Karen Self portrait

Written by Karen Self

Karen joined the NYA in late 2020 as a Youth Work Specialist. She is a JNC professionally qualified youth and community worker and qualified trainer. Karen has worked in the youth and community field for over 25 years, including managing and leading activity across a range of sectors and environments.

Karen Self, Learning and Development Manager, National Youth Agency, describes why she is so passionate about the new Gypsy, Roma and Traveller CPD course for youth workers and others working with young people looking to ensure their services are inclusive.

‘’The most important piece of advice for any youth service hoping to engage with young Gypsies, Roma and Travellers is to go out and meet and talk to the young people, their families and others in the community.’’ This statement, from our recently launched CPD course ‘Working with Gypsy, Roma, and Traveller Young People, might seem obvious if you’re a youth worker, but how well do you really understand Gypsy, Roma, and Traveller communities? 

Perhaps you’re already working with Gypsy, Roma, and Traveller young people but not realise that you are because, contrary to the common misconception, some 78% of Gypsy, Roma, and Travellers in the UK live in permanent bricks and mortar housing (according to the 2011 Census)

Furthermore, do you fully appreciate the challenges the Gypsy, Roma, and Traveller communities face? 

This question takes me back to my work directly with young Roma people, as well as managing teams that have worked with the local Roma community.  I recall that it was essential that the team gave their absolute commitment to building trusted relationships within the community over a period of months, even years. Yes, we faced many challenges, the young people we connected with were often discriminated against by peers and members of the community, a mutual lack of cultural understanding often led to conflict with other young people, there were also worries about our intentions and our own concerns about the risk of exploitation of Roma young people by others; however, over time the work flourished, and we witnessed many successful outcomes for young people. We found that by focussing on their similarities with other young people – like football, music and dance – we were able to improve relationships and understanding amongst young people and by working with partners in the community and in the local secondary school we were able to tackle some of the more complex issues.

Our work with a group of Roma young people was successful because the lead detached youth worker was knowledgeable about the communities they worked alongside; they always strove to understand their needs and experiences and were committed to developing trusted, yet boundaried, relationships and instilled these values in their team of detached youth workers. 

Would a course have improved the team’s and other professional’s knowledge and understanding? Most definitely! That’s why I’m so passionate about the two Gypsy, Roma, and Traveller CPD units the National Youth Agency has produced alongside ODET (Open Doors Education & Training). 

The second course provides insights into successful activities to engage young people from the Gypsy Roma and Traveller communities, including.

  • The importance of youth work with the community and effective approaches to engagement, social inclusion outreach, diversity, integration, and multi-agency work all with a focus on promoting pride and the visibility of cultures. 
  • How to identify and analyse participation barrier challenges.
  • Examine good practice examples in youth work settings and how to develop inclusive practice in their own settings. 

Including case studies, useful templates, and a wealth of resources, the ‘Working with Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Young People’ CPD is a must for any Youth Worker or any other professional working with young people who wishes to provide meaningful, trusted, and inclusive services. 

You can access the CPD Parts 1 and 2 on the National Youth Agency website at www.nya.org.uk/academy-cpd/