I’ve can’t quite believe I’ve been working with young people for over 20 years! I know, I don’t look old enough!
On the one hand I’ve learnt a lot and on the other, I know nothing. My confidence in working with them has grown immeasurably. Particularly in the last four years. Because of course they’re just human beings like you and me.
I’ve worked as a secondary school teacher, a homelessness support worker, a prison resettlement worker, guns, gangs and knife crime commissioner, a school governor, a leaving care commissioner and a youth worker. So it’s fair to say I’ve had a range of experiences.
Twenty years feels like a long enough time-frame to be able to look back and see trends, commonalities and shifts.
One of those is that young people have never seemed worse off financially. I’m always conscious that I’m not comparing like with like and that this is in no way linear. But I started my career in London for heaven sake. And with careful budgeting young people could just about make ends meet. Today even in Norfolk this is no longer the case.
It took me a while to understand the difference in my work with young people in London and young people here in Norfolk. For me both present a specific challenge. In London it was violence and risk. This was the overriding aspect to my work and like those working in the secure estate, the backdrop against which everything else was delivered.
I’m pleased that when I arrived in Norfolk I had some excellent practice to fall back on and am often surprised at the cursory approach many organisations in Norfolk have to managing risk. And this against a clearly escalating and very worrying knife crime problem in our county.
The biggest difference I see between the loud and often violent young people I worked with in London and those in Norfolk is what looks like apathy. They’re not apathetic and it’s not to be confused with a lack of aspiration. It’s poor emotional health and probably partly a consequence of having some of the lowest social mobility in the country.
It’s an absence of seeing people who are like you achieve their dreams. And it breaks my heart. Because it’s based on the luck of where you were born.
So this is what gets me up in the morning – removing the barriers that I was mostly lucky enough not to have.
What gets you up in the morning?