Outstanding charity celebrates 25 years of support for young people
- Credit: Nick Butcher
A vital service for young people, based in the heart of Norwich, is celebrating its 25th anniversary.
The Mancroft Advice Project's sole aim is to help young people with their problems, said chief executive Dan Mobbs at a special event at City Academy last night.
'Young people with any problems can come to us, that's still really at the heart of what we do,' he added.
'We deal with questions from mental and sexual health, to housing, to gender issues, and provide them with a space to ask these questions.'
But he added: 'We have seen a huge change in why people need our help.'
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The advice project – which also has a centre in Great Yarmouth – helps on average 30 to 50 young people a day, operates on a drop-in basis, and has provided counselling to 1,200 individuals in this year alone.
'We've done hardly anything with the premises itself,' Mr Mobbs said. 'It serves its purpose, and we've kept doing what we've always done, which is providing outstanding advice and counselling.'
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But the problems young people are facing have shifted over the years.
'Young people with drug problems for example,' he continued. 'There used to be a limited range of drugs, and we were familiar with the effects. Now it's all about risk-taking, people don't have a drug of choice so the traditional methods of how we can support them aren't relevant.'
Mr Mobbs also raised how social media and technology are affecting the challenges young people face.
'Young people are shown images of perfection from a very young age. They believe they're not successful unless they're materially accomplished. Schools have changed in the sense that they're built to avoid bullying happening in dark corners, but that's because the dark corners are now online. It's crazy that people come into us hungry but still have a working phone. I think what people feel they need has changed.
'If a young person was homeless we used to know what to do, a private landlord would take housing benefits and we could find people a home. Now, that's not available and social housing is so vastly reduced. There's such a tight criteria to get into social housing that it's impossible for some.
'A lot of young people are sofa surfers, and modern technology allows them to move from place to place for a few nights each.
'I think with social media there's a lot more visibility about what's out there, but for a lot of young people they know what they haven't got, and they don't know how to get it.'
MAP has also witnessed a rise in people needing food tokens.
'We've given out the most food tokens here than anywhere else in Norwich,' Mr Mobbs confirmed.
'Since 2010 we've noticed that this is a really immediate and devastating problem. Employment has always been a challenge. There's no national plan for skills, and there's not a lot of training out there for people that had a bad time in education.
'Often they've got the motivation but not enough skills to even get an apprenticeship. We do some workshops on swearing with younger individuals too, a lot of the time young people just don't have the language to engage in these conversations.'
At the anniversary event, Richard Jewson, the Lord-Lieutenant of Norfolk commended MAP on its work. He said: 'MAP enables young people to understand their value and fulfil their potential.'