Young people in Hebden
Posted by Adam
There have been an astounding number of complaints on this forum and in the local press over the past months about the behaviour of 'youths' and 'yobs', most notably the article in the Hebden Bridge Times about youths in the square. Whilst I do not condone criminal or anti-social behaviour I suppose what one must consider is what is there for young people under the age of 18 to do in the area on a weekend evening? Does the council provide any sort of youth club in the area for these people to go?
The skate park area (which took over a decade of campaigning to secure) has been a success as a facility for young people to engage in something other than anti-social behaviour. But even that has been subjected to criticism and is of no use once it becomes dark on an evening. I believe the council has also refused to allow a legal graffiti wall to be erected at the side of the facility. The problem with the council is that they do not want to be seen to condone graffiti in any form and would rather attempt to stamp it out completely. that is like saying kids kicking footballs around in the street next to cars and windows is anti-social so we should deter it by not providing any football grounds or facilities in the area.
Is it any wonder that young people act in a rebellious manner when they feel they are never listened to and are constantly refused the facilities they desire? Subsequently, is it any wonder that young people have little interest in politics and democracy, hence their poor turnout for elections.
I suggest a good way forward on these matters would be to start a youth council for the area, where young people can discuss such issues before putting them to the council. If adults and young people work together on these issues and more facilities are provided there could be a drop in anti-social behaviour, coupled with a rise in the participation of young people in democratic processes. The fact that some young people have posted on this forum in previous threads about similar issues shows that there would be a demand for such a project.
Posted by Oscar
Change is imminent. As ever, things are not always as simple as they first appear.
As a direct result of posts on this website, the research and consultation process for a Youth Council started in November last year, whilst this may seem obvious to most, consultation is an absolute pre-requisite for any funding.
The establishment of a Youth Council and the essential multi-agency steering committee is now in an advanced stage.
As Community Volunteers, we've attended all the local Police Ward meetings and are part of the newly formed Upper Valley Action Group. This group comprises representatives of Calderdale Youth Services, Hebden Bridge Business Association, Hebden Royd Town Council, Local Police, Calderdale Police, Calderdale Safety Communities Partnership Officers etc. These are agencies that can identify needs and are able to act.
Having asked probing questions we've now got the Youth Action Café back open on Tuesday and Thursday Evenings from 6:30 to 9pm. This has given us a space to work. We are shortly to place scribble boards and a suggestion box in the Café so the Young People of Hebden can tell us what they want.
Once the constituted Youth Council and Steering Committee is in place to partner Calderdale Council Youth Services we will be able to draw funding from a number of sources to facilitate these requirements. At the moment there is only a holding page at "Hebden Royd Youth Council" but more will be added as the project develops.
As far as the "Bad News" goes, that is also something we?re also addressing. We spent a week volunteering on the recent International Youth Camp, and can only give thanks to 15 young people of Hebden who 'hosted' the event. They are a credit to themselves and the community they represent. Unfortunately, the newspapers seem to only focus on the destructive elements of youth society. We're establishing links with TV companies and news agencies to promote the 'good things' that the young people of Hebden actually do, with little or no recognition.
The young people of Hebden have been extremely helpful, enthusiastic and friendly in assisting us with this project. If there are any other Community Volunteers out there that would like to help, then please send an email to Oscar@HebdenMatters.org . You will need to have an Enhanced Disclosure / Criminal Record Bureau check. However, I can arrange this thorough Calderdale Council if required.
I'd urge everyone to take a look at Every Child Matters and Hear By Right . These, together with The Big Lottery Fund guidelines, have provided the frameworks which we've worked with to ensure sustainability for the Youth Council and also maximum exposure to funding.
Posted by Adam
I read your reply with great interest Oscar and although I am currently working in London for much of the time I would be interested in becoming involved in your project. Just a few points...
May I ask what facilities there are at the Youth Cafe? The problem with providing youth services, which I have seen through my brother's work in Halifax, is that nobody will use them unless there are good facilities which young people actually want and paradoxically the council will not provide funding for good facilities unless people use them. My brother has been given the task of trying to persuade youngsters to come off the street into the YMCA where there is something like a small hi-fi system and a pool table for all to share. Is it any wonder that most of them prefer to stay in a bus shelter with their bottle of cheap cider?!
Secondly, whilst they have been on the receiving end of anti-social behaviour, I question whether the police know best what young people need and desire in terms of services. Whilst it is impressive that so many agencies are involved i wonder how many young people in the area have had a real input into the project or have at least been consulted? These committees, councils and groups are completely alien to the vast majority of youngsters and it is unrealistic to expect any of them to attend them. Perhaps the best way to get their opinions would be to go down to the square or the skate park and talk to them face to face.
