The Acknowledging Youths community project was set up to raise the aspirations of unemployed young people in London and help them find work.
Danny Barnes is a man on a mission. He’s overcome major obstacles in his life and wants to help others do so too.
In 2012, while unemployed himself, he set up a community project in London called Acknowledging Youths. Whilst at first he couldn’t find funding for such an endeavour, he wanted to raise the aspirations of young people in inner London who were unemployed and didn’t expect to get work because they lacked both skills and opportunities. He wanted to make a positive contribution to the lives of those young people, by increasing their self-esteem and confidence, giving them new skills and ultimately helping them become more employable.
Whenever I tell people my story, they’re inspired to change their lives. I’ve been in prison myself, I’ve been in gangs, I’ve been homeless. My sister died of leukaemia at 14, I grew up not knowing my mum. This is how I’m able to help young people now, because I know exactly what it’s all about, having lived it myself.
Danny started Acknowledging Youths by working in the local community to find out more about what local young people needed to support them – he carried out focus groups with local people to work out what he needed to do. Acknowledging Youths now offers young people one to one support to help them identify where they could get work, with writing their CV and training in interview techniques. They also offer the chance for young people to volunteer within the organisation so they can gain valuable work experience.
When a young person comes to us, they might not be ready to go into a job; so we ask them what they want to achieve, work out what we can do for them and then help them to reach their goals.
And it’s not all about working for someone else; Danny recognises that some young people have the potential to start their own businesses. To help them get started, he set up an Enterprise Club in partnership with NatWest. This offers young people the opportunity do a business course to make sure they’re on the right track and have the best chance to make it on their own.
We’re also looking to set up a recording studio where young people can link their learning on our accredited numeracy and literacy course with the music they’re producing and marketing.
Acknowledging Youths is going from strength to strength, now running as a Community Interest Company staffed by volunteers with Danny as CEO. Their initiative has been recognised with the award of a contract to work with young people who are not in employment, education or training in Tower Hamlets.
What’s different about my approach is that I go to Jobcentre Plus with the young people and sign them up to the Work Programme. Drug dealers, gang members, whatever, I’ve lived their experiences, and I know how to engage with young people. In the last year I’ve engaged with over 300 young people.
Acknowledging Youths is about to begin work with juvenile ex-offenders, young people in care, and pupil referral units – centres for young people who are not able to attend mainstream education, often due to exclusion.
I’m on a mission to help as many people as possible. Youth unemployment is the biggest single issue facing this country today and throwing money at the problem won’t solve it. I know our approach works and I’m determined to carry on and show that it can be done without lots of funding.
Published: 17 September 2013