‘IT’S A SAFE PLACE TO COME WHEN YOU FEEL LOST’: QUALITATIVE INSIGHTS ON THE ROLE OF YOUTH CAFES IN SUPPORTING THE HEALTH AND WELL-BEING OF YOUNG PEOPLE
Brady, Bernadine; Forkan, Cormac., Moran, Lisa.
UNESCO Child & Family Research Centre, NUI, Galway
A youth café is generally understood as a safe, relaxed, friendly and inclusive meeting space for young people. Since 2000, youth cafés have become an increasingly important element of policy provision for young people in Ireland. Drawing on on qualitative research with young people in Ireland regarding the perceived benefits of the youth cafe model, this paper focuses specifically on the perceived role of the youth cafe in terms of health and well-being for young people.
From the 163 identified youth cafes in Ireland, a purposive sample of 10 youth cafés was selected. A total of 102 (55 males, 47 females) young people took part in focus groups across the 10 cafés. Young people were asked a range of questions regarding what the youth cafe means to them and what they gain, if anything from attending. Focus group data was transcribed in full and analysed inductively using thematic analysis.
Young people see youth cafés as informal, relaxing, safe, accessible and fun spaces to ‘hang out’ with friends. In terms of the benefits derived from youth cafe attendance, themes related to health and well-being emerged strongly. Findings are outlined under the themes of social support; belonging and connection; personal and identity development; safety; alcohol and drugs; and mental health.
Young people see the youth cafe model as a means of enhancing their connections with their communities, providing them with support, promoting positive mental health and helping them to stay safe. Youth cafes were seen to have particular significance for young people living in disadvantaged urban areas who valued the cafe space as a refuge from stress experienced at home, school and in the community. At a time of significant concern over youth mental health, the findings underline the importance of community based provision in promoting and safeguarding the health and well-being of young people.