Advocating for the youth sector: Refusing to be silenced in Queensland, Australia


On more than one occasion across the last decade, we have lamented the voluntary youth sector’s increasing loss of its vital autonomy, its collusion with neoliberal government diktat and its increasingly corporate outlook. This slide into incorporation continues to be expressed in mergers and takeovers. Just a year ago we noted, ‘Once there were many, now but one? UK Youth and Ambition merge’.  It’s worth remembering too that the National Council for Voluntary Youth Services [NCVYS] once the proudly independent voice of the voluntary youth sector was consigned to the historical waste-bin as part of this process. This week CYPN reports that ‘Youth sector organisations announce merger.’ In this case, it is the new kids on the block, the Centre for Youth Impact and Project Oracle, who have been thrust together, their futures in jeopardy. CYPN  comments, “it is the latest in a long line of mergers in the youth sector in recent years. In January it was announced that youth mental health charities Place2Be and The Art Room would integrate services”.

Of course staying alive, well and critical in the present climate is no easy matter. Down in Australia our friends at Youth Affairs Network Queensland [YANQ] reveal their dilemmas in the latest newsletter.


Queensland Government continues its approach to silencing advocacy

It is now over five years since Queensland Government cut operational funding of Youth Affairs Network of Queensland (YANQ). As the peak body representing over 580 individuals and organisations from across the state and with over 30 years history since the youth sector came together and established its peak body, YANQ remains the main advocacy organisation for youth sector in Queensland.

Although it was the LNP/ Newman Government, during its slash and burn reign, that initially defunded YANQ, the ALP since regaining government has only made promises of reinstating YANQ’s funding which are still to be materialised. In the past two years the Government has provided $50k per year to YANQ as interim funding but despite lodging a number of proposals to the Government YANQ still struggles to appropriately fulfil all its peak body role in supporting the youth sector and representing the sector at policy and advocacy level without receiving full operational funding.

The only reason we can think of as to why the Government is not reinstating YANQ’s funding is our outspoken and uncompromising advocacy on youth issues. As many of you be aware, YANQ has a strong value base from which we operate. This value base underpins everything we say and do. We simply cannot compromise the well-being of marginalised young people and for the sake of receiving funding and getting a seat around the table, become silent or accept the injustices that are inflicted on our children and young people.

The role of a peak body in a healthy democracy is not to be an extended arm of the government (as some peaks have unfortunately become). Rather the role of a peak body is to provide critique of policies and programs which Governments have. This critique is based on the information gathered through membership which works in various capacity with young people day in and day out. The collective knowledge of YANQ members runs into thousands of years. It is short sited of a Government to not tap into this knowledge and mistake criticism for being adversarial.

Read more at Queensland Youth Sector News



Hello from the new editors

Hello from the new editors of the In Defence of Youth Work website! As our more assiduous followers will have picked up, Tony Taylor is taking a backseat for the time being, and the rest of us IDYW steering group members and supporters have (finally) had to step up! We will see how this goes in reality over the next few months. We know that Tony’s voice as IDYW coordinator and the author of this website will be hugely missed, not only because of the enormous amount of vision, time and energy he put into the role, but also because of his particular insight, wisdom, and acerbic critique.


Tony Taylor, in serious mode

How do we follow that? Well, nobody can replace Tony – and we won’t even attempt it. IDYW won’t have a coordinator for the time being. Instead we are sharing out the tasks. We are not entirely saying goodbye – we are hoping Tony will write guest posts from time to time, and he still has his login, so maybe he’ll continue to share news when he gets a chance.

Who’s doing the website now, then? A small group of IDYW steering group members and supporters will be looking after the website. Initially, at least, we are remaining anonymous. We’d be interested in any reflections on the pros and cons of this, and will reflect on how it goes (both running the website in general and being anonymous in particular) in due course. It’s not that we want to be secretive – but we think anonymity may enable to speak freely (without concern for what our employers might think). Perhaps it could also be useful in relation to showing IDYW as the collective endeavour it has always been. On the other hand, we may miss the personal touch; and perhaps there is something less accountable about not knowing whose words you are reading. Yet it’s not as if everything will be anonymous – we will continue to carry attributed pieces by our steering group members, supporters, and like-minded folk, alongside the general anonymised contributions. And if it doesn’t work – we’ll think again!

What’s going to change? We’re not planning on making any big changes or grand statements, and we’re not interested in ‘rebranding’, as if we were some kind of new corporate manager wanting to put our own stamp on things. In any case, we’re busy working, squeezing IDYW work amongst the rest of our lives. In many ways we will just have to experiment as we go, and see what works. We hope to continue to bring stories from practice, views from the field, news and events – and running throughout all of this, a variety of critical perspectives on the policy and practice of youth work.

Do contact us if you have anything you’d like us to share – we have a new group email address, and we’d prefer you use this instead of emailing Tony (just to give him a bit of a break!) – But please be patient as we all get used to the new arrangements.

