream Youth Project have joined forces to create Connet Berwickshire Youth Projectm, which has been providing a Berwickshire wide service that also takes in Eyemouth since November last year. The long term goal for Connect is to continue providing youth services in thesearea and also roll out services to some of the smaller settlements in the district.

Many of the young people in the Borders who get involved in the youth groups are taking up training as leaders in their youth groups; are contributing positively to wider communities activities, such as community events and music festivals; and some have made enormous personal progress, starting from difficult circumstances.

Young people have grown in confidence, have developed their own networks of support and are contributing positively to the lives of other young people and life in the Borders.

They are learning and developing new skills, and there is increasing use of youth awards, including Millennium Volunteer Awards, You-Vol Awards, Dynamic Youth Awards and Youth Achievement Awards.

Emma Liddell, development coordinator with YouthBorders, said: “Recent reports of youth rioting, rising unemployment for 16 to 24 year olds and a country in economic crisis doesn’t fill our hearts with confidence for the future of our next generation.

“Over the past two years at YouthBorders we have tried to be ahead of the game, working with our members – the youth services on the ground, and with support from our third sector and statutory colleagues, to address sustainability challenges.”

A partnership event, bringing those who deliver services together with funders, concluded that co-operation rather than competition was the key.

As a result a working group, bringing together YouthBorders, SBC, representatives of community youth services and Youth Scotland, looked at ways of bringing together youth groups based on six areas across the region (Local Action Groups) .

Local and national funders were enthusiastic about the move towards working together, and Emma added: “These optimistic messages from the funders helped shape the action groups’ planning around becoming a united service.

“YouthBorders was successful in securing £60,000 from The Robertson Trust to recruit six development workers from within the sector to facilitate the groups and coordinate the change towards six locality-wide youth work services.

“Alongside The Robertson Trust, Children In Need and The Rank Foundation took a particular interest in the initiative and pledged their coordinated support in building the new infrastructure for providing youth work services in the Borders.

“To date, the Youth Work Futures Project has brought in excess of £450,000 over three years which has since been matched by the local youth services owing to the confidence funders have shown in the Borders’ strategy. Services have also been able to not only preserve but create jobs.

“In addition to this, The Children and Young People’s Planning Partnership (CYPPP) agreed to the project group’s recommendation to invest £106,000 in leaders who could drive youth work services in their area. For the first time, funders and organisations were planning together for a consistent solution.

“There is still so much to be achieved and the challenges continue but the work undertaken by all involved, including many individuals who have contributed their time without pay, demonstrates a way of working that we hope to share with other projects and regions.”

Berwickshire’s Connect project may be in its infancy but it is already attracting major funding from funders, including Children in Need and the Robertson Trust ,and the signs are good that other funders are viewing the new project in a favourable light.

Glenn Rodger, SBC’s director of education and lifelong learning supports the new-look youth services and said: “I believe that we discovered strengths we weren’t aware of and we can go forward with confidence.”