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Youth Strategy for the Diocese of London

A partnership starting in 2005/6 between the Diocese of London and The Children's Society (TCS) led to a three year written Youth Strategy in 2008. The Strategy is currently being updated. The role of the Youth Development Project is to work with young people and churches to make the Youth Strategy a reality allowing young people to take an active and positive role in their church and/or community. The philosophy is that young people are best placed to identify what they want and that, given the right level of support and encouragement, they make a substantial and lasting contribution. The Programme Manager reports to a Steering Group that meets quarterly comprising representatives of both the Diocese and TCS.

The origins of the project

Initially the Area Dean for North Camden, through his close links to the John Lyons Charity, secured £30,000 p.a. for three years for a diocesan post in 2005. He had already had contact with The Children’s Society and, after some discussion with the Diocesan Community Ministry Adviser who was concerned about the lack of professional advice and support for parishes engaging in youth work, it was decided it would be better to develop a partnership with TCS which would bring some additional resources. The Community Ministry Adviser set up a steering group with TCS and a programme manager was recruited who also worked with the funding unit of TCS to draw in additional funds.

Assessing need

Various means were used to determine need. First, a snapshot was taken across the Diocese to see what youth work was happening, what the gaps were and what was needed. Then there was extensive consultation during 2007:

· meetings in different areas to which everyone involved in youth work was invited;

· questionnaires sent to youth leaders about their needs;

· consultation with young people through a Participation Worker going to a broad range of youth work provision and using activities to elicit their views on issues affecting them and on what a good youth club looks like.

· drawing on the findings of the national Good Childhood Inquiry carried out by TCS in 2006 with the aim of renewing society's understanding of modern childhood. Over 20,000 children from all walks of life including children in prison, children in pupil referral units, children in early-years settings, refugee children, disabled children and many other marginalised groups took part in polls, research and focus groups.

This material was used to draw up a range of indicators and develop recommendations to the Diocese about what the Strategy should contain.


· Training and accreditation for youth leaders at basic and more advanced levels. The Project has produced a course on ‘Essentials for Working with Young People’, (level 2, Open College Network), which has been run in the Diocese.

· Support and guidance for youth leaders and for parishes needing external supervisors or supervision partners.

· Resources such as Leaps and Bounds, an interactive toolkit for developing inclusive youth activities, and a youth work self-evaluation tool for churches.

· A youth-led grant-giving scheme Go for Gold offers small amounts of money to youth groups. This began as a pilot in Stepney. Twenty young people were trained to administer the grants. The groups applying had to have an adult sponsor for support but the ideas and activity had to come from the young people themselves and they had to keep a diary of their progress. Subsequently, the grant makers visited the projects and gave gold, silver and bronze awards that were given out at an event co-hosted by the Bishop of London.

· A group of Young Advisers – six people from the original board of grant makers ­– help to train up other young people.

· Networking and sharing ideas through conferences, events, newsletters and Be Inspired a booklet giving real life stories to help people engage with young people in their parish.

The Project has helped both CUF and the Bishop of London’s Mission Fund to assess youth work funding applications from churches in the Diocese of London. Project staff have also worked with West London YMCA to build greater capacity for training delivery and support.

The evolution of the project

Early activity happened alongside the development of the Strategy. The Participation Worker was only employed for eighteen months. Since then the Young Advisers have been the main means of keeping young people involved. Over time and with the development of more resources, contacts and the reach of the project across the diocese have increased.

TCS was interested in rolling the approach out across other dioceses, particularly because dioceses were tending to lose their youth officer posts, but this was at the time of recession.


Leadership has been shared between TCS and the Diocese. The drive of one individual was important as an impetus for initiating the project. Since then, the Programme Manager has clearly had a crucial role helped by the strategic and practical support of members of the Steering Group.


After the original grant from the John Lyons Charity, further funds were secured from the Morris and Hilda Laing Charitable Trust for a senior youth worker and one year’s funding for a participation worker came from CUF in order to help kickstart the project over such a large diocese. TCS still put £50,000 per year into the project.

Success factors

· Key players have been on board from the beginning and leaders such as the Diocesan and Area Bishops and the Archdeacons have been very supportive.

· TCS have put in a lot of resource in addition to finance; for example, support in levering more funding and building relationships with funders. Being part of a bigger Children’s Partnership team also gave access to other members’ support and wisdom.

· High quality staff have been engaged.

· They have been robust in discussions with and advice to parishes and not afraid to challenge them, but this has been coupled with having a very good understanding of the challenges that parishes face.

Lessons have been learnt in relation to approaching funders:

· The importance of having a proper delivery plan: being very clear about what funders will get for their money and the added value you can bring.

· The importance of courtesy: acknowledging cheques; getting reports in on time; reporting against what you have said you would achieve; inviting funders to events; making sure you mention them in reports (having checked that they want to be mentioned).

A more general lesson has been the importance of managing expectations and being realistic, for example, about the quality of data. It has proved very difficult to build up a database that is either comprehensive or completely up to date. The mapping exercise only produced a 46% response rate. There were difficulties of definition and everyone having a common understanding, for instance, about whether ‘youth work’ does or does not include uniformed organisations. In addition, without constant updating, the material is only ever a snapshot because circumstances change and people move on.

Challenges and opportunities for the future

The main challenge is to ensure that funding continues for the next 3 years and to update the Youth Strategy. TCS and the Diocese are committed to continuing the partnership though TCS is experiencing financial pressures linked with cuts in public expenditure. The Olympic Games in London 2012 provide an opportunity for engaging more young people, working with the person who has been jointly appointed by London and Chelmsford Dioceses to engage people with the Olympics. It will be important to consider the implications of the final report of the Munro Review of Child Protection[1].

Clair Cooke – Programme Manager

[1] Department for Education, The Munro Review of Child Protection: Final Report A child-centred system, May 2011.