Posted: 15 August 2017

How I support young people to handle adult life

Our Warm and Informed service, funded by Northern Gas Networks, provides direct support with bills and budgeting, as well as helping to improve young people’s confidence, education opportunities and safety. Clare Fyall, one of our service managers in the North East, tells us about the work she does.

I love working with young people. I particularly enjoy working with groups or whole classes in schools, because of the way children bounce off each other. The kind of comments and questions that the children come up with are interesting and insightful, and often funny too.

My job involves travelling around the North East, visiting schools and colleges and running group sessions with children and young people from 10 to 18 years old. We advise young people about developing their life skills, how to stay safe and ways of dealing with feelings and emotions.

The toothpaste challenge

Without a doubt, the most popular activity we do in schools is the toothpaste challenge.

It goes like this: children get into pairs and are given a bullseye and a tube of toothpaste. One of them has to squeeze all of the toothpaste out of the tube onto the bullseye, as fast as they can. It takes about 10 seconds. Then the other child has to try and get all of the toothpaste back into the tube. That is obviously impossible!

We help older teenagers to work out their next steps

We use this game to show children how it’s very quick and easy to share a photo of themselves online – but it’s impossible to get it back once it’s out there. It works really well - the children remember the game and it helps them to stay safe online.

Learning life skills

It may come as a surprise that many young people have no idea how to open a bank account. Even when they might be starting an apprenticeship or receiving a grant, some don’t even consider the fact they’ll need a bank account in order to receive their money.

We help older teenagers to work out their next steps after college. Some will be starting to live independently for the first time, so we advise them about practical things like finding a flat, opening a bank account and paying the bills. We also give guidance about how to do the food shop – many have never had to do it before.

A really important part of what we do is showing young people how to budget and how to avoid getting into debt. Making sure they can budget properly for essentials like heating their home, so they don’t end up having to choose between heating or eating, is really crucial.

Staying safe and keeping well

We do a lot of work with children and young people to help them to explore their feelings and emotions and different ways of coping.

Sometimes children feel like running away when things get too much, so we look at ways to prevent this and keep them safe. We also explore friendship and the kinds of friends that are good or bad. This can help them to identify if they have friends who are encouraging them to take part in crime, for example.

Making a difference

While most of my work is with groups, I also work with some young people on a one-to-one basis. Sometimes, through working with a whole class in a school, it will become clear that a particular young person could do with some extra support. Perhaps they don’t have a great home life, or they live in care.

One-to-one work sessions can make a real difference to a young person who doesn’t have support from other adults in their life.


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