Step Forward (formally Tower Hamlets Youth Counselling and Advice Service) began in the late 1980′s when a number of professional people working with young people recognised that the needs of some of the young people they were working with were not being met through mainstream services locally. The statutory services and traditional youth work providers were not able to offer the support to young people with emotional, personal and practical difficulties in a way that felt ‘accessible’ to them.
Some development funding was sought and research undertaken to identify the best approach to meet the needs of young people who may have multiple needs. This research also took into account the demographics and social climate within the borough.
Through the findings of our research we set out to develop a person centred holistic service that offered both advice and counselling to young people aged 11 – 25. In 1990 we began delivering a counselling service from our premises in Oxford House (a local community centre) and through outreach soon developed links with other service providers and started satellite services in a number of local schools. Within a few years we were able to add the advice and information service, which increased the amount of young people accessing our organisation.
At this time we also set up our first Youth Steering Group that was made up from past and present service users that amongst other things looked at the development of the organisation.
The youth steering group identified a number of other areas of support that they would like have, these included training and sexual health. We were able to successfully fundraise offering training to young people in 1998. The Youth Steering Group raised the idea of an information shop front and a new name for our organisation was chosen.
After further research about suitable premises and some serious fundraising we were able to move into the top 2 floors of our own premises in September 1999 and adopted the new name of Step Forward (Tower Hamlets). In 2003 we secured funding both to complete our building to enable us to open our information shop front in Bethnal Green Road and the employ new members of staff.
At this time we doubled both in physical size, increased the range of services, which include a weekly sexual health clinic, and a Connexions access point, and have greater access for people with disabilities.
Step Forward continues to have a multidisciplinary approach to working with young people. We always aim to provide a high quality and innovative service to young people including developing new partnerships with other projects to offer a holistic range of services under one roof.