To celebrate Youth Work Week, Fight for Peace’s Richard Roach wrote a blog giving some insight into his role as ACT-AS-1 Community Engagement Manager, and why partnering with youth organisations across Newham is so important in allowing us to best support young people in our communities.

“I have been a youth worker for seven years and I’d like to give a big shout out to Fight for Peace for giving me the opportunity to support young people, share my energy and be able inspire the next generation.  

I am the Community Engagement Manager for the My Ends project in Newham – funded by the Violence Reduction Unit (VRU) – which we have renamed ‘ACT-AS-1’ which stands for ‘All Communities Together Are Strong’.

My role is to build a network of local businesses, statutory partners and grassroots organisations that work together to ultimately improve youth safety in Newham.

I really enjoy what I do, and with the support of Fight for Peace, I’m going from strength to strength. I also have the privilege of sitting on VRU’s first-ever Youth Practitioners’ Advisory Board. Together with nine other frontline professionals across a variety of sectors, we explore how we can strategically contribute towards a much safer London. 

I’ve had many highlights in my youth work career, it’s always good to see young people take the steps needed to create a prosperous future with the support and guidance from experienced and passionate youth workers.  

One of my personal career highlights has been to work on the ‘Special Project’ which we designed and put together to support young Black men most affected by violence. Over the course of 10 months, we took 10 young men on a journey of personal development, we built relationships with them, supported them back into education and then looked for a career progression, or helped create a business idea that they could start working on.  

It was a challenging but extremely rewarding experience that has stood me in good stead in my career. We ran two cohorts but struggled to get funding to run a third and I think that’s one of the main struggles when it comes to the youth sector – funding cuts. 

That’s why, when I heard about the ACT-AS-1 programme and how much the Violence Reduction Unit was investing in communities, I felt hopeful and optimistic about seeing and delivering the change we’ve all been longing for. 

The ACT-AS-1 programme could not have come at a better time with all that the world has been through over the past couple years with the Covid-19 pandemic and now the cost-of-living crisis making life extremely difficult for communities.  

Young people are often the ones that bear the brunt of an economic crisis, and we are already seeing that now with some of those we work with. They are noticing parents struggling to provide pocket money or school dinner money, while some families are taking the decision to not put the heating on as it is too expensive to heat a home. This will unquestionably have implications for young people and the Newham consortium are looking at how we can use our network and partnerships to support families across the borough. 

I see youth organisations playing a vital role in helping young people and families deal with challenges and the power that we have in Newham is in our multi-agency approach to improving the lives of young people.  

Working in partnership is key. It has helped us be better resourced, allowing youth workers to work to their strengths and refer to partners that specialise in certain areas.  

It’s a fantastic model and I now see ACT-AS-1 as a lifestyle and despite challenges ahead, we will continue to work in partnership and maintain strong relationships to support our young people and communities.”

Thank you to Richard for giving such a great insight into his work and the ACT-AS-1- programme, and to all of the consortium organisations involved in keeping the vision alive! This article was originally published as part of the Violence Reduction Unit (VRU) blogs during Youth Work Week. You can read the original blog on the website here.

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