Joining forces to make youth work count in the Borders

YouthBorders is a network of youth groups and non-uniformed clubs across this region and offers benefits – including training, insurance, strategic representation and support for youth work organisations.

It works in partnership with Scottish Borders Council and as an area association of Youth Scotland, the national network of youth groups and clubs. Membership includes youth clubs, youth cafes and information projects, and specialist projects, such as arts projects, mentoring and befriending projects.

YouthBorders’ main aim is to support the delivery of quality youth work across the region.

In a recent report highlighting the impact of youth work in the region, YouthBorders pointed out that for every £1 of local authority funding, voluntary youth work projects raise £3 from independent funders and income generation. It develops and supports volunteers, and that provides another £3 for every £1.

In addition, the report was packed with case studies and comments describing the positive impact local youth services have on young peoples’ lives.

Emma Liddell, development co-ordinator, commented: “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.

“In October 2009 a partnership event, bringing those who deliver services together with those who fund them, took place. Co-operation rather than competition was a poignant comment on the night that reflected the mood of the evening and, after rigorous debate, the mandate emerged for YouthBorders to facilitate the youth sector’s change in the Borders.

“I was seconded from The Bridge CVS to work with the YouthBorders manager, Bridie Ashrowan, on the Youth Work Futures Project. We formed a working group with Scottish Borders Council, representatives of community youth services and Youth Scotland to plan for joined-up strategies for funding local youth work.”

Emma explained that, working from a strong ethos of communities’ need to be masters of their own actions for change, local action groups (LAGs) were set up in each of the six learning communities of the Borders. Simultaneously, she and Bridie approached local and national funders and were met with enthusiastic responses, encouraging them to pursue the working together element of the project.

“These optimistic messages from the funders helped shape the LAGs planning around becoming a united service,” said Emma, adding: “Further to this, YouthBorders was successful in securing £60,000 from the Robertson Trust to recruit six development workers from within the sector to facilitate the LAGs and co-ordinate 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 co-ordinated support in building the new infrastructure for providing youth work services in the Borders. To date, the YWF Project has brought in excess of £450,000 over three years which has since been matched by the locality 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 YWF Project group’s recommendation to invest £106,000 in leaders who could drive the sustainability and funding strategy of the hub of youth work services in their area. For the first time, funders and organisations were planning together for a consistent solution.

Emma concluded: “We are now in a very exciting implementation phase where all six areas have an agreed solution for working together. In most cases, new lead or merged organisations are forming with long-term plans for creating core teams of youth workers, complemented by volunteers, and supported by full-time managers and skilled trustees.

“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.”

z To read the full report, visit www.youthborders.org.uk and click on Impact report 2010.