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17 September, 2007

Youth Act! Derbyshire Successes

In March 2006, Youth Act took its training and campaigning expertise to Derbyshire youth workers and teachers in High Peak and Derbyshire Dales through an initiative set up by the government’s Civil Renewal Unit (now based at the Department for Communities and Local Government) as part of a wider project to take Youth Act nationally to communities around the U.K.

Whilst Youth Act training in London involves training groups of young people directly, the model adopted for Derbyshire (and other U.K. regions) involved training a group of youth workers to deliver skills sessions with their own youth groups on how to campaign. One such youth worker, Faye Edwards was already working with a group of young people who wanted to build a youth shelter in their local area. She used the Youth Act manual and learning to train and support her group to successfully campaign for the creation of a youth shelter.

“The young people I work with felt strongly that there were no safe spaces for them to hang out in the local area. Because there was no where for them to be, they were often being moved on from shops, bus and rail stations by the police. They felt that by building a shelter for them to meet and interact in, there would be less negative interactions with the police and locals and, as a result, relationships and perceptions of young people with and in the rest of the community would improve.” , Faye explained.

The New Mills Shelter Project was originally formed in 2003 when their local youth shelter was closed down. With their former hangout gone, the only option for young people seemed to be to hang around bus shelters in a nearby town. It may have passed the time but didn’t stop the young people feeling frustrated at the lack of local facilities.

The campaign group, supported by two youth workers, began to lobby tirelessly on the issue to get the support of people on the local council and in their wider community. To support their campaign, they gathered evidence – including a survey of young people in the area to determine levels of interest in a new shelter – and established a monitoring scheme to ensure that this new facility would not be abused.

Once the group had raised the money they needed to build the shelter the group came up against concerns from residents and the police about the potential anti-social behaviour of young people who might use the shelter. The group of young campaigners felt that it was essential to get the support of everyone in the community for the shelter and to address their concerns. As part of doing this, they spoke at public meetings and made a presentation at their Town Council meeting to explain the need for a shelter and a safe place for young people to hang out and how this could benefit the community as a whole by taking young people of the streets. They also approached and received coverage in the local press about their campaign and their desire to support the community. The shelter has since been opened to the public and they feel that they have managed to change the attitude of the local community towards young people.

The group is now working on raising money to build another two shelters so that young people can socialise locally and be part of their community rather than traveling to another town which may have leisure facilities for young people.

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