This piece was written about the project by Gemma Smith, a Case Responsible Officer with the Youth Support Team (YST).
In Gloucester and the Forest of Dean there are youth volunteering groups run in conjunction with Fair Shares community time banks taking place for 2 hours each week. The young people work on practical community projects: DIY, gardening, decorating etc. They work alongside YST staff, and Fair Shares staff and volunteers who are skilled, experienced trades people. The young people learn practical skills whilst also helping people directly in the local community. For example, helping to clear an elderly participant’s garden, helping to paint and decorate a community café etc. Wherever possible, we try and source projects in the local community and have worked with the Dean Heritage Centre, Westbury on Severn District Council, the Friendship Café, St James’ city farm to name a few. One of the biggest things offered to the young people is the help that they can receive in return for their efforts. The team will be going on a trip to Weston Super Mare to reward their hard work and also if the young person’s family requires DIY or gardening help this is offered through the time banking resource.
In both districts we have had 6 young people each taking part aged between 15-18 years old who are NEET [Not in Education Training or Employment] or at risk of becoming NEET taking part. The benefit to the young people has been primarily to increase confidence and wellbeing. Many of the young people who have taken part have gone on to paid jobs or back into education.
Ben (17) a young person who attends the Gloucester group has grown in confidence since joining the group. When he first started working with the YST he was suffering with social anxiety and found it difficult to join groups and leave the house. Ben told us “ There are more opportunities here than I imagined, I feel like YST have given me a new life”. Ben became one of the most popular young people in the group and he has since gone on to join Bridge training and has completed a Level 1 Business Administration course.
Ken (15) is a young person who attends the Gloucester group. Ken has found it difficult to maintain a school placement and due to his behaviour and attendance has been permanently excluded from his school and PRS [Pupil Referral Service]. Ken is able to speak about the volunteering group as a positive activity that he takes part in. He is always respectful to staff and other young people on the programme and his attendance has also been good on the programme.
We recently organised a celebratory BBQ event for the Gloucester participants where Martin Surl, Police and Crime commissioner presented the young people with certificates for their hard work.
This project is supported by the Office of the Police and Crimes Commissioner.