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Creating safe community spaces in our youth clubs #YouthWorkMatters

Creating safe community spaces in our youth clubs #YouthWorkMatters

Tash Bright No Comment

Some of our weekly youth clubs have a reputation of being quite tricky places to work, with the attendees disliking new people in their space, including staff.

When a new worker entered the youth club, she found a tense atmosphere and the young attendees did not speak to her. The worker tried her best with the group, greeting them as they came in, which helped to break down the barrier. Gradually, the group started to banter with the youth worker, as she was terrible at remembering their names.

Over time, the group started to accept her and would talk to her about the issues that were important to them, including racial discrimination. Through friendly debates about culture, the group felt the benefits of having someone from a different background in their space at the youth club.

The group gave the worker a deeper understanding of what life was like for them, with one commenting: “If you are not well-connected then you are not safe walking down the street.” Others were dealing with the pressure of believing that they had a family reputation to uphold, despite being young men who enjoy playing computer and board games.

For the group, the youth club is a safe space where they can be themselves, they can ask difficult questions and engage in discussions that otherwise would not happen.

When the youth worker moved on from the youth club, the group – who would never normally write anything down – presented her with a handwritten card. They posed for a photograph with her, when they would have strived for anonymity in the past. The youth worker said: “I feel very privileged to be accepted from this community. Change is hard for everyone regardless of age but how we manage that change is key to its success.”


* Tree painting from Woodthorpe Youth Club, not the youth club from the case study.

The theme for this year’s International Youth Day is ‘SAFE SPACES’ something that Sheffield Futures knows all about. For thousands of young people, our youth clubs are a safe space to go, take part in recreational activities, meet and make new friends and learn the skills they need to succeed in life.

This month we are using our sessions in youth clubs to find out what makes a safe space, why young people feel that the youth clubs are a safe space and how they could be improved to be more inclusive, accessible and welcoming.

This case study is part of our new campaign: In Celebration of Youth Work, where celebrating and demonstrating the value of youth work within our communities.


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