Image © Katy & the Streetbase team in Walthamstow Central

Streetbase, Youth Engagement best practice, a peer-led approach

September 29, 2021

We launched Streetbase in Waltham Forest in May half term 2019. It’s a ground-breaking concept; a programme set up by the Southwark Young Advisors and trademarked to and run by existing Young Advisors (https://youngadvisors. org.uk/) an entirely youth-led initiative with trained young people engaging their peers on the streets, building relationships, signposting to activities and support, and most importantly, being positive role models.

By the end of that first year, only 7 months in, our team of specially trained Young Advisors and YIAG (Youth Independent Advisory Group) members, all aged 16-25 had surpassed targets and engaged over 700 young people.

We had applied to the Mayor’s Young Londoners Fund, set up to address youth violence in the capital, and from the start the programme was co-produced, two of our young people co-wrote the bid with me, the only application with written input from young people affected by the issues young Londoners face.

And now as then, I want most of this article to come from the words of the young people direct, so will be reproducing what they have written for a variety of articles about the programme they have worked on now for almost 3 years.

23-year-old Katy was recruited from the existing Young Advisors team to coordinate the programme in Waltham Forest. Katy is a dynamic young lady, a natural leader who is destined for great things (watch this space, she has recently been selected to stand as a councillor!)

In an article from November 2019, Katy explained what Streetbase did:

“We work alongside our partners including the local youth engagement police officers and the borough’s Anti-Social Behaviour team ...Being young people born and educated in the borough, we tend to know most of the places where young people tend to meet...it is my job as the Coordinator to devise a rota and send our Streetbase ‘patrollers’ out to...engage with...young people. Our patrols go out...for 3 hours per patrol. We have four Streetbase members on each patrol, each with a lead who is at least 18, is DBS checked and has safeguarding training.

During our engagement we find out... key things from young people: their age, postcode, interests, suggestions for the borough...[and if they have] special educational needs, attend a pupil referral unit, are not in education, employment or training, are in care or a care leaver, or a young carer.

They just need to be...approached in the right way, by young people who often have similar life experiences. Not all young people have access to the council or know how to go about creating change in their community. Streetbase has given often underrepresented voices the chance to shape the future and a sense of ownership over their borough.

Building relationships...Streetbase patrollers all have their own background stories and journeys, which any young person on the street may be able to relate to. Therefore, all Streetbase patrollers are encouraged to build connections and maintain relationships with the young people they encounter. This way, most of the young people we engage with can feel supported and listened to by someone who’s been in their shoes.

Imagine young boys speaking to a Streetbase patroller who has been a part of a gang or been through the criminal justice system. Think of the impact their experiences can have on their lives, in just a matter of minutes. This is exactly how Streetbase can help tackle youth violence. We link in with the young people on the streets and can direct them to a positive path that may secure their future.”

Jess, 18, is a Streetbase lead who recently wrote an article about it’s impact from her view: “Streetbase Waltham Forest could provide you with endless anecdotes about young people engaging with issues affecting their community.”

About who the team engages she says: ‘These are young people who’ve come through the criminal justice system, who’ve struggled with poor mental health, who’ve been through the care system. These are the voices that are really valuable, but they aren’t always put to the forefront enough.’

“Young people like this, with direct experience of some of today’s most pressing...issues can give us incredibly valuable insight on how policies are impacting people. To encourage them to speak up about the things that concern them, we need to make sure these conversations are accessible.

A key factor in the success of Streetbase is that it approaches young people, rather than waiting for young people to come to it. Conversations can be had anywhere, and only take a few minutes. Additionally, the similarity in age creates an environment where young people feel able to express their views without fear of judgement.

To attract a youth voice, that youth voice needs to feel valued, and to feel valued it needs to be listened to.

Responses gathered from young people on Streetbase patrols are always fed back. Information on their interests is added to a database that connects young people to opportunities being offered in their area. Their opinions on issues, such as stop and search or community safety, are quoted in council scrutiny meetings, meaning that the conversations had with young people on the streets help make decisions and shape policy.

I’ve been a member of the Waltham Forest Streetbase team since its formation. Every patrol I’ve been on has resulted in interesting conversations with young people who are far more engaged...than many give them credit for. The skills and confidence I have developed have been invaluable to me and I know that in saying this, I also speak for the other members of my team.

The approach to youth engagement and empowerment adopted by Streetbase shows how communities can influence local...decision making. Waltham Forest council has invested time, training and money into a team of young people passionate about promoting change in their community. In doing this, they have managed to reach hundreds of other young people who might otherwise never get the chance to be involved in these discussions.

The team doing a socially distanced patrol in 2020

You can follow Streetbase on Instagram at: Streetbase_wf

or contact them at:

streetbase@walthamforest.gov.uk

If you are interested in setting up a Young Advisors scheme and running

Streetbase, please contact:

info@youngadvisors.org.uk


Links:

¹ Katy’s Medium blog on Streetbase: https://medium.com/reducing-violence-in-waltham-forest/streetbase- young-people-listening-to-and-learning-from-each-oth- er-6e7947394141
² Katy’s article for the Youth Justice Board on Streetbase work in COVID: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/peer-to-peer-engagement-in-youth-justice-a-frontline-view
³ Jess’s article: https://www.newlocal.org.uk/articles/young-people-streetbase/
⁴ The Independent article: https://www.independent.co.uk/independentpremium/long-reads/citizen-patrol-groups-streets-london-knife-crime-streetbase-waltham-forest-a9314446.html


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