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Joining the dots

A case study into how we are developing support for groups working with children and young people across Cambridgeshire

The issue

We have long recognised that there is a gap in Cambridgeshire around specialist support for organisations working with Children and Young people. Many other areas have a specialist county support group or a funded project in a bigger support organisation, but Cambridgeshire has lacked this since the closure of Young Lives nearly 10 years ago. Our work with the sector had identified the need to support these groups as well as how we can encourage more to form.

We know that there have been drastic cuts to youth work and to activities for young people both in the statutory and the voluntary sectors. At the same time, we recognise the growing need for services of all types and across all geographies that support young people. We know that many existing groups suffer from a lack of funds and a lack of volunteers, and that some local voluntary groups have not reopened after the pandemic.

Support Cambs are clear that we are not in a position to help with support in delivering youth related services as we are not funded for this and do not have the expertise. We can help groups to find funds, look at new ways of working, and we can help new groups to form. We needed to talk to groups and to those working with them to look at what and how we can help and how we can support others providing support in this area.

Joining the dots

We did not have to start from scratch with our work in this field. The County Council has a statutory duty to young people. They no longer have a big youth work team but they do still do some targeted work in this area. Importantly for us they have a team of Youth and Community workers who coordinate district level meetings with local groups.

Support Cambs staff were able to attend these meetings as well as attend a team meeting with the county team. This allowed us to understand where we can work with the team and what some of the specific issues are for groups are. Importantly it also allowed us to refresh what our offer to groups is with both the groups we spoke to but also with the county team.

As well as these meetings we have also set up a number of meetings with some of the larger groups working in this field to look at what else we need to do. We are lucky in that we can call on the services of other partners to fill in the gaps that local groups need, and that is where we have started to join the dots.

What we know

We are hearing that the two main areas of concern for groups mirror those of the wider sector. There is a lack of volunteers and especially those that might have some youth work experience or qualifications. This is also shown in issues where groups are looking to employ qualified sessional workers.

There is also an issue with funding, especially with finding ongoing and core funding to keep clubs open.

We are also seeing very patchy coverage of opportunities across the county. This is resulting in a real postcode lottery for young people looking to access services or activities. When talking to communities the lack of activities is an issue often related to people’s perception of young people causing problems and engaging in low level ASB. We also know that communities are brilliant at addressing their needs when given the resources and motivation they need.
These issues are compounded as national reports show increased levels of need for young people to access all sorts of different services especially those related to mental health and wellbeing.

Moving forwards

Working with the county team we have agreed to the following.
• Attendance at county level meetings.
• Attendance at district level meetings on an ‘as needed’ basis.

We will look at how we can promote the youth work training that the county provide/fund to encourage more people to access this. Support Cambs partners will look at how we can promote our offer to help develop new groups supporting young people to parish and district councillors. We will look at developing a resource section for groups on the Support Cambridgeshire website.

We need to look at if the county is falling behind in supporting groups and young people working in, or wanting to work in, this area. This might be especially true from a VCS perspective and we may need to look at how we fund a new specific service using some of the learning from neighbouring counties.