A charity has pinpointed the approaches that work best with deprived and disaffected young people, writes Karen Thornton.
CHARITIES and schools which rack their brains for new ways of helping disadvantaged youth may be wasting their time: proven methods already exist.
That's the message of a new guide, produced by the charity Communities that Care and funded by the Rowntree Foundation.
A myriad of approaches have been tried to tackle such problems as educational under-achievement, disaffection and truancy, teenage pregnancy, youth violence and crime - ranging from pre-natal services to youth mentoring.
A Guide to Promising Approaches aims to identify which approach has been shown to work. It lists some which have been effective and produces the evidence for that success. In areas where little evaluation has taken place - including many youth work and regeneration initiatives - it indicates what is considered to be good practice by those in the field.
The 90-page document was written to support the charity's work tackling disaffection and anti-social behaviour by young people.
But anyone, including individual schools, working with deprived young people will find much in the guide to help them.
The charity's own approach is to get local people and professionals involved in producing an "audit" of the local community's strengths and weaknesses - known as "protective" and "risk" factors. The audit is based on a survey of secondary pupils.
There are a number of "risk" factors - including, for example, family conflict, underachievement at school, or the availability of drugs - that heighten the risk of truancy, disaffection and youth crime, says the charity.
But no one factor is to blame, and "protective" local conditions such a strong local community, or good schools can have a balancing, positive effect.
The charity has come up with various programmes designed to address each of the risk and protection factors.
Education-related initiatives such as family literacy schemes and after-school clubs dominate the guide.
But other programmes described include community policing, youth mentoring and screening of babies for delayed language development.
David Utting, the guide's author, said: "We are saying - don't reinvent the wheel if you can help it. Look at what's already proved effective. Promising Approaches is a guide to programmes available in the UK that come with a respectable research warrant."
He added that the charity depended on a "holistic" approach, tackling several problems in parallel. "Just going for one risk factor or individual programmes is not very effective. This sort of holistic view is the ultimate way of looking at things."
Promising Approaches and CtC comes with a ringing endorsement from the Government's social exclusion unit. Moira Wallace, head of the Cabinet Office unit praised the charity's "systematic" approach at a recent conference. She added: "We are being very influenced by CtC, we always have been."
A Guide To Promising Approaches, edited by David Utting, price pound;19.95 plus pound;2 post and packaging, is published by Communities that Care, Rosebery House, 70 Rosebery Avenue, London EC1R 3RR
GUIDE TO PROMISNG APPROACHES.
The guide lists programmes which have proved effective with young people, divided into four sections:
Families - prenatal services, family support using home visitors, detection and treatment of post-natal depression, screening for delayed language development, parent support, handling children's behaviour.
Schools - HighScope nursery practice, family literacy, Reading Recovery, literacy hour, Cognitive Acceleration through Science Education, anti bullying, family links.
Youth - after-school clubs, mentoring, youth employment with education, peer-led community programmes.
Community - community policing, Communities that Care, housing management initiatives