I feel it is important to try to engage all (or the majority of) young people in the area. I applaude the actions of the 15 youngsters that you refer to but I fear that unless we look at the bigger picture, the enthusiasm of a willing minority will continued be overshadowed by the unruly and anti-social behaviour of others. as you said, it's the latter that tends to grab the headlines.
Posted by Oscar
Thanks for your continued interest. At the moment there is very little in the Cafe, we would like the young people to tell us what they want. In order to get round the paradox it is essential the young people have the opportunity to identify their requirements so that when equipment and resources are purchased, they will get used. There is also a sense of irony that Youth Services (due to statutory obligations) often can't supply the services to youths that the youths actually request and/or need. Youth Services have an obligation to attach an element of 'educational value' to programmes. Often young people just want a place to go to meet their friends that is warm, dry and safe; hence the establishment of the Youth Council and Steering Committee which falls into the Voluntary Sector. The Voluntary Sector has access to funding the Council doesn't, and as such a 'partnership' seems the best approach to maximise funding potential.
Just to clarify, the police don't specify the needs and desires in terms of services. Their input is much more general. However, through excellent community support officers they do provide very valuable and positive input.
Since November we've been working with a small number of 14-18 year olds. I have also visited the skate park and the square for informal 'chats'. Youth Services have also been talking with young people at these and other locations.
I totally agree with your comments about engaging a greater number of young people. Now we have a space to work we'll shortly have scribble boards and suggestion boxes so the young people can take a more active part in the consultation process. We hope this is just the beginning
Posted by Ursula
All too much of what you write is familiar. 10 years ago I was a 14 year old heavily involved with Youth Action which established the Youth Cafe on hangingroyd Lane.
In 1993/4 the Hebden Bridge Times was full of letters and articles about 'threatening gangs of youths on the streets' (Sound familiar?). We had one place to go - Oldtown Bowling Club - once a month for an under 21s 'rave'. After perhaps 6 months it was cancelled after residents complaints. After an unsuccessful attempt to have the 'raves' reinstated we set about trying to change the public's perception of young people. A bi-monthly newsletter was set up - Youth on Youth - with the aim being to publicise the positive efforts of young people in the area.
We were consulted about what we as young people wanted, and said exactly the same as is being said now - "somewhere to go". With the support of Youth Workers (Rick, Lynn, Karen, Larraine, Jane and others), we set up Youth on Youth, a Building's Committee and worked towards elections for the Hebden Royd Youth Town Council. In the end the elections were never needed as there were enough seats for all those interested in being a councillor. I became the first Chairperson of the Youth Council for its short existence, and we had part of the main Council's budget to spend of youth services in Hebden Royd.
We (Youth Action) secured the Youth Cafe in Hangingroyd Lane. We designed the furniture, the iron grills on the windows and the colour scheme (for our sins) and decorated it ourselves in the Summer Holidays. For a time we had achieved our goals; the youth cafe was up and running, public perception was up and the young people had a voice and seats in the Council chambers.
Unfortunately we came across the same obstacle it sounds like you are about to encounter. We never managed to engage the wider audience of young people in the area. Each of the activities that I have described were carried out by a core group of perhaps 15 people. Others came and went but the vast proportion of work was done by the same group of people. Likewise, the adults that supported Youth Action were the same people who activiely support Calder High School, Saints, the Arts Festival and all the other groups in Hebden.
After awhile members left the Youth Council and were not replaced and the cafe became seen by others as our space so they didn't get involved. As we got older and exams, jobs etc got in the way, we left the cafe to the next generation, though many of the original members stayed on as GAP workers and became youth workers on the project. That brings us up to about 2000/ 2001. What exactly happened in the remaining years I'm not sure, though I suspect it can be at least partially attributed to problems with engagement and of course resources.
Unfortunately, whilst young people want somewhere to go, they don't want to have to be somewhere every Friday night or Saturday or Sunday. They have jobs and school and countless other things to juggle in their life, so whilst they are happy to go to the cafe, they don't necessarily want to work there every week. And let's be fair, that's quite a commitment for a 14 year old. To be successful the young people will need to be helped to meet their commitments so that it doesn't become a burden. If there are only 15 people engaged then it will be a struggle to staff the cafe and ultimately to keep even those 15 engaged.
One other point for you Oscar: You mention that you are going to have scribble boards and a suggestion box. There is already noticeboard in HB for young people - not that you'd know it now. The noticeboard at the taxi rank on the edge of the square was established by us for news/ events relating to young people. You'll need a new lock though!
Good luck and all the best.
See previous threads
Football On The Bowling Green (March 2006)
Youths in Hebden (Dec 2005)
Anti-social behaviour 2 (Oct-Nov 2005)
Anti-social behaviour 1 (July-October 2005)