Our outgoing vice-char Fraser Falconer has spent over 50 years in the youth work sector, most recently sitting on our board through the challenges of Covid-19.
Our outgoing vice-chair Fraser Falconer has spent over 50 years in the youth work sector, most recently sitting on our board through the challenges of Covid-19. Here he reflects on the value of youth work, and the challenges of communicating that value to policymakers.
It’s fifty years ago since I made the transition from volunteer to student and then into leadership in youth work. Over that period of time, the essence of working with young people has not changed. When local or national youth work programmes chime with young people’s aspirations then it results in magic! Local activity nights, residentials that offer new opportunities for learning, exploring, travel and meeting people from different backgrounds and cultures. Youth work changes lives and I’ve seen it time and again, in so many positive ways.
As I come to the end of my engagement with YouthLink, firstly on the Policy Committee and then on the Board, the above key points haven’t changed. They are more important than ever for young people. Every year that goes by, there is a regular frustration that the successes of youth work have to be explained to policymakers. I know that after a few minutes’ of explanation, many quickly ‘get it’. However, the uphill struggle for funds and resources is a fact of life. I have also seen the convening power of YouthLink to bring diverse groups together to discuss important issues such as the development of the adolescent brain or the need for concessionary travel.
During the Covid-19 pandemic and now, youth work has been important for young people, with local leaders finding innovative ways to be available, keep in touch and be supportive. I feel that that the effects of Covid and the isolation that it brought for young people will still have effects for years to come. I sincerely hope that adults will be sensitive to the fact that for many young people they have come to represent lost years. On a more positive note, the good work done must always be recognised and this is always celebrated at the National Youth Work Awards. For me, this is the most exciting event of the year, celebrating the diversity of the sector and the achievements of young people and their long serving leaders. If you can only attend very few events in the year, get along to the National Youth Work Awards.
As I look back, I feel lucky that at the end of a full-time career, I still feel enthused by the dedication of those who work as staff or volunteers in the sector. I have a strong admiration for those who work, week after week, year after year, for decades and more in the service of youth work.
My hope for the future is that those who come to serve YouthLink Scotland are guided by the combined enthusiasm and dedication that is around in the thousands of young people and their youth workers.