How we work
The Youth Links model of service is an approach where our clients are at the centre of and key to all policies, procedures and attitudes. We understand that our clients may not be interested in the processes required for service provision i.e. what internal referrals need to take place and funding requirements. As such we seek to provide services that are integrated, holistic and seamless. Breaking down the program silos has enabled Youth Links to provide a more flexible and responsive service that caters to the often rapidly changing demographics and needs of our clients. This model is underpinned by the fostering of good working relationships with other service providers.
Youth Links has encouraged and invited other services to be periodically based within our center or to regularly attend outreach. Our experience tells us that our young people are generally place-based and getting them to access external services often proves difficult. In encouraging other services in to Youth Links we hope that clients begin to develop relationships with staff from other agencies and feel comfortable in accessing their services onsite and eventually off-site where appropriate. This team-based approach ensures clients have access to more than one worker, often several.
- Friendly and open atmosphere that promotes safety and trust
- Somewhere to spend time and meet friends with no pressure to engage
- Young people are seen when they present and not asked to come back for an appointment
- A seamless flow between different services
- No waiting for the next service, unless highly specialised (eg counselling)
- Relationship and trust with more than one worker gives continuity through absences
- Young people experience several different approaches to their issues
- Consistency and reinforcement of messages and what needs to happen in different ways
- Growing trust in other services, particularly those that outreach at Youth Links
- Non threatening external referral processes
- Other team members with different skill and knowledge sets are brought in to see clients
- Broadening and deepening of skill and knowledge levels
- Knowing that during absences, clients will be well and consistently supported
- Shared responsibility across the team for each client
- Stress and anxiety around clients in crisis is reduced
- Discussion and consultation across the team provides more informed solutions
- Consistency across the team of what we do and how we do it
- Clients cannot play off different team members from different programs
- Ongoing support from the whole team
- Staff wellbeing
- Quick and effective changes to programs when they are not working
- Quick and effective changes to follow client and funding body trends
- Diversity for staff
- Good staff development
- Good staff peer support that does not rely upon one person
- High staff retention
- More effective use of funding in terms of client throughput
There are many ways in which a young person’s journey can connect with Youth Links. For example, through our drop-in space where we have games such as chess, cards and computers to use for home work, emails, Facebook etc. We encourage young people to hang out at Youth Links for as little or as long as they like as this will allow them to become familiar with our staff and agency in a non-threatening manner which allows relationships and trust to develop naturally. There is a plethora of pamphlets and posters on a wide range of topics displayed around Youth Links to inform young people.
A young person may present at reception to seek help with issues of homelessness; this type of assistance is handled by a specialist SAAP worker. The process of assessment may reveal the client also requires assistance with job seeking or personal support and this would be immediately addressed through bringing in another worker to discuss or by making an appointment once the initial crisis was being dealt with.
Clients may also be connected with Youth Links through warm referrals from another agency, but our major source of new clients is through word of mouth from friends who are connected to our services. Youth Links also has a training space where computers are available. As our drop-in space sees a lot of client, the training room provides a quieter space for tasks such as job-searching or homework. Workshops are regularly available in this space on topics such as housing, driving or budgeting, to which all our young people are welcome.
When a young person wishes to talk to someone about anything going on in their life, an available staff member will speak with them and assess what assistance they require and what staff skill set is most suitable. This open door policy ensures that clients feel comfortable in speaking with our staff whenever they may face an issue. Whilst all programs have been removed from the previous siloed approach, various members of the team have specific program responsibilities, which are based around areas of expertise, skill sets and external contact points. For instance, Intensive Case Management staff will be the sole point of contact for their specific clients due to the specialist nature of the work and the large amounts of outreach work that is required; however, other team members will be brought in when their expertise is required. The trust developed through our integrated team based approach enables positive and effective warm referrals to other agencies with other specific programs and skill sets.
This wrap-around approach to service provision ensures a flexible and responsive service to be provided, without the need for multiple referrals. This approach is greatly enhanced by the additional services that outreach within the Youth Links space (eg Centrelink, youth counseling etc) that provide an even broader base of informally integrated youth services in an appropriately flexible way. This service integration and team based approach has many benefits for both staff and clients. Youth Links has a history of delivering highly flexible and effective services to a broad spectrum of clients, from homelessness amongst Australian born youth to suicidal ideation amongst boat arrivals from Afghanistan. The team approach to services ensures that no client is ever left without support due to absences, resignations etc. which is highly beneficial for both clients and staff, in terms of both anxiety reduction and service continuity.
The highly flexible approach, the well developed skill levels and range of expertise across the team enables Youth Links to respond quickly and effectively to changing demands from both clients and funding bodies and to gain feedback from clients and other agencies in terms of what is and what is not effective.
Much of the work of Youth Links is now focused on sustainable employment and education outcomes for young people. This is done in conjunction with JSA and the services that they provide. Given that the majority of our clients are either stream 3 or 4 – those with multiple barriers to employment, ie homelessness, lack of language, Alcohol & Other Drug (AOD) misuse, trauma etc – much more is often needed than can be provided by JSA. Youth Links ensures that many of these barriers can be addressed to ensure good client outcomes. Ongoing employment or education is the major exit point from this service and addresses many other issues such as homelessness and drug use through having too much time and nothing to do.
It must also be noted that numbers of visits from young people have increased threefold over the last 3 years from approximately 350 / month to between 1000 and 1200 / month. This has also led to a tripling of our service provision to the numbers of young people requesting assistance. All of this has been achieved due to the new model of service, with no increase in funding or staff levels. A minimum of 50% of our clients receive services that are unfunded.