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  • Writer's pictureDavid Whewell

Shaping detached youth work – pandemic and beyond

Our guest blogger today is Nahim Ahmed MBE, Spotlight Youth and Community Engagement Manager at Poplar HARCA

To learn more about Nahim, see this article

Detached youth work is all about taking services to young people who are usually in unconventional settings and engaging with hard-to-reach young people. Carrying out detached youth work during the pandemic has demonstrated the importance (my comment piece on Inside Housing available here) of the role it plays in residents’ and young people’s lives. As lockdown eases, detached youth work remains an essential service to engage with hard-to-reach young people, and has wider benefits for all community stakeholders involved.

The presence of a team of youth workers consistently engaging with young people out in the community gives reassurance to young people, and to the residents who feel intimidated whilst accessing their home. It also allows youth workers to talk about the consequences of ASB (congregating in groups, noise nuisance, vandalism, etc.) and explain how it can tarnish their future.

After developing a relationship with those young people involved, youth workers are able to talk about how it feels for the residents when such acts are carried out on their doorstep. The meaningful discussions often occur from this point onwards, when youth workers have developed a relationship by getting to know young people and by offering them an alternative such as an opportunity they can gain from.

Our priorities are clear whilst working with our residents and young people; we put engagement before enforcement, because establishing a relationship with individuals to try to understand why they are causing a nuisance in various hotspots goes a very long way.

Enforcement on the other hand, can have negative consequences. It can result in alienating young people, lead to difficulties in them gaining employment, and evicting them and their families for breaching the tenancy agreement can be seen as an unfair process due to one person’s act resulting in the whole family suffering.

Our detached youth work style has been significant in engaging with young people across Tower Hamlets (Bow, Poplar, and Isle of Dogs). Our youth work team have been working closely with the ASB team to identify where those hotspots are and to send out a team of detached youth workers to engage with young people and offer a range of opportunities that they can take advantage of. We are very lucky to have dynamic teams across our organisation that are able to work together and find a common ground, even though the roles can be best described as two ends of one stick.

Detached youth work, in my opinion, should be taken very seriously and embedded into as many feasible aspects (projects, programmes, activities, consultation processes, and more) of every housing association. This will not only create opportunities for the next generation, but also contribute massively to building stronger inclusive communities with opportunities for all.

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