It really isn’t rocket science. The erosion of basic day in day out youth services and shift of funding to targeted work is an oxymoron. For the most needy, most at risk, toughest NEETS, you cant have one without the other. Young people who struggle to relate appropriately to adults, systems, and structures need to use the relationships of trust and support built up between them and youth workers to access, utilise and be encouraged to stick with the targeted services that are there to supposedly help them. It is about basic equality of opportunity.
In the past few weeks I have come across countless small organistions struggling to keep basic services going, whilst target ted providers cannot get young people onto courses. Often these targeted providers are the bigger players who hear about the latest funding stream, or pot of money, they come to the week in week out community groups, to get their places filled, meet their stats, publicise the latest idea, and only those with enough social skills, where-with-it-all and confidence access these schemes, and even then the drop out rates are pretty high. As they do not have the relationship base they fail to present a genuine equality of opportunity to those most in need.
So why aren’t funders, funding those with a 100% success with getting NEETS into training or work? Or 100% success in helping those with mental health get back to work. Why wouldn’t funders bite their hands off? Because these REAL results come from small local community providers who build the relationships week in week out. After three years of building real relationships with NEET young people it is not surprising that when they volunteer on our Zine young leaders programme, they grow in confidence, we know them well enough to address the barriers they face, and they all go onto to employment or training. It is not a surprise that a peer group of people with mental health issues support one another to access employment, make community connections, and so improve their prospects, confidence and employ-ability. It is about a basic understanding of equality and taking the right steps to address the issues faced.
The local schemes work because they address he preexisting issues of inequality, by the relationships built up through regular services. Those on the ground struggle to stay afloat at the coalface as they work day in day out with young people, achieving so much with so little. BUT they dont have the time to keep up with the fast changing funding priorities of the latest government fad, so it is often outside agencies, larger providers, who sweep in to grab the funding, without the ongoing context of regular provision and achieve so little with so much.
So here is a call back to equality of opportunity, opportunity for the small grassroots organistions, that create opportunity for the most in need. A call to see the basic connection required between regular work and targeted work, if we are going help break the cycles of deprivation and poverty that are increasingly taking hold in our communities.