Charity hits back at “worst region in UK to be young” label
A charity set up to improve the lives of young people in North East England has marked its 25th anniversary by rebranding and is refocusing on tackling the region’s reputation as “the worst place in the UK to be young.”
The Regional Youth Work Unit North East, an independent Gateshead-based charity, has changed its name to Youth Focus: North East.
Last year, the Intergenerational Foundation published research showing the North East is “the worst place in the UK to be young.” The foundation highlighted high levels of unemployment and low levels of engagement with national politics as reasons for this.
Youth Focus: North East provides leadership and expertise to the region’s youth work sector and runs projects to engage young people.
It aims to use its new identity to persuade local governments, schools, universities and professionals that working in partnership with young people is the best way to build a better society.
Leon Mexter, chief executive of Youth Focus: North East, said: “North East England is frequently in the news ranking among the worst places in Britain for youth unemployment, low educational attainment, obesity and mental health problems in children and teenagers.
When you scratch the surface the reality can be so different. We find positive stories every single day without fail.
Rebranding to Youth Focus: North East is a bold move. We have done it to ensure we thrive instead of just survive.
Our new identity highlights the power of engaging young people as equal partners, making decisions together, and by doing so creating real opportunities and a better future for everyone.“
The challenge of growing up in North East England
- A report by the Prince’s Trust says the number of unemployed 16-25 year-olds claiming benefits in the North East has gone up almost 300% in the past five years.
- In England, the North East, West Midlands and North West have the highest proportion of 16-24 year olds who are NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training).
- More than one in five young people in the North East, 20%, have experienced symptoms of mental illness as a direct result of unemployment (source).
- The North East has seen the biggest rise in child poverty levels in the whole of the UK, figures in a new report by End Child Poverty reveal (source)
- North East England has the highest rates of self-harm among people aged 10 to 19 in Northern England and double the number in London.
- In the region, 56.8 per cent of pupils achieved five or more grades A*–C at GCSE level or equivalent including English and mathematics in 2010/11, compared with 58.4 per cent for England as a whole.
Together is better, says Leon Mexter
Youth Focus: North East aims to inspire organisations and individuals working with young people - from Northumberland to Teesside - to adopt ‘co-production,’ a model where young people and adults take equal roles in planning, decision making and delivery of projects and services.
“Even though times are tough for charities and the voluntary sector, we are looking forwards and ‘co-production’ has proven time and again to deliver the best results and greatest impact when working with young people,” added Mexter.
In the past four years, the RYWU NE has become more active in working directly with young people and delivering projects in partnerships within the fields of arts, culture, mental health and social change.
These include launching the UK’s first-ever Young People’s Charter for Arts and Culture, co-commissioning £1.5m of cultural activity in the region as part of the London 2012 Olympics Cultural Olympiad and developing the North East Youth Network.
The new Youth Focus: North East branding was unveiled today at Souter Lighthouse, an iconic landmark on the North East coast and historically a focal point for sailors caught in bad weather.
Youth Focus: North East staff were joined there by young people whose lives have been transformed through working with the charity.
CASE STUDY: Jack’s Story
Jack Wilson, 16, used to be so withdrawn that he hardly ever left his Gateshead home. After his Mother persuaded him to join Change UR Mind his life has been transformed.
Jack now serves as the Children’s and Young People’s service user Governor for the Northumberland and Tyne and Wear Trust and has a major influence on mental health services within his local NHS.
“Being here today at Souter Lighthouse is so appropriate. Working with Youth Focus: North East gave me back my confidence and helped me realise I had a bright future ahead of me. Together we are looking to the horizon and a better future for young people in this region.”
Youth Focus: North East commissioned Newcastle marketing consultancy Guerilla to redesign its branding and corporate identity and received support from SkillsBridge.
The new Youth Focus: North East brand will be on show in April as the charity again hosts its annual North East Youth Work Awards at Sunderland’s Stadium of Light.
For more information about Youth Focus: North East, visit: www.youthfocusne.org.uk