Streetbase Peer Engagement Programme in London Borough of Waltham Forest Council

The Streetbase Peer Engagement programme takes place in Waltham Forest, London. Street-level youth patrol teams, made up of young people aged 16-25, speak to other young people in the borough about their views, needs and opinions.


Background

The Streetbase Peer Engagement programme takes place in Waltham Forest, London. Street-level youth patrol teams, made up of young people aged 16-25, speak to other young people in the borough about their views, needs and opinions. One of its aims is to engage with young people in the borough, to understand their views, opinions, and suggestions for their community, so that policy makers can consider their feedback.

The project forms part of the youth participation strategy of Waltham Forest Council and is part of the Young Advisors charity model. It is a youth-led programme, trademarked to the Young Advisors charity and managed in Waltham Forest by the council’s youth engagement manager along with the Waltham Forest Young Advisors Team. It was originally funded by the Mayor of London’s Young Londoners fund.

Policy makers can commission specific consultations from Streetbase. They seek out Streetbase due to its good reputation, name recognition within the council and community, and ability to reach marginalised young people that do not often participate in consultations. A recent policy that young people were consulted on, through Streetbase, was the council’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) strategy. Policy Officers from the Strategy and Change Team who were leading the EDI Strategy, approached Streetbase to undertake engagement work, which took place alongside other consultation initiatives related to the strategy.

Engagement of young people

Streetbase uses a peer-to-peer approach, where Young Advisors who are employed and specially trained as street patrollers, have the role of speaking with, and engaging, other young people on the street. There are always four Streetbase members on every patrol, with a lead member who is at least 18. Patrols are on the streets for three hours at a time and approach any young person or group of young people that they feel comfortable approaching. They can sometimes reach more than 40 young people per patrol, engaging with them for as long as the young person wishes to talk to them.

The young people they engage with range from 12 to 25 years-old, whilst the Street patrollers must be over 16 years to go out on patrol. The patrollers come from a variety of social backgrounds, but all live within the borough; some young people may have lived experience with the criminal justice system or social care. Currently, there are approximately 100 Streetbase patrollers, and over the span of two and a half years, over 3000 young people have been engaged on the street.

Street patrollers are Waltham Forest Young Advisors and the Youth Independent Advisory Group (YIAG). Young Advisors are recruited through an application process with youth led recruitment and interview, the sister group YIAG is recruited through a referral process through services such as Youth Offending, Children’s social care and Victim Support as well as peer referrals. They can work as Streetbase patrollers until they are 25. The length of time that young people are engaged as street patrollers varies, once they are trained and accredited, they can set their own schedule in terms of time commitment.

Activities

Whilst on the street, Streetbase patrollers undertake two types of activities. Firstly, talking to young people about their needs and interests in order to signpost them to different activities and services in the community. Secondly, conducting short surveys with young people on their views and opinions on a specific policy or programme.

In the context of the EDI strategy consultation, young people were asked to complete a six-question survey that was designed by the council with input from Streetbase patrollers. Then, if young people wanted to get more involved in the consultation, they were signposted to community summits that were also being run by the council. Here they would have the chance to take a closer look at the drafts of the strategy, ask questions, and give feedback.

After patrols were completed, Streetbase patrollers uploaded the young people’s survey responses into a database and produced tables and graphs that gave an overview of the data, disaggregated by key features such as age and gender. These were provided to the EDI strategy lead, to inform the EDI strategy consultation.

Key messages

One strength of Streetbase is that it is peer-led: young people make up the patrols and are not accompanied by support staff or ‘adults.’ They are young people from the neighbourhood, sharing similar backgrounds to the young people they approach on the street. This enables the patrollers to build strong connections with the young people they engage with, and to gain access to young people and communities that can often be missed or overlooked by conventional consultation processes. This benefits policymakers as they are able to hear the views and opinions of young people who are often overlooked.

One of the limitations of the Streetbase approach is that the engagement with young people on the streets is for a relatively brief period of time. This makes it challenging to have in-depth, discussion about policy. While Streetbase excels at capturing the voices of a large array of young people, their inputs are only snapshots of their views, opinions, lives, and experiences. In order to get a fuller picture of the impact of policies on young people, Streetbase surveys are supplemented by other consultation methods, such as summits and focus groups.

Streetbase success is measured by its good reputation, and the fact that a wide variety of agencies and departments have now integrated youth consultation (and Streetbase) into the way they work. Given that public bodies commission Streetbase for its youth consultations, it now generates its own revenue, which has allowed the programme to continue for another three years, even after its original funding from the Mayor of London runs out.

Some key things that other councils can learn from this project are how peer-to-peer engagement can be a useful approach to engaging marginalised groups, and how engaging young people can sometimes mean going to the places and spaces where they are (on the street), instead of inviting them to come to you. In addition, involving young people throughout the design and delivery of consultations, from survey design to recruitment of patrollers, and delivering the survey itself, ensures that the consultation is youth-friendly and accessible.

Further information

  • Local council: London Borough of Waltham Forest Council
  • Type of council: London borough council
  • Political control: Labour (as of March 2022)
  • Target group: 12-25 years-old, with some young people with experience of the criminal justice system and social care.
  • Area of policy making: Various, including diversity and inclusion, policing and safety, employment, and health.
  • Further details: Young Advisors website – Streetbase page

Contact: Jane Brueseke, Youth Engagement & Participation Manager, Waltham Forest Council, Jane.Brueseke@walthamforest.gov.uk