We were lucky enough to be invited to Youth Community Support Agency (YCSA)’s JustLikeYou event earlier this month. It was extremely inspiring and the work this organisation does is wonderful. They were happy enough to answer a few questions for us so that you can learn more about them!
What are the specific issues facing BME young people, and how are you tackling them?
For any young person, life can be tough! There are many things that make life harder for a young person, and often the issues a young person faces can be many and interrelated. Social isolation, mental health issues, difficulty in finding work or getting into education are just some of the issues which young people may face.
At YCSA we believe in supporting young people to become active and valued members of a diverse community: essentially the ethos is around cultivating self-awareness and intra-dependence. From working with young people on their maths and English to raising their involvement in community development and social change, YCSA’s programmes are tailored to the specific needs of the young people. All our programmes do this in different ways and work slightly differently; the way Ctrl Alt Delete supports young people is based on ‘re-booting lives’, whereas our CPR programme helps to breathe new life into young people who may be at risk of offending.
Our Ebara programme for example, supports young people who have been involved with the criminal justice system. Societal norms mean that they will carry certain labels, which due to prejudice around ex-offenders can put barriers in the way of young people achieving their goals.
With regards to the issues which face young people from BME backgrounds, a main concern is that there are not the appropriate services which cater for their specific needs, either because they don’t exist or that young people from the BME community are not aware of how to access them. At YCSA we have 21 years’ worth of experience in developing a service that works with young people on what it is they actually need. Whether this is counselling that appropriately and sensitively understands the clients’ needs based on their faith, or whether this is one to one support that accounts for the language barriers a young person has, YCSA works with young people to achieve their goals. We understand that the needs of BME young person will be influenced by a number of inter-related factors to do with faith, cultural history and identity. Providing the support that takes this into account is what YCSA is so expert at.
Our ‘Just Like You’ film highlights some of the barriers that we have supported young people with, for example the racism that they encounter on a daily basis. The way YCSA tackles this is to work with the young people to fight this discrimination; an example of which has been the #JustLikeYou campaign that will work to influence key decision makers to assess their policies for signs of discrimination.
In what ways can people support you? Are there volunteering opportunities, or can they fundraise?
Absolutely! We have a volunteering service which allows volunteers to get involved with YCSA in a variety of ways. Volunteers can support young people by working with them one to one, or within the setting of a group programme. Volunteers are a vital part of the structure of YCSA. They are able to provide expertise for our programmes in particular. We have had invaluable input from professional photographers, student film makers and sound engineers. These are just a few examples of the great talents that we have had privileged access to because of their dedication to YCSA. We ensure that our volunteers are supported through highlighting training courses to them, and meeting with them to ensure we are supporting them towards their goals.
So am I right in saying the JustLikeYou event originated from a film project in which young men speak about their experiences in custodial estates? Was it YCSA that made this film?
Yes, YCSA’s PolmontThroughcare Project, which has now become the Ebara programme, worked with a group of young men who had experience of living in Polmont Young Offenders Institute. They were given questions to answer as a framework, but broadly they were given the space to speak in front of a camera openly and unscripted. The film project also included a photography element, where the young people took photographs which were featured in the accompanying booklet. These photographs were to reflect the themes of past, present, future, foundations, choice and potential. Not only does the booklet contain photographs, but it also contains stories from the families of those who participated in the project. The young people also contributed poetry to the booklet, which makes it a beautiful object in itself. The film also had key contributions from the family members of the participants, to provide an overarching view of the effect that the criminal justice system can have on a young person and their family.
What are the key aims of this event?
Throughout the film the young people mentioned the phrase ‘just like you’, to reflect how they wanted to be treated and this became the title of the project. This led us to think about how we can spread the message of the film, and start the process of celebrating commonalities, reducing discrimination against marginalised groups and analysing our assumptions. We wanted to show case the hard work that the young people had put into creating the booklet and the DVD, but moreover to launch a movement that would ensure that organisations could take the essence of #JustLikeYou and apply it to their organisation. This could be either as an educational tool, or as a way to highlight areas where stigma is still prevalent. We are hoping that we can reach executives within organisations to promote change within their organisation. We want them to examine their policies to see if there are barriers in place that prevent those from marginalised groups from getting into work/become service users or engage with their organisation in any way.
What are some of the other initiatives run by YCSA? I have heard of CtrlAltDel but would love to know more about it as well as others.
One of YCSA’s programmes is Ctrl Alt Delete which is our Reboot programme, supporting young people to reduce poverty and social isolation. CPR is our resuscitation programme which stands for Connect Protect Respect: connecting young people to their community, protecting them from risk and harm, respecting their rights and their voices. Our Fair Play programme is our preventing Violence Against Women and Girls programme, which develops community champions to train other young people about preventing VAWG in their communities. Additionally, YCSA has always had a counselling service which continues today, providing counselling in house and across schools in Glasgow.
Do you have any other upcoming events?
We have our annual Festive Brunch which is happening on the 21st of December. This is a bring your own dish, get together of all our partners throughout the year. This year it is being organised by our Youth Panel. We welcome anyone who would like to attend so please email firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know if you can make it!
What is the public reaction to yourselves as an organisation?
Very positive, we had extremely positive feedback on theJustLikeYou launch, and in particular, the young people themselves. The young people were extremely honest and talented, and we felt it was a great demonstration of the resilience, self awareness and positivity in overcoming barriers. We offer a unique service, and so it’s this that makes us an organisation that supports people based on their specific needs. In many ways the public reaction is that we are now the go-to organisation for referrals for young people from BME backgrounds. We pride ourselves on the expertise we have built up. At times, YCSA has had to challenge viewpoints within our community which can be difficult to voice.
How do you build trust with those you seek to support? It seems such a fundamental achievement of what you do.
It is indeed fundamental to what we do,it is one of our seven values and is at the foundation of these values. We often incorporate trust into the workshops that we deliver, and particularly in the one to one sessions that we offer. Trust is sewn throughout all our programmes, and all staff and volunteers ensure that they achieve this value in all the work that they do. We build a rapport with the young people, to ensure that we are working with them in the best possible manner. Our team is trained in different disciplines, for example Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, which allows the team to appropriately support the young people. We provide a safe space where the young people can be sure that their needs will be met by a non-judgemental attitude from the staff and a knowledge that the staff will keep the promises we make to them.
The people you support have proven that you can turn your life around and do amazing things, how do you support young people to find their way into a career?
We have many ways which we do this, whether it’s getting them support to write their CV, or one to one support with a volunteer to look for work, but fundamentally we listen to their dreams. We want to know what the young person wants for themselves, and we help them to take that and dream it big.
Is there anything else you want to communicate to people about YCSA?
Essentially, that not only do we support and empower young people but we want to communicate that we instill our seven values into our young people and ourselves, ensuring that we all become active and valued contributors to a diverse community. We work closely with partners in our community by co-facilitating and developing programmes together which embeds the message that we and the young people develop the skills to become active contributors to the diverse community.