Anne Grant is a difficult person to get hold of, as you might expect given her line of work.
I am told she is with “one of her young people”, in the first instance – and the phrase is both apt and affectionate.
Indeed, it was these “young people”, and their families, who nominated Anne for a British Empire Medal (BEM), which she was awarded seven years ago.
But it has never been about seeking recognition for Anne, who sees her demanding work as a vocation rather than a job.
Her role is as assistant service manager at Aberlour Youthpoint Moray, a centre that has provided help for young people and their families in Elgin for 31 years.
It is just one of many services offered by Aberlour, Scotland’s children’s charity, which has been in existence for more than 145 years.
Elgin’s Youthpoint mostly deals with youngsters in their teens, but can help people aged up to 26.
It is all too easy to write off a badly behaved teenager as a troublemaker, without acknowledging other possible factors, such as a chaotic home life.
Anne believes that the Youthpoint in Elgin, where she has worked for the past 16 years, helps on average 60 to 70 young people and their families each year.
From workshops to mentoring, it offers a tight-knit community for those who are desperately in need of support.
“I feel this is a vocation for me, I love getting up in the morning,” said Anne. “We put young people at the centre of everything we do. We try to help families much earlier, before the damage has been done and they reach crisis point. We’ll never confess to being experts, we believe that young people are experts in their own lives.”
Youngsters often come to the Youthpoint when they have been experiencing a wide range of difficulties.
There is an open referral system, although people can also be referred via social services.
“Some young people come to us with very intense needs,” said Anne. “Others might come under the threshold for social work, but have come to the attention of the Named Person Scheme. There has always been a high demand for this service, and it is a really mixed bag of things that people need help with. It could be because of non-attendance in school, self-harming or a family breakdown. There are so many different reasons.”
Youngsters can be assigned a young person’s worker or a mentor, and can access a range of services on site.
This includes a workshop, group work and a holiday programme.
“We can see youngsters one on one, or they can work with their peers and learn from them,” said Anne. “We have a bike workshop, a mechanical area for tinkering around and a section where you can do anything – from making a garden bench to framing a mirror. We also promote independent travel, so helping someone learn how to take the bus or a train on their own. We have holidays in Easter, summer and October – which encourage young people to have fun with each other. We might go to Inverness or Codona’s in Aberdeen. This is all free of charge because it takes away the stigma of poverty. We help young people to build up their confidence and self-esteem.”
Some youngsters come from troubled home backgrounds, where family members may be misusing drugs and alcohol.
In such instances the Youthpoint can offer what is known as an intensive community support service.
“Obviously there are elements of my role that can be really stressful,” said Anne. “You can see the impact of poverty on young people, and how it can put them at a disadvantage. Or a young person has experienced an early trauma, and it has only come to light when they hit their teens. They can behave in ways other people don’t understand. It’s challenging, you have to challenge yourself to do your best all of the time. By letting young people have their say, we can change policy for the future.
“I’ve had more highs than lows, and there have been so many memorable cases,” she added. “I couldn’t mention one without mentioning them all.”
Anne also credits her husband of 33 years, David, for supporting her in her work at Aberlour.
Those who have used the service often return as volunteers and update Anne on their progress.
The Youthpoint also runs a special service that sees former users come back to be trained for employment.
“Obviously some of our young people go away and experience the world, which is fantastic to see,” said Anne. “Then they come back as volunteers themselves. This isn’t your standard job, there’s evening and weekend work, for example. But I’m doing something I really believe in.”
The Youthpoint is currently looking for volunteers to help support the running of groups, and in particular retired tradespeople who may be able to pass on a skill. For more information visit aberlour.org.uk
The original article can be viewed on The Press and Journal website.