Young people redesign youth centres

If you are looking to redesign a youth centre and want meaningful service user involvement from young people why not set aside a hefty pot of money, get the young people themselves to design it, and then have their peers decide which ones to fund? Too risky? Apparently not. The government has done exactly this through its innovative myplace programme.

Administered on behalf of the Department of Children, Schools and Families by the Big Lottery Fund, myplace was launched three years ago to transform the provision of youth centres across England. Last month, children and young people’s minister Beverley Hughes announced the 41 myplace winners of £180m – the single largest ever capital investment in youth facilities.

Each region of England will have at least two new youth centres funded by myplace, and successful bids were those that best demonstrated local young people’s participation in deciding what activities, facilities and services each they would have. All 41 projects will enable young people to access a wide range of advice and support on subjects including alcohol and drugs, careers and sexual health issues.

Ahmed, one of the young people on the funding panel that made the final decisions, said he was really impressed with bids that showed strong partnership working. “I felt partnership working was really good; there was good public, private and voluntary sector involvement and I was impressed with how they involved young people.”

Culture Fusion, Bradford, Yorkshire and Humber Region
Bradford YMCA won £5m of funding for Culture Fusion, its version of a world class youth centre to be operated in the centre of Bradford. The money will be spent on building a five-storey extension to an existing six-storey youth centre, which will also be refurbished. Culture Fusion will contain a rooftop café, a music studio, gym and hostel accommodation. The total cost of the project is £9.8m.

Humair, aged 19, is one of the young people involved in thinking up how Bradford would benefit from a new youth centre. He admits that when he first heard about the myplace scheme through his youth worker he was sceptical Bradford’s bid would be successful: “I thought it wasn’t going to happen to us, there were so many projects applying.”

In spite of this, he spent five weeks with other local young people deciding what their myplace project should be like. For Humair, it was important the centre was open to, and welcoming of, those from different backgrounds. He says: “There is not a lot of cohesion between different communities, cultures and faiths. That’s the reason why it’s called Culture Fusion, to mix it all up.”

Sophia, also 19, was also involved in the Culture Fusion bid. Her motivation for taking part was to help young people with the transition into adulthood. “I just had to be involved, because in my area there is not a lot going on.”

TeenSpace, Shrewsbury and Oswestry, West Midlands
Led by a partnership of Shropshire Council and third and private sector bodies, TeenSpace has been awarded £3.9m for it bid to create high quality youth centres for rurally isolated and deprived teenagers. The grant will fund the redevelopment of an existing youth centre in Shrewsbury – which will act as the hub for the whole county – and a new centre in Oswestry.

The Shrewsbury centre will have a coffee bar and internet café, a performance space with raised stage and production facility, and meeting rooms. The Oswestry centre will have a reception foyer with IT and library facilities, a coffee bar, and a multimedia suite and dance room. Both centres will also offer support facilities.

Graham became involved in the TeenSpace bid a year ago after a youth worker told him about it. The 16-year-old was keen to have his say so all young people in Shropshire had access to more fulfilling activities. “We spoke to different young people because we wanted the centre to be different,” he says. “Each youth centre we visited was very different; we went to places like Birmingham to get ideas.”

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