I had the privilege of spending last week working with Future Men. As of the Clore Leadership Programme I am involved in, it is a requirement is to undertake a 4 week secondment. I decided to take the opportunity to get to know some of YWF’s members better, meet more youth workers and young people to gain a better insight into youth work.
Day One I go to Future Men’s HQ, a sprawling old college building in Bermondsey shared with Construction Youth Trust. When I was asked what I want to get out of the week, I stipulated that I wanted to meet young people and youth workers, getting experience of Future Men’s programmes and had not to come to sit in meetings! I spend enough time in meetings with YWF!
So, I was given a Future Men STAFF hoodie and t-shirt – official Future Men Youth Worker now – and spent the rest of the week visiting youth clubs, schools and community settings.
Future Men employ a team of brilliant and passionate youth workers, delivering quality specialist work predominantly with young men but also to adult men and young women. Through the week I get to know the team, who are really welcoming and take time out to talk to me about their work. Good youth workers are clearly attracted to work for Future Men because of the consistent good quality of programmes and innovative approach. There were members of the team who I’ve been emailing for 3 years and not met in person – so good to build relationships.
Tuesday evening I participate in the youth club at Amberley, sitting in on the pre-club briefing and manning the signing-in desk. Some of the junior youth workers have been members of the club when they were younger and so have an attachment to the club and the area. Later, I have a wild VR roller coaster experience and sit in the music studio with the boys learning about their favourite grime stars.
Wednesday I get to visit three different schools. Two secondary schools in North Kensington and Wilberforce Primary in Queen’s Park. I am really struck by the rapport between the youth workers and young people. A safe space is created with trust, openness, humour and reality – listening and non-judgement! The primary group of boys are part of Future Men’s Boys Development Programme which works with boys through Year 6 and Year 7 – supporting through the critical transition time from primary to secondary schools.
I also visit Latimer Academy, part of the alternative provision for children excluded from mainstream schools, meet some great young men and dedicated teachers. Future Men provide an alternative space for open discussions with the boys. Sitting with a group of 14 year old boys in a session I learn new words, expanding my vocabulary and also getting an insight into divided communities outside school and the fear of violence in their lives.
Thursday, I spend time with the youth workers who support young men through the Ventoring Programme, which includes case work with young men aged between 11 and 25. This is a voluntary service that is really valued by statutory services and schools – guiding young men into adulthood towards being the best men they can be. The youth workers bring a multitude of skills providing therapy, education, employability, family, social work. This is a service which needs to be expanded further as there is lots of need for it!
Then onto an evening youth club session with the juniors at Churchill Gardens Youth Club. Today’s evening session sees 44 young people arriving, somewhere that is not school or home to hang out, relax, have fun and get support when needed on a 1-2-1 basis from the youth worker team. I have fun playing ping pong and table tennis.
My final visit on Friday is to Lewisham Library to find out more about the Young Fathers Project. I meet a young father who has just finished a 1-2-1 session, the young man tells me about how the worker has helped teach him about fatherhood from practical sessions – changing nappies to emotionally bonding with his baby to dealing with statutory services and even help with getting a job. This is a service that only exists in the few local authorities who commission the service to complement statutory social services.
In addition to 1-2-1 work, Future Men facilitate workshops, including an expectant fathers programme delivered in 5 hospitals in South London. The work also stretches to policy and advocacy… Future Men recently hosted a visit from the Duke of Cambridge and talked about mental health of fathers including highlighting the hidden area of post-natal depression for men. Future Men also advocate and influence policy through the All Party Parliamentary Group on Fatherhood which is chaired by David Lammy MP.
I end the week wondering why I need the excuse of a training course to undertake a secondment!