Marginalised Youth and Debt
In cooperation with Odense Municipality, UCL works to help marginalised young people deal with their debt.
Profession laboratories symbolize a new way of thinking as well as an alternative to traditional ways of gathering knowledge. The laboratory serves as a meeting point for significant actors with a specific area of expertise.
Profession laboratories thereby become instrumental in increasing the social capabilities and relevance of our research, while simultaneously radicalizing the user’s perspective, as we are talking with users, not about them.
The object of profession laboratory activities is thus to establish new knowledge by posing complex questions and challenging our fundamental assumptions. In the new relations that emerge from the laboratory there is a focus on acting with the awareness that not everything is known.
It thus becomes important to move together into these uncertain areas in order to experiment with new ways of usefully combining theory and practice. It is essential to establish learning by developing processes that allow for different perspectives to interact in an effort to cross the boundaries between theory and practice as well as education and vocation.
UdsatteLAB is an UCL profession laboratory with focus on the issues surrounding marginalised citizens.
UdsatteLAB 2010 – When Poverty Takes its Toll on the Social Life of Marginalised Young People
In 2010, University College Lillebælt’s UdsatteLAB worked with Odense Municipality to examine which factors characterise debt and the need for public debt counselling among marginalised young people. Marginalised young people make up an important target group for counselling with regards to the consequences of debt.
Being indebted may lead to a further socio-economic exclusion of the young person, complicating the road towards an education as well as a general sense of social inclusion in society. Receiving information and advice regarding debt may therefore crucially affect the young person’s future opportunities for getting an education, actively participating in everyday life activities and becoming self-supporting.
Participants in the laboratory included 11 marginalised young people, a consultant and caseworkers from Odense Municipality, a counsellor from the public debt counselling office, as well as researchers, students and teachers from UCL’s departments of Occupational Therapy, Social Education and Social Work.
In the laboratory, the participants shared, exchanged and developed new knowledge about indebted marginalised young people, their need for counselling, and how the debt influences their general life situation.
The object of UdsatteLAB was to merge theories on poverty with a focus on the citizen’s perspective by way of real life-narratives. The work at the laboratory was founded in the thesis that all knowledge is equal, and that it is essential to gather different types of knowledge from diverse sources.
The fact that marginalised young people told their own emotional real-life narratives created a strong focus on the user’s perspective in the project. Involving users, students and professionals established a learning environment that stimulated the ability to relate to one’s profession in a developmentally oriented way.
Conclusively, UdsatteLAB published a pamphlet with 8 recommendations for counselling marginalised young people in Odense:
1. Provide counsel where the young people are – portable counselling
It appears central to the young person’s perception of counselling’s effect that help is provided in a local setting, where the routines of daily life, including personal problems, are directly present. That the physical framework provides a sense of calm, security and predictability, and that the counselling is age appropriate as to avoid a sense of alienation.
2. Comprehensive view
Throughout the process, in good as well as bad times, the same counsellor should be available. Someone who can consistently coordinate efforts, create a sense of structure and overview and inform the young person of the options for supportive measures. Debt is not an isolated problem – think more generally.
3. Use volunteers
Preferably young people. Marginalised young people will have an easier time identifying with people of the same age. Be aware of voluntary organization such as Salvation Army, which might be helpful in requesting, filling out and sending application forms.
4. Keep the citizen in focus
The young person’s experiences and perception of his/her own situation should be heard, accepted and acknowledged. In order to assist professional and responsible representatives to work within the young person’s own framework, it is important to gain insights into his/her perspective.
5. Be aware of free events
Free events provide an alternative for the young person. Provide information about events as well as support in order to participate.
Time is plenty, and there is no constant requirement for progress, but space and understanding for the fact that dealing with debt is not a process in constant positive progression. This provides an acknowledgement of what it actually means to live through a period of time with severe social problems.
7. A coherent and coordinated interdisciplinary response
Through a coordinated interdisciplinary approach with the citizen in focus, it is possible to put the fragments back together. This can provide the essential sense of coherence that adds to the young person’s self-understanding.
8. Meet the young person as an equal
It is necessary for collaboration between the young person and the professional, creating and promoting a sense of active participation and personal responsibility on the part of the young person. He/she should be taken seriously and met at eye level – adult to adult.
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