A Quality Youth Club in Every Community

27 September 2013
If you have never been to a Party Conference (and I hadn't before this year) then the first thing that strikes you is their size.  The main Conference Halls in Brighton and Manchester each held around 800 faithful but beyond these each Conference hosted a large exhibition and numerous "fringe" events.   

The fringe events were a strange mix.  Some were definitely for the committed specialist ("Placing the Customer At the Heart of Parking Management") whereas others were of more general interest ("Keeping Children Safe in A Digital World").  And some just looked like good fun - anyone for "Beers of Europe" or the "RSPCA Beer and Curry Night"?

But I was there for serious business and the beer and curry would have to wait!  UK Youth and Ambition were launching a campaign for a quality youth club in every community and I was there to lend my support and to promote Myplace as an example of what could be achieved. 

At the Labour Party Conference in red hot Brighton (was this place really in the same country as the cold and grey Sheffield that I had left a few hours earlier?) MPs Tristram Hunt and Julie Hillier joined UK Youth and Ambition Chief Executives' Charlotte Hill and Helen Marshall and chair Tracey Bleakley from PFEG in a lively and very positive debate with delegates.  There was a strong consensus amongst those present that the youth sector was failing to get its message across to people outside the sector about the contribution that it could make to a wide range of agendas.  Julie Hilling's -a former youth worker herself- advice was "campaign, campaign, campaign."  

At a similar fringe event at the Conservative Party Conference I chaired a discussion that was informed by short speeches from Charlotte and Helen, Tim Loughton MP and Alex Fairweather, the CEO of the Greater Manchester Youth Network.  The atmosphere was, again, very positive and similar messages came across - in particular the need for organisations from across the youth sector to work collaboratively and to ensure that their impact is better understood.  Tim Loughton in particular made many helpful references to Myplace Centres, emphasising their potential and promoting their role as hubs for youth provision from across their local authority areas.  
So what will I take away from the two Conferences?  Well firstly, a fist full of business cards from people who, having heard about Myplace, wanted to find out more about their local Centre.  Secondly, a strong sense from leaders from across the youth sector that, in difficult times, the sector should pull together and collaborate more.  And thirdly, a recognition that, whilst the youth sector has many friends, too few people understand what youth work can achieve and the contribution that it can make to their agendas.  

So there is plenty of work to do!  But for now I wonder if there is still time to get to that Beer and Curry event .....   


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