Anti-Social Behaviour is an absolute living nightmare, there is no two ways about that. It’s difficult for individuals, neighbours, families, communities and puts a strain on our already over stretched emergency services. It is upsetting, unsettling and at times, dangerous.
In recent years we have seen an increase in the use of social media as a platform for grown up, respectable, fed-up adults to vent and sometimes make inflammatory comments about perceived, suspected and at times, actual, youth ASB. We get this- to a degree! When it happens, if you’re life is being blighted by it-it is maddening.
But here is the thing, the sobering fact - we CANNOT Police our way out of this matter.
Bringing back corporal punishment (or Capital-if some people had their way!) is A: realistically not going to happen, B: would not make a difference. At all.
‘Shouting’ about it on online forums and making threats about ‘what you would do if you got your hands on them’ might garner likes and some fervent enthusiasm from other adults, who like you are highly likely to renege on their statements. Though this may make you feel temporarily better, ultimately it is an absolute waste of time and energy. It won’t support the behaviour change that you are hoping for. Nor will beating children who do carry out acts of ASB & nor will having more ‘bobbies on the beat’.
Which brings me to the point I would like to make. What we need is access, access, access. Youth Work, Works! Increased access to QUALITY youth services is a vital part of any successful community safety strategy. It HAS to be!
Feelings of safety within a community are generated when children and young people feel happy, safe, connected and like they belong. When this happens, those same children and young people are less likely to be vulnerable to exploitation, less likely to succumb to addiction and are more likely to find hope and have things to look forward to. It’s not rocket science. Children who feel safe & happy are more likely to thrive and less likely to cause harm or damage to their environment, their surroundings, to themselves and to others.
For any of this ‘magic’ to happen children require access to safe places outside of their homes, remembering that home is not always safe for every child. They require safe adults to connect with and they require understanding and knowledge of the factors that can affect development. That may be many things, including neuro diversity, domestic violence, drugs & alcohol, nutrition, neglect, abuse, disability, identity, cultural diversity or poverty.
Children should have access to this via our education system. Every child in this country has schools and colleges that are available to them. We need to be mindful, however, that the aforementioned factors may mean that school does not or cannot meet the needs of all indivduals. Many children have access to sports clubs, to art clubs, to counselling services. All of which provide wonderful opportunity to thrive, though many at a cost or offered only as a short-term intervention. Of course, more prevalent than ever, not every child has the funds to access leisure or therapeutic services. Child poverty has increased dramatically in the UK & that’s not about to change course anytime soon (that is another blog entirely!).
What many communities do not have is open access, long term, youth services-which operate outside of the school day, all year round. Where youth workers see the children on their way to school, on their way to the shops, on their way home from school, when they’re truanting from school, when they’re having a bad day, when they come to youth club, when they need support. Youth support embedded in their neighbourhood, in a place they feel safe, with a person who is safe, with a person who is trained, with a person who can create opportunity & connections, with a service that will be there from primary school to adulthood (& often beyond!). THIS, along with policing, education, social care, victim support agencies & other brilliant community services, creates and builds community. It creates feelings of safety and belonging. Familiarity brings comfort. It builds trust. Trust builds relationships. Safe, trusted relationships allow children to talk, to share their worries, to have fun, to feel accepted. This is turn allows youth workers to act upon the needs identified through conversation, play and observation. When we say ‘access’ we do not mean simply offering a service. We mean supporting, encouraging & handholding young people to get through the door of a youth club, community centre or to a game of football in the park.
The best part (for the sceptics at the back!), a well funded, well researched, skilled & quality youth offer costs a LOT LESS than the required response to reports of ASB & it quietens the impact & distress of the long-suffering residents who experience the unpleasant & damaging effects of ASB.
And if you’re still not convinced - ask Baroness Helen Newlove, contact the Sophie Lancaster Foundation, speak to the Ben Kinsella Foundation-ask anyone who has dedicated their work or life to tackling ASB. They will confirm that if we don’t seek to understand where the behaviour comes from, if we don’t offer diversionary opportunities (on a sustained, long-term basis), if we don’t have consistency, if we don’t address attitudes towards violence & risk, if we don’t create meaningful, exciting youth focussed opportunities and if we do not KNOW & UNDERSTAND OUR COMMUNITIES -then we will not make progress.
Appropriately funded youth work, working in close partnership with education, policing, fire services, social care, victim support services and other community services DOES MAKE A DIFFERENCE. BUT IT WILL NOT REAP RAPID RESULTS & BE A MAGIC WAND! That simply does not exist. Behaviour change takes time. Weeks, months, years, depending upon the causal factors.
In celebration of Youth Work Week 2022, Corner House Youth Project is shouting from the top of our lungs that young people deserve ACCESS to high quality youth services! We are proud of our knowledge, skills, connections, relationships and brand. We are proud of our partnership youth organisations, we are proud of our staff team and we are proud to know and be part of the lives of the young people who access our services. We are not perfect - we are a work in progress but, we are passionate and we work from a basis of knowledge, evidence & understanding.
If you want to know more about our approach, our projects, our organisation or if you’re mad about ASB in your community - please get in touch! Let’s have a cuppa and we can explore all of this and more in much more detail.
Operations Manager and Designated Safeguarding Officer