Cafes give young people a place of their own

THE little corner cafes where most of today's teachers and youth workers once hung around, listened to music and chatted over a Coke lasting three hours are mostly faded memories. Starbucks or McDonald's dominate and impersonal community centres no longer hold much appeal.

Young people, much as they have always done, want a place to call their own where they can do whatever they fancy and youth cafes fit in with the demand for a social centre of their own.

In Dingwall, today (Friday), Cathy Jamieson, Education and Children Minister, will give her backing to the emerging model of alternative youth provision that has taken hold particularly strongly in the Highlands and islands.

A network of some 17 cafes has developed in the north and a similar number in other parts. An evaluation of cafes in the north by the Prince's Trust shows they are catching the imagination of young people, mostly aged 12-16. A support worker has been in post for three years.

Shona Stephen, the trust's director of developing programmes, says: "The major appeal for young people is they are in charge of a space they want to be in."

Most cafes, many in rural areas, are open two to three nights a week. "They are about involving young people in running cafes and help develop skills in business planning, stocktaking, managing staff or attracting others to come in. They are also a vehicle for other agencies to reach young people," Ms Stephen said.

She is hopeful of more secure funding to spread the network, enable cafes to open longer and extend the scope of the work.

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