Today we are talking with Dan Barton, who is Communication & Partnerships Lead at Space, an organisation that unlocks the potential of young people and their communities by providing a safe space to grow, connect and inspire each other. In other words, Space supports young people from different backgrounds by realizing their potential.

Dan, all your work is focus on youth. Can you tell us a little about Space and what possibilities it offers to young people?

Yes, we work with young people aged between 11 and 21 primarily, and provide additional services for young people aged up to 25 who have special needs. We have 8 youth centres across the third largest county in England. We provide universal access for young people to freely engage with trusted youth workers to try new things, challenge themselves and discuss things they can’t talk to their parents about! These activities include sports, arts & music, technology, social action and volunteering.

Space has 8 Youth Centres across Devon. Are they more or less the same or are they specialized in any area?

The offer is similar in each centre, in that young people can access specialist information regarding sexual health and techniques to manage risk and look after their wellbeing but some of the youth centres do have physical differences. Some have outdoor sports spaces, some have recording studios and music rehearsal rooms for example.

Who is your target audience?

We offer a service for all young people to freely engage, but due to our inclusive nature and our training in anti-oppressive practice, we attract a very diverse group of young people, with specialist sessions for young people in care of the state, young LGBTQ people, young people with disabilities for instance.

I read on the blog of Space stories of young people with difficult background who found help in Space.  The team of the Space seem to be like psychologists, you don’t give up on young people. How do you support them?

Yes, it’s similar in that our youth workers are professionally trained to be able to respond to the changing needs of young people, whatever they may be. So for example currently we are working hard in relation to street-violence and an increase in vulnerable young people being ‘groomed’ into drug-related crime and violence. Some of our young people have experienced ‘Adverse Childhood Experiences’ (such as Domestic Violence, alcoholism at home, poverty and low literacy in the family for example) and so therefore have disadvantages in trying to get ahead in life – we try to offer the same opportunities for them as their peers, who may not have experienced the same upbringing expect as given. One of our core values as youth workers is to not give up on people, even when they are exhibiting what some may regard as ‘challenging behaviour’ we look beyond the behaviour and try to help them find a solution.

There are cases when someone comes to Space but  you can´t help him?

There are certainly examples of young people repeating mistakes and not reaching their potential in the time that we know them but we like to think that in some small way we have helped to make an impact in their lives – even if in just making them smile a few times!

What´s the impact Space has in the society?

We work closely with other services, like social services, police, schools and colleges to make sure that young people can reach their potential. We believe that by providing the services that we do, we not only provide young people directly with the possibility to make change in themselves but we open the doors for wider society to see then differently and maybe value them more as important actors in the world.

What is the best part of your job?

I am no longer directly responsible for working with young people, so my job feels different – i currently work within the leadership team for Space as an organisation of 100 staff. I enjoy designing and launching projects and initiatives that will have positive impact in young people’s lives, and i also enjoy seeing new youth workers develop their skills and develop trusting relationships with young people that will last for years and years!


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