Video boosts image and self-esteem

2nd May 1997 at 01:00
The finishing touches are being made to a video that young people in a rundown area of Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, believe will enhance their poor image.

It was decided to make the video after a crime survey in the Hester's Way area cited fear of "young people hanging around" as residents' most serious concern.

The eight teenagers who made the video hope it will give another perspective on life in Hester's Way.

It will be shown to local residents' and tenants' associations. Young people were encouraged to take part in the project with rewards such as go-karting, indoor climbing sessions and a camping weekend.

Sue Cooper, a social worker involved in the project, said: "In terms of the young people's understanding and empathy with the concerns of adults the video has been a success. It has also raised their self-esteem and given them a focus.

"It remains to be seen whether the residents in the area will change their attitude, but I believe they will. However, I can't see the video changing the poor view people outside have of Hester's Way."

Those taking part believed generalisations were made about them. "We all get tarred with the same brush," said one, who added that groups of young people were seen as a bigger threat than individuals.

The hypocrisy of some of the adult residents was highlighted. One youth said: "If you go in a shop you are chucked straight out. They think the kids are doing it (stealing) but sometimes it's the adults doing it."

The survey of residents' attitudes was conducted by Gloucestershire police and Cheltenham borough council. David Aukett, the council's community safety co-ordinator, said the risk from young people was perceived rather than real.

Claire Fletcher, a Gloucestershire police researcher, said: "Following a survey of residents we decided to see what young people themselves thought. We found their views of the area and their fears reflected what older residents said."

One young person described Hester's Way saying that "it's dirty and grubby and needs to be cleaned up. It looks cheap and there are lots of drunken men".

There was little for young people to do and living in the area was boring. The teenagers see themselves as potential victims rather than perpetrators of local crime.

The research has been used as a catalyst to win Pounds 37,000 for youth projects over the next three years. The money will be channelled through work done at the six secondary schools in Cheltenham as well as projects overseen by detached youth workers. These will involve trying to identify young people who are slipping towards crime and anti-social behaviour and give them a new direction.

Ms Fletcher said: "This is the first time that the kids themselves have been given the opportunity to express how they feel. The video project shows how well they have responded. In future we can work on needs the young people themselves have identified, rather than those that are identified for them. "

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