Uncategorized, Youth Work

Where’s the support when it’s really needed?

Hello blog. Long time, no see. We really must catch up more often.

After my last blog, I vowed to get back to blogging a bit more regularly (i.e.: once a week). Well that fell by the wayside. But it’s been a busy old time at this end and life is starting to really take a turn, for the better I might add.

Without boring you with all of the details, one of the key events is that my final degree year is hurtling at such a pace that I cannot believe I have actually stuck it out for nearly seven years whilst working full time. Anyone who says distant learners are part-timers ought to remember what I was told last year. Those at conventional universities get all day to do their studying and as much time at night as they want too – no, wait, that’s for socialising.

I on the other hand, along with thousands others, have worked my socks off whilst catching a spare five minutes here and there in order to do the same thing. It may take us a bit longer to reach the end result, but my experience has been largely positive and the opportunities that have come my way I feel have helped me develop my practice better than certain others. I’ve certainly had a taste of the real world of work rather than being thrust into it after being ‘locked away’ for a quarter of a century. I’ll probably get slated now!

Anyhow, whilst time passes on and I study the third sector (what New Labour in 1997 decided to call the voluntary sector and thus forced them to be a bit more government controlled), the research got me thinking to the way that youth services will develop in the future. In the UK, they seem to have been rocky for quite some time with funding cuts being probably the biggest bone of contention. Departments and services close, practitioners are forced to move elsewhere, those services close, and so it continues. Presumably there is a large hole full of youth workers and similar professionals desperately waiting for that moment when someone says, ‘you know what this country needs is a proper youth service. Let’s invest’. Then like the Minions, they’ll all rush out to save the day. If only…!

They do seem to be the forgotten many though. This band of highly skilled individuals who, for whatever slightly daft reason, decided to become advocates for children’s future’s have been tossed aside, when really they are the ones who should be tasked with helping develop our future. Perhaps someone needs to stand up and just say ‘hello, over here. You really are valued. Your help would be appreciated please.’

Interestingly, in a moment of almost complete relaxation, about a week ago, it struck me that I hadn’t heard from ‘friends’ for a while. It had always been me contacting them, but they hadn’t contacted me. That couldn’t be true, could it? I scrolled through my mobile and realised that out of more than 200 contacts on there, there was less than a dozen who I felt I could truly rely on and who bothered to keep in fairly regular contact. Some I had known for a year, others for a decade or more. I decided to text them and received almost immediate replies from them either by text or phone. One asked if I was OK. ‘Yes,’ I said, ‘I just wanted you to know how much you meant.’ The response, ‘Thank goodness. I thought something was seriously wrong. We haven’t spoken for ages. I just had to call you. A text would have been wrong.’

I think there is a crucial point here. When we look at our phones, our Facebook friends, our ‘followers’ (makes us sound like we have disciples, eh?), we have surrounded ourselves with a plethora of people who we either haven’t seen in ages, haven’t seen before, or don’t want to see ever again. Yet, we cling to the fact that we have more ‘friends’ than somebody else. I have few Facebook friends, I’ll admit that. I choose to ignore some people’s requests. It might not be because I take issue with them, but I have decided to limit who I share my life with. Research at one point showed nobody can remember more than about 150 people on their Friends list. I was somewhat shocked when I saw a friend who had nearly a thousand people on their Friends list. Really?!

And this brings me to the youth of today. They are being brought up in a world of seemingly little direction due to the disbandment of guidance services for them, that they turn to the Internet and their ‘friends’ for advice. What a dangerous world to live in. Can a young person of, say 13, really have, for example, 500 friends already? Most of them usually only remember people in their class at school. That’s a maximum of 30. Throw in a handful of family members and friends in the local area, perhaps totalling 100. Who on earth are the others?

I would urge anybody reading this be you a young person or parent/carer of a young person, or even an adult without children to take a few minutes to look at your mobile, your friends list, your followers. Have a declutter today. Have you spoken to them in a year? Will you likely speak to them in the next year? Are their numbers or details so important that they need to be kept? No? Scrap them. It’s taking up space. For me, the key test is becoming this one:- Are they the sort of person who will ever contact me without me needing to contact them first, you know, just for a chat? If so, they are the true friends and the keepers. I’ve realised how many are just ‘acquaintances’.

Why not instil this on other young people? True friends are reliable and not just people who sit watching your account waiting to find information to incriminate you with. Seek out the true friends in your life, get out and chat with them, and improve your life by meeting real people who make a difference to how you really feel.

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