Somerset Youth Alliance is 'filling the massive void' in youth provision

A group of voluntary youth work organisations is providing optimism for the future of youth work across Somerset. The director of Somerset Youth Alliance, Tash Sully, explained, “We’re a collaboration of voluntary youth work organisations across Somerset.

“A few years ago, the group came together as there was a massive void in youth work training they needed for their teams. They realised how much more they could do collectively. We became a bit more formalised and secured bigger funding.”

The Alliance currently boasts 21 members, with five more on the brink of joining. The member organisations range from large entities, such as Young Somerset and SASP, to smaller organisations, like West Monkton Parish Council and The Onion Project.

“Youth work is how we do work rather than what we do,” Sully explains. “Overall, we want a consistently high level of youth service provision, to identify and fill gaps in service provision, and to build trusting and creative relationships between member organisations and young people.”

The Alliance’s goals are clear: share ideas and resources, use their combined voice, identify gaps in training and development, promote youth work in training and career paths, and potentially explore a peer approach to quality assurance.

“In the next year, we will be growing our youth workers in terms of training and in terms of knowledge,” Sully shares. “We don’t employ any of these youth workers; they are our members, of which there are two, and a third colleague is coming to join us.”

The Alliance is also committed to raising the diversity and representation of youth work in Somerset. They are working closely with Somerset Council and their members to amplify the voice of young people, collaborating on approaches that enable young people’s voices into things that affect them.

“We are currently doing a bit of a mapping exercise on what youth work is out there for our young people. Once we’ve got that, we will be looking at filling those cold spots,” Sully adds.

The Alliance has secured funding for various training opportunities, from an introduction to youth work for volunteers and trustees to advanced training equivalent to that of a qualified social worker or teacher. They have also found an online apprenticeship provider to support them, as no local universities offer this training.

“If anyone wants to start youth work activities, the support is there among our core, tangible offers, amongst many other things,” Sully concludes.