Young people are individuals with needs, aspirations and ideas of their own. They’re an integral part of our community and have a valuable contribution to make. Providing opportunities and support to assist young people develop skills to meet the challenges of society is in the community’s best interest.
A range of youth services are necessary to promote health and wellbeing, and to support young people in the choices they make. The services in this section encompass a variety of programs and address various issues that affect young people. Some of these services include personal support, case management, mentoring, information, advocacy, health promotion, outreach support, and groups. For further information on supporting young people refer to the Professional Ethics and Youth Work in the ACT section.
What Young People Want from Youth Support Workers
This section provides some principles for supporting young people with messages from young people. They are collated from “What Young People Want: Responses to a survey with young people about Case Management”, produced by The Youth Coalition, 2004.
Involve Young People in Decision Making
Young people who are involved in decision-making report feeling valued as an individual and not a “case”:
“Young people need to feel in control, and to feel in control they have to be part of the process – otherwise you are isolated and you feel useless.”
As well as feeling valued, many young people felt that being involved in decision-making was also beneficial as it helped develop their skills:
“A good worker teaches you the skills to deal with your problems and to make decisions, not just do it for you.”
Workers need to walk with young people and provide encouragement:
“She’s not like a parent, she’s there to support you, guide you – not force me on to the path but help me to get there.”
Information Leads to Empowerment
Young people can be quite capable of making decisions and doing things in their own best interests but feel they don’t have enough information or need support to present their case:
“Workers have to give you options not make you come up with them – sometimes you don’t know what choices you’ve got – you don’t know what’s available. Workers’ve gotta let you know what’s out there – and then you can choose.”
Individuals Have Individual Needs
Every young person is different and has different support needs. Sometimes a worker may need to take the lead with limited input from a young person, such as a crisis. However this should be done in consultation and negotiation with them.
“Some young people need others to get them through but others don’t. Workers need to ask or find out which one’s which.”
Young people saw confidentiality as a vital aspect of good case management practice, believing it to be the foundation of a trustful, respectful relationship.
‘People won’t go to them [workers] with personal problems if they know they are going to tell others.’
Many young people felt being heard was more important than a worker solving their problems.
‘People who listened and supported – they were there just to make sure I was OK.’
Advocacy is a way to bring about change in a situation by safeguarding and advancing the rights, interests and wellbeing of young people. As young people are a group where policy decisions are often made without consultation, they may need to rely on others to represent their interests for them. Advocates provide a voice for young people who may otherwise not be heard, and can help young people to have more control over the situations that affect their lives and can work with and support young people’s voices to be heard.
Below is some basic information on the desired outcomes of advocacy, and a few types of advocacy that you are likely to encounter when working with young people.
Some Desired Outcomes of Advocacy:
Some types of advocacy include:
Facilitates young people to develop their skills, knowledge and confidence in order to advocate on their own behalf. It involves young people understanding their rights, and being empowered to bring about change in their own lives.
Involves an advocate working to bring about change in a situation of an individual young person. This type of advocacy is focused on the specific needs and situation surrounding the individual. The advocate’s primary loyalty is to the person for whom they are advocating, and they try to involve the young person as actively as possible in the process.
An advocate acts on behalf of a specific group of people or assists the group to self advocate, in an attempt to bring about changes that will benefit the entire group.
Focuses on influencing or producing changes in society in order to positively affect the quality of life for young people as a whole. Systemic advocacy works towards changing the structures in society that create inequalities and disadvantage. Examples of systemic advocacy include law reform activities, media releases, policy development, lobbying, publications and submissions to government.
An example of advocacy in practice:
While a youth worker may primarily operate within the Self Advocacy and Individual Advocacy categories, they can also contribute to advocating for young people at all levels. Following is an example of how a worker might advocate on behalf of young people at each level of advocacy.
Example: A young person is having trouble accessing Centrelink payments.
Self Advocacy: The worker encourages the young person to visit or call their local Centrelink office to discuss accessing payments, or directs them to the Centrelink website so they can find more information about eligibility for payments.
Individual Advocacy: The worker visits a Centrelink office with the young person to assist them, or; calls Centrelink on their behalf to find out more information.
Group/Systemic Advocacy: The worker becomes a member of their local peak body for youth affairs in order to utilise opportunities to participate and contribute to policy submissions and other youth representation.
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