Its an incredible thing, and outside of the way in which the system operates in Britain, but in Sweden, every family is given the name and contact details of a social worker, so that the family can contact them, without the stigma attached to ‘having a social worker’ that currently exists in other countries, often played out by the narratives of the media, though challenged by programmes like Tracy Beaker.
Its an interesting concept, one that puts the onus on the family to use the resource, but know that the resource is there, and can be contacted for a range of family concerns, relationship problems, but is primarily a dedicated person that the family can access.
What would happen if we translated this, to youthwork and to a British context.
On one hand we hear about the plight of young people, both hyperbolic in the media, researched in surveys, and anecdotal, and even more valid from youth & community workers in specific contexts.
Equally the resources of youthworkers is sporadic across the country, whether voluntary, christian or statutory sector, the spread is varied, to do with wealth, statistical social need, local council priority, size/ethos of church/christian community. Some young people could access two or three people who may be involved in schools, in centres or on the streets. Others none, and that’s not because they don’t or wouldn’t want or need them.
So, what if every young person – to the age of 18/21 was assigned a youthworker?
In a combination of the swedish social work system and the English parish church system. Split up the country into area of so many population/schools/ young people – and give every young person the social right to have a youthworker, assigned to them and for them. What would that look like? what would that be able to help young people with, locally, socially, personally and in their communities?
If young people could access a youthworker, in a confidential way, and that youthworker was able to collate stries locally – would this stop horror stories in the future aka Rotherham?
what other possibilities would there be for this?
The purists would probably say that this reduces youthwork to individual support, and yes that may be true, if managed incorrectly, but being a youthworker assigned to young people in an area wouldnt negate group work, detached work, schools based work for young people in groups. Just that they also had a jurasdiction for many more young people, and the young people knew it, than those they directly worked with.
No it wouldnt solve problems like employment – this requires jobs for young people to go to, but to give young people the opportunity to be in contact with an adult who had their best interests at heart and on their terms might be able to help young people through personal concerns or be that first point in conversation about bullying, abuse, family issues.
So, lets do the maths. There are 650 MP’s – thats 650 constituencies.
650 x £50,000 – for salary, building costs/rent, management etc of an ‘area constitutency’ youthworker = £32m. double it for two of them.
Thats less than 50p per population member in the UK. And i dread to think what its costed to pay for a slightly expensive train line between London and Birmingham.
or Trident. Or the refurb of the houses of parliament.
I dont think its a radical suggestion. Id say it was a social imperative.