An interview by YouthTime Magazine
Youth Unity are working hard in the UK to change the story of young people and help them with their issues. We spoke to them to find out more.
Youth Unity CIC is an innovative space for youth empowerment, and a non-profit organisation established to provide effective help and support to vulnerable young people and adults affected by group violence (gangs), drugs and other forms of exploitation such as human trafficking, child sexual exploitation and extremism.
With offices in Kent, London and Essex, the organisation works successfully in close collaboration with statutory organisations, commissioned services and charities, by offering workshops, projects and training for young people and professionals.
In this piece, Youth Time features its contribution for young people’s wellbeing by speaking to Paul McKenzie, Youth Unity’s Head of Communications.
Introducing Youth Unity
At the beginning of our conversation, McKenzie talks about the impact of COVID-19 pandemic in their activities, whereas further in the interview, he sheds light on their key activities and the 4Ps (Pursue, Prevent, Protect and Prepare).
“With the current rise in serious youth violence and the impact of COVID-19, we created a dedicated hub for the overall wellbeing of young people from all ethnicities,” he explains, whilst adding that the organisation challenges the narrative portraying young people as bad.
Youth Unity’s focus is early intervention and early identification of those ‘at risk’ from gangs, serious youth violence, criminal exploitation and associated vulnerability strands.
To better understand this, McKenzie adds that this is something consistent with the Government’s 4P approach and contained within the Serious and Organised Crime Strategy.
“This strategy effectively coordinates national joint working to reduce the level of serious and organised crime affecting our local communities.
“It uses the framework often referred to as the 4Ps and strengthens a partnership approach to safeguarding our most vulnerable and tackling offenders.”
Prevent, Prepare and Protect
As McKenzie explains, their key objectives are consistent with this strategy and approach:
Prevent: To stop people becoming gang members, being exploited or taking part in violence.
Prepare: To effectively mitigate risks through preventative measures and innovative, creative media early intervention. With the aim to kick start conversations, build resilience and inspire change around complex social issues.
Protect: To strengthen adults and young people by building their emotional and cognitive (thinking) resilience, better enabling them to ‘say no’ to gangs, violence, drugs, crime and other forms of exploitation and vulnerability themes.
Youth Unity works with schools, colleges, police forces, social services, LSCBs, charities, borough councils, county councils, private businesses, national government agencies to deliver productions, workshops and training for young people and adults across the United Kingdom.
Raising Awareness About Mental Health
Currently, it is also working with several organisations to raise awareness around mental health.
“We feel the pandemic has had a massive impact on youth. With this in mind, we set out to deliver specific online workshops that are interactive and informative for all.
“We selected several professionals to work alongside parents and young people.”
The workshops raised awareness and helped to enable participants to understand the early signs of a mental health issue.
“We are also delivering valuable support to young people challenged with grooming and county lines.
“There is an increase in the deliberate manipulation of young people, and we feel that more than ever before, we need to inform young people of the dangers etc,” McKenzie says.
The workshops explore topics such as criminal exploitation, social media misuse, grooming, building positive relationships, and the law.
Youth Unity also offers advice, and guidance to many families and individuals affected by Criminal Exploitation and grooming.
“Although because of a lack of funding, we are only available via telephone. Soon we will include a mentoring provision that will enable more one-to-one work with young people and their families.”
GroomSafe has recently worked on a film project with several young people at risk of Criminal Exploitation and serious youth violence.
“During the pandemic we could create a short film that addresses manipulation and grooming, we engaged young people in basic film making and editing, to produce William an awareness film to help others facing the challenges above.”
“We have entered the short film into several film festivals, we are expecting outstanding success on this. We also intend to duplicate this process to produce another short film about online abuse.“
To date, McKenzie goes on, Youth Unity believes young people need advice and awareness to enable them to make more informed decisions in life.
“By actively raising this awareness and reaching out to young people on a grassroots level, we effect the change that they need to help avoid exploitation and grooming,” he concludes.
About Paul McKenzie
Paul McKenzie is Professional Public Speaker, Life Coach/NLP Master Practitioner, Film Director/Producer and Author.
Paul has enjoyed changing the lives of hundreds of people over the last 20 years.
Through his filmmaking he has developed a platform designed to provide a space for individuals within the community to express their brilliance, speak their truth and encourage the lives of others.
This is achieved by producing short powerful films that highlight specific issues and capture the unique essence of everyday people’s stories, which are now award winning.
These films and documentaries are shared internationally and contain inspirational, thought provoking material, and reaches out to the heart of the community.
Paul remains proud to have contributed to some major changes in the way Youth Unity addresses specific issues that challenge communities, especially the issues that affect the youth.