Listening to the needs of young people – Streetwork project leads to funded activities trial

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

An exciting array of free activities for young people in Orkney is to be trialled following a successful OIC-led “Streetwork” project earlier this year.

The Council’s Community Learning and Development (CLD) Team, alongside staff from partner agencies carried out the engaging exercise with young people on the streets of Kirkwall and Stromness on Friday evenings from February to May.

Cheryl Rafferty, CLD Team Leader – Youth Services, is part of the CLD Team co-ordinating the three-week trial. She said: “There have been instances in recent times of young people being the subject of some negative press. We wanted to try and engage with young people to hear their views and find solutions to any issues that were raised, so consultations were carried out and this led to ourselves leading a Streetwork exercise, alongside partner agencies, to engage with young people on the streets of Stromness and Kirkwall. We went out on Friday evenings and visited areas where young people were congregating and spoke with a number of them on each occasion.

“The purpose of the Streetwork exercise was to find out from young people what services and facilities they would like to see provided by youth organisations that were not currently available to them during COVID-19 restrictions and onwards.

“In addition to consulting young people on what they’d like to see made available to them in Orkney, staff were also able to signpost young people in the direction of facilities that they could currently visit such as the Orkney Youth Café.”

Young people engaged well, and it became apparent that the closure of sites, such as the Pickaquoy Centre and Stromness Community Centre during periods of more stringent restrictions left many with limited options as to where to go. Others remarked on the lack of activities available to them.

Given the feedback, the CLD Team set to work and thanks to partnership working a raft of free activities and events will kick off in Kirkwall and Stromness on Friday 3 December and the following two Fridays (10 December and 17 December) on a trial basis to gauge interest. The free sessions and activities are being funded via the Cashback Youth Work Funding stream and the Mental Health and Wellbeing Fund.

On Friday 3 December between 1.30-3.30pm, the Pickaquoy Centre will be offering free activities to S1 & S2 pupils such as football, racket sports and dancefit and the cinema and swimming pool will be open. The same applies to S3/4 pupils on Friday 10 and S5/6 pupils on Friday 17.

Activities will be fully COVID-risk assessed and pupils will need to show a Young Scot card when they come along and book into the sessions on the day. CLD staff will be present at the Picky Centre but the sessions will be run by centre staff.

CLD staff and the Action For Children team will also be offering activities at Stromness Community Centre for secondary aged pupils on Friday afternoons from 2.15-3.45pm for pool, snooker, darts and DJ workshops, with the option to learn the skills needed to create, mix and play your own music. Snacks and drinks will also be available free of charge. We are also hoping to work with Stromness Swimming Pool and Gym to offer a free trial session for secondary pupils on Friday 17 December – watch this space for more details.

KGS Head Teacher, Claire Meakin, said: “This is a brilliant opportunity for our pupils to take part in fun activities every Friday afternoon and we are grateful to the CLD team for organising it. We were particularly pleased that pupils have had their say on the sort of activities they would like to be on offer, and we would encourage all pupils to go along, have a go and chat to the team about how we can make this even better in the future.”

Jane Partridge, Head Teacher at Stromness Academy, added: “I am delighted that our CLD colleagues are supporting purposeful activities for school pupils on Friday afternoons. Social, sporting and creative activities are so important for young people's development and mental wellbeing and were a real strength of the provision in Orkney pre-COVID. The current cohort have missed out due to the restrictions, so it's great to see some creative thinking going on to make things available again at a time which is easier for many young people to access.”

The Council’s Chair of the Education, Leisure and Housing Committee, Councillor Gwenda Shearer, said: “This is a shining example of the ‘i’s being dotted and the ‘t’s being crossed with the Council and others listening to all involved, from concerned members of the public to the young people themselves, and finding solutions. I would encourage all eligible young people to embrace these opportunities now and enjoy the free activities on offer. Staff have engaged and listened to what many have said they would like to see and acted upon it, now I hope the young people make the most of this.”

Managing Director of the Pickaquoy Centre, James Linklater, said: “Everyone at The Picky Trust is thrilled to be collaborating on this project and we hope to see it continue long after this initial trial period. Such initiatives show all agencies the real benefit of this joined up approach, and we hope it helps to underline the value of facilities such as ours regarding community wellbeing. I would like to thank Cheryl Rafferty and Walter Gorman for all the work they have put into the project, as well as our own team for pulling together the wide ranging activities which will be on offer over the coming weeks.”

Kirkwall Police Inspector David Hall added: “There’s no question it has been an additionally challenging time for everyone and, in particular some of our young folk due to the restrictions placed on us all during the pandemic. This stopped all socialising for periods which is a difficult cross to bear for teenagers who want to be spending time with their friends.

“Unsurprisingly, given Orkney's traditionally cold Autumn and Winter climate, young people found their own places to meet, usually warm and dry places such as public toilets, and waiting rooms for the buses and ferries for example. Consequently, this led to a number of reports in the press and on social media regarding young people engaging in antisocial behaviour. We are confident that this was a minority of young people.

“I am delighted to be part of this engaging exercise; it’s so important that we talk to our young people and find out firsthand what they see as the issues which may lead on to any kind of unacceptable behaviour no matter how minor it may seem to some. Engagement from the outset can hopefully prevent situations escalating.”