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Last Updated: Monday, 1 August 2005, 11:30 GMT 12:30 UK
The system needs to be challenged
Matt Calvert
Matt Calvert works with youngsters in North London
Matt Calvert is a youth work in Islington, North London who deals with youngsters on a daily basis as part of his work with Prospex. In the following article he talks about his experience of dealing with youngsters and some of the challenges he faces.

"Having worked in North London within some of the more deprived council estates as a detached youth worker for the past 7 years, I have seen first hand and come to greatly appreciate the difficulties that many young people face on a daily basis.

Unemployment, family break down, violence and crime are all part of daily living and all contributing factures to the very low levels of self esteem, confidence, achievement and motivation the majority possess. The pressures many young people feel to conform in a particular way to the expectations of education, the authorities, families and the wider community, is intense and often too difficult to deal with, turning them away from normal socially expectable behaviour to irrational thinking, crime and quite often violence and anger.

How do we expect things to change when nobody really wants to take the challenge of working with these groups?
Matt Calvert
Many are labelled as trouble, no good or just untouchable. How do we expect things to change when nobody really wants to take the challenge of working with these groups? Unfortunately this is so much so that local authorities have started to pull out by making large cuts in resources, leaving the large weight of responsibility on the shoulders of the voluntary sector who now have the task of tackling these issues with often little resource and support.

It is important that we rethink our approach to the situation we witness in the media and the rising statistics we are faced with. No longer can we be resting on old ideas and formulae, but instead we need to make sure that we provide the right levels of support for these youngsters so that the transition into adulthood is less fraught and troublesome.

Young people are creative dynamic people so let's match that with creative dynamic solutions that individual's can engage with, receiving the much needed direction and encouragement. 'The System' needs to be challenged and we need to begin to think creatively - 'looking outside the box'.

There are two main core values we need to consider and put in place when approaching effective youth work or challenging youth issues. We not only need to consider carefully the individual relationships we form with young people but also those between young people and the wider community. Young people need to be built up and encouraged not put down and written off.

At Prospex we base our work on these two core values 'strong relationships' and 'time spent'

'Time spent' is extremely important where young people are concerned especially in these confusing developmental years. Frequently we spend less time talking face-to-face in this age of the text message and email. Meal times at home have all too often become places where members of the family pass by and spend little or no time in contact with each other. This needs to change; we need to be encouraging 'time spent'. As a foundation to our work, we spend as much time as we possibly can sitting alongside young people, talking to them, getting to know where they are coming from and gaining an understanding of their situations.

Through this we are able to develop 'strong relationships' (our second core value), build on trust, continuity and consistency, all elements that are new to many. We then have an opportunity to know in depth what the needs are and address them effectively through community-based projects, encouraging confidence and a sense of self belief and worth.

We have also realised the importance of supporting the parents and have therefore set up support networks to engage meeting this need. We are now spending more and more time in the family home getting to know the situations within the family dynamics, supporting and empowering parents to do the best that they can.

Panorama has successfully highlighted the growing concern surrounding the way in which we are currently approaching the issues surrounding young people.

If we really want to see things change and try to create a drop in the worrying crime statistics we read about, we have to replace and re-learn the value of individuals, implementing the right resources and support for the effective, creative and motivating youth work that is beginning to hit our streets but so often is unseen."

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