Involving children and young people in developing social care
Case study 18: Youthcomm, Worcestershire Youth Service
Service provided by organisation
Youthcomm is a free confidential telephone information service, radio station and internet forum, which provides advice and support to young people aged 13-25 years old. The service is run by volunteers 16-25 years old and a small staff team.
Characteristics of children/young people involved
Currently approximately 50 young people are involved as volunteers, aged 16-25.
How participation has been developed
The underlying principle of the service is to listen to young people. This is reflected in the mission statement and all service publicity material. Youthcomm has been developed, and is largely run, by volunteer young people (there are only five members of paid staff). As volunteers, young people are directly involved in providing a service to other young people. The communication management of the project is maintained by the volunteers via an email/text-messaging service and confidential online forum.
They receive eight weeks of youth service OCN -accredited training for radio work and a bespoke 12-week OCN-accredited course for Youthline. The training can be up to GNVQ level if that's what they want.
Young people are involved in all decisions about the service and are part of the management structure. When new sources of funding for the project were needed, the project worked with young people to develop an action plan to diversify the services and activity of Youthline. A voting system was devised so that young people would be involved in future service plans and decision-making. This has included the development of remote Youthline call centres in youth centres around the country to enable young people to train as operators, and of interactive 'e-voting' consultation road shows.
There are opportunities for young people to progress through the service from volunteer to team leader to a management position and then to be employed in one of the two youth worker posts.
The project has been evaluated by Ofsted, the Department for Education and Science and NFE. The model of involvement of young people that is offered by the project is highly respected by other local council services.
Changes or improvements as a result of children and young people's participation
' [ Involving young people ] completely changes the project. We've expanded to offices and been able to look at the reasons why young people think something doesn't work. The project doesn't conform, it's really dynamic because of the way it involves young people. There wouldn't even be a Youthcomm without the young people so it's really hard to imagine specific changes as it is everything.' (Young person)
- Young people are able to promote their own activities and issues via the communications developed with other young people and youth organisations.
- It has enabled local decision-makers to take into account the views of young people when developing strategic plans and the needs and development of new services through the 'youthink' consultations.
- Youthcomm's approach has been used by other parts of the county council in consulting with communities, particularly to the youth service's partnership work with the Children's Fund in consulting with children.
- Youthcomm's approach to involving young people has achieved a high profile nationally with the Learning and Skills Development Agency, and has been used by the latter to develop its post-16 citizenship education in informal settings.
Evidence of outcomes from participation
The project has produced the following documentation to evidence the development of participation:
- history and development of the project
- 'The big learning curve': Educating the educators pack
- Post-16 citizenship video (a plan for informal education).
Contact person and role: Adrian Newman (senior youth worker)
Address: Youthcomm, St John's Youth Centre, Swanpool Walk, St John's, Worcester WR2 4EL
Telephone: 01905 748 370