Worcester Action for Youth was set up in the 1990s as a multi-agency response to need across the city and the lack of money and resources to meet it at a time of reduced public sector funding; sound familiar? No single agency was able to dedicate the resources needed to provide regular youth activity on young people’s doorsteps, particularly on the housing estates that held the greatest number of people in need.
The aim of WAY was to enable partners to share ideas, plan strategically and access funding that could support new initiatives. Space on the committee and on decision making sub groups has always been given to statutory sector (police, probation, county and city councils), community (church, charities, play council) and voluntary orgaisations (community centres and community based youth groups) A number of characters have been key in the development and evolution of WAY. Jess Crump, then the city’s Play Officer, gave early leadership.
Dave Clifford, Community Development Manager for Worcester City Council, was instrumental in nurturing WAY and giving it direction. In later years Jim Allsopp, retired County Youth Work manager, gave considerable time and effort to WAY and stamped his own very human approach to young people onto it. Many people, councillors, employees of agencies and dedicated volunteers, have given hours of time to attending meetings and ensuring that the charity has kept up with the ever changing landscape of Youth Provision.
In the past five years there has been considerable change to youth services in Worcester City. The County Council no longer directly deliver youth services and all buildings have been utilised by other agencies, only one of which continues as a Youth Centre under the leadership of Worcester Community Trust. Worcestershire County Council’s commitment towards youth work continues on a commissioned basis; currently Worcester Community Trust are delivering youth work in Worcester City as part of the Positive Activities project funded and overseen by Worcestershire County Council.
Worcester Action for Youth has always served predominantly the voluntary and community sector, but as this began to diminish, statutory funded youth clubs were given access to the service too. This is no longer an option, and so once again we find ourselves just serving the voluntary and community sector that run with volunteers or through charitable grant funding.
Our partner organisations have decreased in number; Worcester Community Trust manage 5 youth centres with a variety of weekly sessions, and we serve Church Youth Groups run by volunteers, and occasionally Uniform groups such as the scouts and guides, again run by volunteers.
Volunteer led youth clubs are just as vulnerable to closures due to the loss in volunteers and leadership. When this happens our service becomes unavailable to young people in that area of Worcester. In consequence of this in one area, Lower Ronkswood, we have set up Medway Youth Club, with two exceptional part time Youth Workers and WAY Activity Workers. This may be the future for Worcester Action for Youth; it is our attempt to ride the rough seas that we seem to be fairing under the changes in funding and appreciation of Youth Work and what it offers young people. How long we can sustain this, however, is largely down to the generous support of Worcester based charities and funders, and Charitable Trusts who support young people’s services.
We have also had to re-structure the governing body of WAY. We could no longer uphold our constitutional obligations with representatives from statutory and voluntary organisations as they no longer exist and operate. So we have changed to Worcester Action for Youth (CIO). We are now a charitable incorporated organisation, with three very experienced and knowledgeable Trustees, and an advisory group with staff from West Mercia Police and Worcester City Council. The change has enabled us to keep the charitable objects of our previous charity, but also to add a new one: the development and management of Medway Community Centre for the educational and recreational benefit of residents living in Worcester City and surrounding areas.
Over the next 12 months (2017) we will endeavour to continue our service in offering inspiring and challenging activities with young people in partnership with youth clubs operating in Worcester City. We will also oversee the renovation of Medway Community Centre and undertake to make it available for hire and use by the community and interested parties who can bring educational and resourceful services to the wider community.