The Streetwork service is one of the original services provided by the Youth Action Project, it is at the heart of the organisation, many people find detached youth work very hard to understand, what is its purpose and value and what outcomes can result from the work?
The following paragraph will hopefully assist you as the reader to understand why this aspect of our work is very important.
Our streetwork team, carry out on average five sessions per week, primarily on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings. At the start of a shift the team meet in the office base and receive a briefing from the Project Director Helen Davis, these briefings are compiled from information supplied by the Community Safety analysts employed by West Lothian Council, they gather information regarding incidents that have involved young people in anti-social behaviour, vandalism, noise nuisance, underage drinking or just information gained from the communities in West Lothian who have expressed concerns about large numbers of young people congregating in specific areas. From this information 'Hot Spot' areas are reported to our team and this forms the basis of action plans for a session.
We have two vehicles from which to gain access from geographical area to area, however, once in a targeted area, the team work on foot ensuring that they find all the wee nooks and crannies in which the young people hang out. When young people have been indentified the team approach the young people, identify themselves and engage in conversation with the young people. Most people ask us if the young people are hostile or aggressive towards the staff, this is a very rare and most young people are happy to talk to workers as we want to hear what they have to say and gain the opinions about what is happening for them and their communities.
A whole variety of subjects are discussed and staff do have to challenge young people's opinions and attitudes at times, particularly when addressing issues such as racism and sectarian attitudes. We also have to ensure that young people are safe, not too isolated or placing themselves at risk if they are under the influence of alcohol or drugs. We are not police officers therefore we do not have the power to remove alcohol or drugs from young people, however, workers make it very clear that we cannot work with them if they are openly engaging in drug or alcohol use, many are not, they are mearly socialising with their friends. Both Police and statistics evidence that underage drinking on the streets has actually reduced this year.
It is the role of our streetwork service to provide information on a range of services, such as facilities available to young people locally, although we still have a lack of informal youth provision at weekends, advice on education and employment issues, relationship support, the impact involvement in anti social behaviour can have on them and their communities, plus many more topics. We also provide a mobile sexual health services offering a C Card service and confidential advice and information on where they can access other specialist sexual health services.
The contacts made on the street by our teams are extremely valuable, the relationships established then lead to young people engaging in other aspects of the project such as, Tooled Up, music workshops, groupwork programmes, one to one support and youth provision run by our partner agencies. Our partners involved in the Early and Effective Intervention group and Whole systems approach are often surprised by how many young people we know and can explain their personal situations, this is as a direct result of streetwork sessions, it is a service too important to lose.