Teaching and learning communication skills in social work education

Practice example 5: ARTiculation

"I would like to pretend that the programme sprang from a vision about how you could use youth arts to work with disaffected young people, but I have to admit it took root in a more prosaic way than that. It was trying to get away from bad practice. If you’ve been to a conference where young people have been brought along as walking case studies, to talk about their personal experiences to show how things have got to change, then that’s one conference too many in my view. These are young people who have been exploited enough already. The first time I sat on a panel I wasn’t very good at it, so I don’t see why we should expect young people to be. That’s really why we started looking for a better way of involving young people and allowing them to have a voice, because it is vital that they do find their own voices and have the chance to influence the services that are supposed to be there for them. Then you have a chance of providing a service that is good for them.”

ARTiculation is a 12-month rolling programme that enables young people aged 16- 23, who access NCH projects, to participate in high quality arts provision. NCH service users include: care leavers, young carers, young people with disabilities, black and minority ethnic young people, young refugees/asylum seekers and young offenders.

ARTiculation is designed to enable these young people to explore and present their views and opinions about issues that impact on their daily lives, in an imaginative and constructive way, to key politicians, policy makers, employers and social services providers.

ARTiculation comprises: the Annual Youth Arts Weekend, creative consultation, rehearsals and performances, an integrated project, accreditation and staff and artists training.

"ARTiculation is a model of provision that fills a gap in current provision for young people and provides a useful stepping stone; ARTiculation involves a method and setting that sustains the engagement of vulnerable young people and facilitates the development of confidence and self esteem, enhanced self image, motivation and a range of personal, social and pre-vocational skills.”

"The programme posits young people as responsible, important young adults whose views and abilities are respected (rather than young people with problems and difficulties). As a result, participation can have a profound impact on how young people view themselves, others and the world.” ("Now I’m a somebody”, CATR, University of Manchester)

"Challenging disadvantage and discrimination is the keystone of this programme. By giving some of the most vulnerable and excluded young people the opportunity to explore and express their views and opinions to policy makers, business leaders, service deliverers and service user groups, we hope to give them the opportunity to challenge those policies or practices which bring about or compound their disadvantage.” (Amanda Allard, NCH Policy Officer)

User participation in planning, delivery and evaluation

ARTiculation developed from the Youth Arts Weekend, Sheffield University, in 1999, and the subsequent pilot performance programme. Since then, with the initial financial support of the Lloyds/TSB Foundation, over 400 young people from NCH projects across the UK have participated in the Youth Arts Weekend and more than 50 young people, from as far afield as Inverness and Plymouth, have come together to make theatre that gives them a voice. They have performed in front of over 4,000 people in places like the House of Commons, the House of Lords, Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) and the Association of Directors of Social Services (ADSS) Annual Conference. The audiences have included practitioners, policy makers and key decision makers in social services, education and juvenile justice.

Young people are actively involved in the evaluation of the annual Youth Arts Weekend and take responsibility for the planning and support of the next. Additionally, young people from each of the first three years came together to evaluate the programme and make recommendations about its future. Young people were involved in a 12-month research study by NCH and a year-long evaluation by the University of Manchester.

Other key stakeholder participation in planning, delivery and evaluation

Learning aims and outcomes

The video is intended to be used as a resource to raise awareness of how youth arts can be used to support the personal, social and political development of young people. Through discussion, reflection and demonstration of the process engaged in by the young people, we want to demonstrate the power of an arts-based approach and its effectiveness in engaging vulnerable and marginalised young people. It also advocates using creative models of consultation to get young people’s voices heard within large organisations.

Assessment of learning

Integration between university and practice curricula. Reference "Now I’m a somebody”, CATR, University of Manchester.

Further information available from HQ Arts Ltd: info@hqarts.com or NCH, 85 Highbury Park, London N5 1UD (www.nch.org.uk/).