Based in Hertfordshire, England, Vanessa worked briefly as a teacher, before qualifying as a youth worker at Leicester's De Montfort University, achieving a Master's Degree in Community Education.
Prior to becoming a successful youth work consultant, author and trainer, she held senior positions with Hertfordshire County Council. She is currently a leading author in her field, with youth work resource books published in the UK and USA by The National Youth Agency (UK) andJessica Kingsley Publishers (worldwide).
Alongside this she is a regular features writer for Children and Young People Now and has been commissioned by the BBC to create support materials for two of their major BBC3 series The Baby Borrowers andUnderage and Pregnant.
As a consultant, Vanessa has been tasked with engaging young people inyouth governance and consultation in ways that are both meaningful and worthwhile. This exciting challenge has resulted in innovative projects, including the creation of theEssex Youth Scrutiny Committee and large art based projects such as UNITY, a music festival to celebrate Black History Month, and Sex, Lies & Love, a music and film project exploring positive relationships. Vanessa explains, ‘for me it is really important to work directly with young people; how can I support and develop effective services for young people if my own practice is out of date? Good youth work is based on young people’s needs, and the best way to find out what these are is by asking them! All of these projects have offered young people the opportunity to learn new skills, effect positive change and have fun campaigning and raising awareness with their peers and wider communities. It really is a privilege to share in their achievements.’
As an author, Vanessa’s distinctive resource books have become an invaluable toolkit for anyone working with young people aged 11-19. Supporting the Youth Work Curriculum and enabling professionals to deliver informal education that meets the Every Child Matters agenda, they are packed with creative and easy to use ideas. Each book contains specific suggestions for group and one-to-one work as well as ideas for engaging with traditionally hard-to-reach groups, including NEET and those considered vulnerable or ‘at risk’.
Asked what inspires her to write, she explains: "Through my own work I discovered lots of books that told me what youth work was, but very few that actually told me how to do it! I realised then that what practitioners really need are loads of good ideas for creative activities that will engage, interest and motivate young people across the entire youth work spectrum. I hope my books help youth workers feel confident that they can successfully offer a wide range of curriculum based sessions, without being experts in every field, safe in the knowledge that every activity has been tried, tested and evaluated in the field. In fact it will not be recommended until it has!"
Vanessa has further extended her reach with the commissioning of writing services for children and young peoples services. This has included specific peer training, mentoring and education packs for both professionals and young people. Examples of this include an anti-bullying pack for Essex County Council, ‘The Last Laugh’ and ‘Smoke and Mirrors’ a resource to explore the practices of the tobacco industry for Smoke Free North West.
Vanessa’s much acclaimed and highly interactive training for County Councils, District Councils and services for young people within the private, faith based and third sectors is based on her resource books. She also develops and trains young people in peer education, consultation and advocacy all over the United Kingdom, expanding into Europe and the USA in 2010.