Dunedin Canmore Youth Projects

Working in partnership to meet the needs of young people

Dunedin Canmore Youth Projects

Led by: Dunedin Canmore Housing and

City of Edinburgh Council Community Learning and Development service



An innovative partnership between a local authority CLD service and a Housing Association achieved rapid and demonstrable results in an area plagued by anti-social behaviour, by offering young people positive activities and choices. The young people involved found new directions, and the impact on costs to the Housing Association and residents was dramatic. The lessons were then applied in other regeneration areas where potential problems were feared, and now appear to have been avoided. The partners have moved on to work successfully with young people on their employability.


Dunedin Canmore Housing Ltd (the HA) owns more than 5,000 houses, over 4,000 of them in Edinburgh. Over half of those are in the three Dunedin Canmore Youth Projects (DCYP) areas in west and south Edinburgh: Slateford Green in Gorgie/Dalry, Oxgangs and Moredun/ Hyvots.

The project began in Slateford Green, a previously much admired development which was experiencing high reported levels of graffiti, vandalism and anti-social behaviour. A general decline in the feeling of community spirit was evident. The popularity of the area for gatherings of local young people and those from other areas got much of the blame.

A multi-disciplinary Problem Solving Partnership was formed to see what could be done to address the decline in Slateford Green. Initially, this took the form of a meeting involving all the stakeholders in the area (individuals and agencies). The HA contacted the local Edinburgh City Council Senior CLD worker and brought her together with residents, councillors, the police, the concierge and Dunedin Canmore’s Housing Officer.

CLD had no budget for additional work in the area, but with the help of the HA obtained funding, from the Scottish Government’s former Housing Association Wider Role Fund and from charitable Trusts, for an initial two year project (2009-2011). As we shall describe, work later expanded to the two other areas and continues in 2013[1].

Actions taken

The multi-agency group quickly decided that new activities for young people were required, to enable them to engage with society and make positive life choices.  The HA offered space for a community facility in Slateford Green and CLD had the expertise and local knowledge to provide staff to work with young people.  The two were put together and, after some initial street work as part of the investigation, the Slateford Green Youth Café was created – youth work activities with a local base to make contact with young people. There were other youth activities in the area, for example uniformed organisations, but they did not appear to be engaging the young people who had been congregating in the area. The Slateford project is not selective – young people from other areas can come in.  It provides a “safe place” for young people from around S1 age upwards to engage with each other, youth workers residents, the police etc. in positive ways.

Dunedin Canmore Youth Projects was set up as a partnership project between CLD and Dunedin Canmore Housing Ltd.  The funding available allowed a Youth Projects Officer to be seconded from CLD to DCYP, initially for two years, plus six hours of sessional work a week.

The approach was soon seen as so successful that HA was keen to do more work in other areas. It was putting over £150 million of investment into its other community regeneration areas, Oxgangs and Moredun/ Hyvots. Similar problems had not been experienced there in the past, but the scale of change was such that it was not unreasonable to fear that they could occur in future.

Contact with local young people resulted in the establishment of a youth café in Oxgangs Neighbourhood Centre. In Moredun/Hyvots the employability of young people aged 16+ was seen as the priority, so they established activities for a slightly older group, from S4 upwards.  By the end of the first year of activity in the three areas, two youth cafes, a volunteering project, a youth forum and an employability project had already been established and supported by the Youth Projects Officer.  

DCYP has gone on to secure a variety of funds to support this work from City of Edinburgh Council, the Rank Foundation and Children in Need. Some comes from the Scottish Government’s People and Communities fund[2]. The secondment of the Youth Projects Officer is now expected to extend to seven years. Another full time Youth worker supports the two cafes and two part time employability workers help young people to deliver Activity Agreements[3], which are now core to the work in all three areas.

DCYP is in a good position to engage young people in Activity Agreements because it already has strong relationships with young people in the likely categories. Engagement in the youth cafes, and in other activities supported by the HA such as football or computer learning might form part of Agreements. DCYP also jointly runs an environmental project which provides young people aged 16+ with opportunities to learn new skills, build confidence and improve their health and wellbeing through community based environmental projects in the areas where they live.

Partnership and strategy

The main partners, from CLD  and the HA, meet regularly as DCYP Steering Group to discuss local issues and review progress, and this has been the key to success. The Youth Projects Officer reports to this group. There is also good liaison with the wider community including Dunedin Canmore Residents Committee. There has been a real attempt to set up dialogue between local residents and young people, such as joint social events.

The Partnership brought in far more funding than could ever have been achieved otherwise. The work developed by DCYP is included in CLD’s Service Plan.

Evidence of impact

The most comprehensive evidence of the impact of the Projects comes from a Social Return of Investment Study that looked at the first year of activity. This was undertaken because at a time of cuts the partners wanted to show monetary value. It proved to be a learning exercise about what aspects had worked well. The SROI tells the story of how change has been created by measuring social, environmental and economic outcomes.  Monetary values were then used to represent the benefit. Some of these can be related directly to preventative impacts, since they identify potential costs saved. Others are based on the cost of delivering certain activities or outcomes in a non-CLD context.

The final SROI calculation for the Projects was that for every £1 invested there was a social return of £8.32. This was largely based on the benefits to young people of engaging with the project and finding direction in their lives. Face to face work – building relationships, quality time with responsible adults in a safe environment – scored particularly well in the analysis. Research carried out for the SROI together with research elsewhere supports the idea that if young people feel better about themselves and are in control of their lives, have access to learning new skills and activities to keep them active and healthy then they are less likely to get involved with the police and engage in anti-social behaviour and substance abuse. Over 70% of the young people consulted for the study supported this analysis.

The HA was particularly impressed by the reductions in minor repairs and complaints. In Slateford the situation was transformed in six months to one year. A 90% reduction in vandalism in Slateford Green had huge benefits for the HA as a landlord because repair costs were reduced. For the local residents it also meant that they have peace of mind in their homes and the local community feels more positive towards young people and is able to engage with them for community events.

In Oxgangs and Moredun/ Hyvots, because of the extent of regeneration, the outcomes cannot be compared with previous local figures for antisocial behaviour etc. But those involved firmly believe that, by applying the Slateford Green experience, they made a successful early intervention in a situation where more families and young people were coming in to the area and where Social Work and others had identified a real potential for trouble, and that they have succeeded in avoiding this.

Although the SROI looked at some of the initial work on employability, it came too early to assess the work now being done with Activity Agreement funds. But in 2013 these three areas had the highest levels in the city of positive destinations amongst young people on Activity Agreements supported by CLD.

[1] A video about the original Slateford Green project can be watched at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3n64stRslf8. The current webpage about the Projects is at http://www.dunedincanmore.org.uk/2/youth-projects

[2] Effectively the successor to the Housing Association Wider Role Fund.  See http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Built-Environment/regeneration/community/pcf/awards

[3] Agreements which improve the support and recognition of learning in a community learning and development or a third sector setting for young people who may not, without additional support, make a successful transition to work, further education or training. See http://www.youthlinkscotland.org/Index.asp?MainID=12711


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