Providing support to young people through shared experiences

Man with glasses smiling at camera

This week, 8-17 April, is National Youth Week. The theme is ‘it starts with us’, something Tim Boroughs, a social worker with the Department of Human Services, can relate to through his own experience and the work he does with young people.

Like so many young people, when Tim was at school he lacked direction. He didn’t know what he wanted to do, and so he left during year 10 to take on a labouring job.

“It was a tough time as I felt there was an element of suspicion, that there was something dubious about young people. I remember wanting to be accepted for the person I was becoming, to be encouraged and given freedom.”

Now, Tim is a social worker providing support over the phone to young Australians across the country.

“There are lots of opportunities to do really great things with young people. I can help them find suitable accommodation, connect them to other supportive services and genuinely help them to move forward in their lives. I support young people to better themselves, such as by pursuing or re-engaging in education.

“Recently, I did an assessment of a 16 year old named Oliver*. Oliver lived with his mother who had serious mental health issues, and hadn’t had any contact with his father since he was very young.

“Oliver had ongoing issues with his mother, and because of this, had a very challenging and unsettled life. Despite these problems, he continued to work hard at school, and I personally found this very uplifting.”

As a result of the assessment Tim was able to help Oliver access the independent rate of Youth Allowance, a payment that will help support him through high school.

Tim was also able to help Oliver find a stable place to live and ongoing support.

“I helped facilitate his moving in with his friend’s family, who were very caring. Oliver’s friend’s mother was tremendously supportive and encouraging.

“I also referred him to our social casework program, where he received ongoing, one-on-one support with a social worker. This program supported Oliver to develop his own goals, become independent and participate more fully in education.”

On a personal level, Tim finds it easy to relate to young people and knows the importance of listening and providing guidance to them from the point-of-view of being a dad.

“I’ve got a 14 year old son, and I see him wanting to prove himself and develop as his own person. I recognise that he needs adult acceptance and subtle guidance.

“Not all young people have adults they feel they can talk to. The work I do gives me the opportunity to have good, meaningful conversations with young people – it’s about relating to people as human beings.”

Despite not knowing what he wanted to be when he was in his youth and leaving school at an early age, Tim has found success. He returned to, and finished, high school; joined the police force; studied philosophy, sociology and politics at university; and finally settled on completing a social work degree.

Tim has worked for the department for 14 years as a social worker.

“I find sharing my experience of having been a young person helps to put the other person at ease and they’re more comfortable sharing their story. It can be a very good experience for both parties.”

“Youth are our future. They should be recognised, nourished and celebrated”.

*Customer’s name has been changed to protect privacy.

More information

Read more about the department’s social work services.