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Update on Youth Engagement and Participation Service activity

The YEPS mobile vehicles provide a hub in areas that do not have a permanent youth club facility

Cabinet has been updated on the additional support offered to young people via recent investment in youth services – and Members agreed for the Council to double the number of community youth club vehicles that it owns.

At the Cabinet meeting on Wednesday, June 22, Members considered an officer report which highlighted the development of the Youth Engagement and Participation Service (YEPS) since Council funding of £200,000 was allocated in late 2019/20. The report also describes how the service used this funding to adapt from March 2020, in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

More recently, an additional £75,000 investment has been made to further support YEPS in its community work, including investment in two mobile youth club vehicles, which have been very well-received by local young people.

The report says the initial £200,000 funding was to provide additional capacity for YEPS’s community-based support, including extending youth work contact hours and finding alternative means of engagement in areas with no youth centre. However, the national lockdown was imposed in March 2020, which suspended all face-to-face work and required an urgent review of how the service was delivered.

The report adds that the combined £275,000 investment has been invaluable in transforming the service into a comprehensive hybrid during the pandemic, and describes the service delivery areas directly funded by the investment:

  • Street-based youth work – YEPS entirely refocused its community offer to street-based youth work from October 2020, to provide a trusted support in response to young people’s needs. It currently deploys up to four teams five evenings a week to key areas in Rhondda Cynon Taf.
  • Developing community provision – during the street-based sessions, staff have been establishing new relationships with local businesses to consider what they can offer young people in their area.
  • Mobile youth vehicles – investment in two bespoke vehicles using core and grant funding has provided a hub in areas which don’t have a youth club venue. The hubs provide a base for activities, street-based youth work and can be used where an immediate response is required.
  • RCT safe spaces – establishing a network of organisations supporting a ‘safe space’ initiative, which is a youth-focused location that provides an open access space for young people. The network provides support to individual organisations by offering advice, guidance and training opportunities, with YEPS also providing its own safe spaces.
  • Workforce development – investing in the development of future qualified and competent youth workers, amid a national shortage. YEPS has a firm commitment to upskill the workforce for the Council and partner organisations, offering key qualifications in this area.
  • Apprentices – two youth work apprentices were appointed in January 2021, to work in all areas of the service while gaining key qualifications.

The Cabinet report also lists a number of areas of YEPS work that has  indirectly benefitted from the funding. These range from mental health wellbeing and support to school-based support, after-school sessions, holiday provision, youth clubs, tackling youth homelessness, and the virtual youth offer.

Having considered the report, Cabinet Members agreed for the Council to purchase another two mobile youth vehicles – with one to be secured via Safer Streets external grant funding, and the other using Council funding.

Councillor Rhys Lewis, Rhondda Cynon Taf Council’s Cabinet Member for Education, Youth Participation and the Welsh Language, said: “Cabinet has received a comprehensive update on the current support YEPS offers young people across the County Borough, and how the additional £275,000 Council funding received since 2019/20 has helped further support its invaluable community work, particularly during the pandemic.

“Like all Council services, YEPS undertook a significant and urgent review of its priorities when the lockdown came into force, as it brought new challenges for young people in terms of their health, well-being and family life. The hard work and expertise of staff helped shape the service into a comprehensive mix of targeted and universal services, to help young people in those unprecedented times. Close working relationships formed with young people have helped the service adapt into its current, comprehensive hybrid offer.

“The update to Cabinet on Wednesday showed the invaluable offer of the service, focusing on street-based youth work, developing relationships with organisations, establishing local hubs and ‘safe spaces’, and investing in its workforce for the future. This model supported more than 1,600 young people on a one-to-one basis in 2021/22, delivered 700 activity programmes, and saw 6,100 young people attend a YEPS session throughout the year.

“Having considered the update provided by officers, Cabinet also agreed to support the purchase of two extra mobile hub vehicles to further enhance the reach of the service in areas with no permanent youth facility. The existing vehicles have been very well-received by young people, and the Council will now proceed with steps to secure the new vehicles as soon as possible.”

Posted on 24/06/2022