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#What25MeansToMe – Jo

July 22nd, 2021

 

We spoke to Jo for our next What 25 Means to Me blog. Jo is Redthread’s Programme Manager for Birmingham (Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Heartlands Hospital and Birmingham Children’s Hospital). It just so happens her 25th year in youth work coincides with Redthread turning 25…


This year I celebrate 25 years in full time youth work. 25 years which have seen me working in schools, churches, prisons, community centres and for large national organisations. Whilst I have got older, greyer and wiser (hopefully!), I have seen many changes in the youth work profession.

“The biggest shift has been how youth work is viewed”

It’s no longer seen as the remit of youth workers to play endless table tennis (thankfully, as I have dyspraxia so was horrendous at it!), but we are now viewed as peers to our social work, youth offending team and clinical colleagues. Youth work interventions are seen as key protective factors in safeguarding young people in ways they weren’t 25 years ago. Through sitting in multi -disciplinary teams, youth workers are able to ensure the voice of young people is heard and that they are empowered to understand the choices and options they have. A ‘win’ for individual young people but also for the structures and systems that need to hear them.

“Youth work interventions are seen as key protective factors in safeguarding young people”

The shift in this ’professionalism’ occurred when the National Occupational Standards (NOS) for youth work were introduced in 2012. The NOS ensured that the professional standards of youth workers were given the same regard as other roles and I celebrated that as a school-based youth worker at the time, knowing that I commanded the same respect as my teaching colleagues.

The austerity cuts to youth work in 2010 saw areas like Birmingham lose 70% of their funding and youth work charities sadly fighting over the same pots of funding. You knew if you got the funding, a colleague elsewhere was being made redundant: it felt like a very tough period to be in the charity sector.

“The austerity cuts to youth work in 2010 saw areas like Birmingham lose 70% of their funding”

The fallout from the political decisions made only a decade ago, will be seen in youth work for another decade I believe. Without local safe places for young people to meet, small skirmishes have the potential to become much larger with ripples felt across communities. Without ‘safe’ adults mentoring, listening and empowering them, we have seen young people feel disillusioned and angry at systems which seem unjust in their hierarchical approach to engaging young people.  

“Without ‘safe’ adults mentoring, listening and empowering them, we have seen young people feel disillusioned and angry”

In the midst of the challenges, I saw young people thrive to become healthy advocates for themselves – in fact just last month, I was ‘backup’ for a young man I used to support. Jake was desperately wanting to be with his partner at the birth of their first child but the hospital wasn’t going to allow it, until he and I worked together on how he could advocate for himself in a calm manner to be present. He was then able to be there to see his son born. For me that moment felt like the culmination of 25 years of youth work – watching a young man advocate for himself in a calm manner to be able to watch his son be born; I admit it, I cried!

This is part of our ‘What 25 Means to Me’ campaign. To celebrate Redthread’s 25th year, our blog series provides different perspectives on the eclectic experience on ‘growing up’ and how society can better support young people going through this transition. 

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