Next month marks 5 years of my involvement with The Garage Referral Network. The aim of the Network is to bring different organisations who work with young people with challenging circumstances together to share information and best practice. In 5 years there have been some amazing outcomes, due in large to the great working relationships that have been created across organisations.

In the beginning of my journey here there were three attendees on The Garage Referral Network today these meetings are attended by over twenty organisations across the youth and education sector.

The Network currently stands at 460 contacts regionally. Who have referred into and took part in bespoke outreach project and meetings. The 460 contacts enable us to work effectively with the young people they refer in.

Five years ago six young people were referred into the inclusion programme called Creative Foundations. Fast forward to today and it feels fantastic to say this number has multiplied by ten.

65 young people to be precise have been booked on this term alone. They will now be able to access six different courses. Drama, Dance and Music is used as the vehicle to increase confidence, raise aspirations and boost social skills.

Every single one of those 65 participants journey starts with a referral partner.  We work flexibly with the referral partners by assessing need and seeing the best way to support, be that to call, tour the building or a bespoke outreach project etc. A referral document is filled out which helps the inclusion team gather prior knowledge. A tour is set up to enable our team to use open questions which acts as an initial assessment. Vitally this allows young people to feel comfortable in their new environment.

As each participant goes on their creative journey at The Garage, it is vital that we continue to communicate with the initial referral partner to give updates on progress. At the end of the course we ask referral partners to help us assess their progress. This works through feedback forms which monitor the participant at the beginning and also at the end of course. This is an effective way to assess the distance travelled.

By working this way with our referral partners we have gone a long way in empower young people to reinvent themselves.  There are so many positive outcomes that have been created through the Network. But this is only the beginning as new members are joining every day.

Over the last 18 months I have been sharing this approach in Thetford. Over the last year six young people have completed Thetford Music Foundations. I want to thank the new Thetford Network for their continued support over the 18 months.  A good platform has been created which allows us to build upon this. We want to continue to reach more young people and engaging them in positive arts provision. And I know looking back over the last 5 years that humble beginnings can be the start of something special. Let’s continue to work together as one for the benefit of the next generation.

Find out more about The Referral Network.

New Horizons: The Arts and Children in Challenging Circumstances takes place at The Garage on Thursday 25 October, 10.30am-5pm. 

The conference will explore the barriers and difficulties that children in challenging circumstances face – hearing from and involving children themselves throughout, and to examine what best practice looks like, and what organisations need to think about in order to develop and deliver inclusive work well.

Across the day there will be a range of provocations, conversations, show and tells and top tip sessions, so that, whether you’re a senior manager or a practitioner there’s something of value to you.

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