FROM youth clubs to LGBT groups, Monmouthshire’s youth service is working across the county to engage with youngsters, EMMA MACKINTOSH reports.

HELPING youngsters to learn about life – that’s the mission directive of the Monmouthshire Youth Service, a team of people working with youngsters age 11 to 25 across the county, supporting them as they change from children to adults.

In the last year they worked with, or had contact with, 6,749 such youngsters out of a possible 15,453 in Monmouthshire.

The service is designed to help young people, particularly those most in need, as they learn about life and in their own time in informal settings, while aiming to be fun, exciting and engaging.

Youth work offers and uses different engagement techniques – as opposed to the more straightforward, academic curriculum typically offered in schools.

These include accredited learning, helping out with progression into further education, and employment and training.

By changing attitudes, the service aims to boost a feeling of citizenship, improved health choices and what they describe as “positive inspirational futures”.

Much of their work is done with other youth support services and bodies such as schools, Gwent Police, the health service and youth offending service.

Youth service workers aim to work flexibly with young people so they can continue to learn throughout their lives; develop their ability to play an active role as citizens, both as individuals and collectively; and support and develop opportunities for young people to influence decision-making.

In Abergavenny, Caldicot, Chepstow and Monmouth town centres, the service works from multi-agency centres that are designed to be one-stop shops for young people to help them access appropriate and relevant advice and information.

There are computer suites with internet access, pool tables, games consoles, hot and cold snacks and a safe environment in which to meet up with their peers, with three of the four centres supported by Trusts who apply for funding.

Also in Chepstow is the Central Kaff, a full-time drop-in youth centre which gets youngsters involved in community projects such as art murals and organised graffiti, sports and recreational activities, trips and intergenerational projects.

They also have a mobile outreach plan which can go to the most rural areas of Monmouthshire, to ensure services are accessible to all young people, as well as a marque for all weathers.

The service has its main office in Gilwern where all central administration is dealt with, but the site also houses the new Nature Nest therapy and sensory room, and outdoor sensory garden and relaxation area, as well as the Duke of Edinburgh Award programme and, from this autumn, the families counselling team.

The youth centre in Usk is home to their performing arts programme and inclusive youth club, with the building shared with adult education and other voluntary bodies.

The service runs part-time youth clubs in Bulwark, Caldicot, Rogiet, Caerwent, Portskewett, Llanelly Hill, Gilwern, Pandy, Usk and Little Mill, running for two to four hours a week depending on need and the age of young people attending. Provision is split into age appropriate sessions for 11 to 18-year-olds and is supported by volunteers across the county.

The “inclusive” group, which runs every Monday and Wednesday evening in Usk for two hours, and on a Tuesday evening in Gilwern, is for less able and disabled young people and those with learning difficulties.

The service also promotes itself as having a comprehensive counselling service to 11-25-year-olds across Monmouthshire, with provision in all town centres; comprehensive, special and private schools; and doctor’s surgeries.

They also provide counselling in primary schools; to families; and therapeutic and systemic counselling.

Referrals are received from schools, doctors surgeries, youth centres, parents or the young people themselves.

They also have one of only two residential houses in Wales to host international exchange students.Placements have been hosted in King Henry VIII School; the county’s leisure centres; youth provisions; environmental projects; inclusive work; sports sessions; and the Angel Hotel in Abergavenny, with students coming from Spain, France, Lithuania, Germany, Liechtenstein, Belgium and Italy.

In all four of Monmouthshire’s comprehensive schools there are youth workers helping those who might be struggling with mainstream education, with a view to cutting the number of pupils at risk of being excluded.

Work with them includes one-to-one support helping them to achieve nationally recognised qualifications.

In addition, the Engage to Change (E2C) group, made up of youngsters aged 13 to 19 who are pupils in Monmouthshire, act as an advisory panel on decisions made by the county council or partnering organisations on matters affecting youngsters.

With the youth service targeting more than one in three young people in Monmouthshire, and thousands engaging with its programmes and initiatives each year, its reaches farther than you might think.