Finally – in the spirit of sharing perspectives from across the IDYW ‘family’, Colin Brent (youth worker and IDYW story-telling facilitator, supporter, and former steering group member) has written a cracking article for Youth and Policy, in which he shares stories from practice in an insightful and powerful reflection on the impact of open access youth work:

… the most common, most interesting, and maybe even the most impactful element of my work is in supporting young people not merely to ‘tether’ themselves to something else, but to hack out a space of their own within this maelstrom, a fluid and changeable space, still full of contradictions, but more confidently so…

Read the rest of the article here.


Institute of Youth Work National Conference, November 10 ‘on the coast’


In the Service of Youth 2018: Making Waves in Youth Work


10th November 18 | University of Brighton

Adam Muirhead reports:

This year’s IYW conference is taking place in Brighton, it will be an opportunity to both celebrate Youth Work Week and our conference theme: coastal youth work. The conference is being co-hosted by the University of Brighton, and consequently one of the aims of the conference is to create a short paper on the unique nature of coastal youth work. For example, how does the documented deprivation, higher unemployment and lower pay affect our work? Are we recognising in our practice the reported higher rates of mental ill health? What has been the local youth policy response to statistically high drug use in seaside communities? How is youth work tackling county lines operations that target coastal areas? We hope to create a positive and affirming conference that takes the opportunity to showcase opportunities the coast presents to deliver exciting and innovative youth work. It is then our hope to share the conference paper with Youth & Policy and the Professional Association of Lecturers in Youth and Community Work (AKA TAG) and present it at their Policy and Practice events. The day will also be an opportunity for coastal Youth Workers to network, reflect and share their great practice, although youth workers from anywhere in the country are of course extremely welcome to be part of the conversation.

Keynote Speaker


Lloyd Russell-Moyle

MP – Brighton Kemptown and Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Youth Affairs

Further info and tickets at



Following an IDYW Steering Group meeting in Plymouth  and the withdrawal of Tony Taylor from the coordinator role, the following arrangements are now in place.

Administrating/Coordinating Tasks

It was agreed that the following people would share these, acting primarily as a contact point.

John Grace [January – April]

Malcolm Ball [May – August]

Naomi Thompson [September- December]

The new generic email is

Please use this address to get in touch with IDYW

Story-Telling Workshops

Bernard Davies to continue to coordinate. Watch this space for a fresh launch of the workshops.

Web Site

A small editorial group will now take over maintaining the site.

National Events

There is a commitment to holding at least two national events each year, one of which will be a Spring national conference. Malcolm Ball and Diane Law will coordinate.  We are looking to hold more immediately a national event during the NYA Youth Work Week in Birmingham, November 5 – 10. More details as soon as is possible. This gathering will provide the opportunity to sharpen up our collective input into the Labour Party consultation process.


National Conference 2017

Other local and regional gatherings will be encouraged, noting the success of our ‘Is the tide turning?’ initiative. However, the arrangements, including writing up reports, sharing feedback, will be firmly in the hands of the specific organisers.

Facebook and Twitter

Sue Atkins, Pauline Grace and Diane Law will take over the FB Admin duties, whilst the Twitter account will be taken over by a member of the Steering group.


Our balance stands at £1700.00 after paying Tony Taylor £200 towards travel expenses. This was agreed.

Future Meetings

The question of how best to organise steering group meeting was raised. Sue  Atkins will organise a Doodle poll re date of next meeting.


Transformative Youth Work and Impact Evaluation – a contradiction in terms? A Challenging Conference tackled the tensions.

Transformative Youth Work International Conference

Developing and Communicating Impact – 4th September – 6th September, Plymouth Marjon University


Rob White from the University of Tasmania opening the conference

I arrived in Plymouth, weary and a trifle sulky. A delayed flight, the teeming London hustle and bustle plus a tortuous journey on an ageing dysfunctional train, all seemed to add to my despond. Blaming neoliberalism didn’t seem to help much. However, in the early hours, my spirits arose, courtesy of a jovial and helpful night porter. The next morning witnessed the continuing revival of my demeanour as the student ambassadors, administrative and kitchen staff went out of their way to be hospitable. And, the conference itself, bringing together workers from across the globe,  proved to be challenging, critical and contradictory, but above all uplifting.

I won’t say much more as Jon Ord’s address below captures the atmosphere of the memorable proceedings. However, I hope, if the mood calls, to take up some of the issues emanating from the debates in future posts on my revived blog, Chatting Critically, including Tony Jeffs’ eloquent soliloquy on the demise of youth work in the UK.


Jon Ord addresses the conference

Jon Ord, Associate Professor
University of St Mark & St John,

Apologies for not being able to bring myself together to make the closing address – I have found the experience of enabling such a rich and rewarding experience for so many people genuinely humbling and was more than a little overwhelmed… Below is what I wished to say:

Closing Address

I would like to say a few words to draw the conference to a close:

If I truly honest my best hope was that we averted a disaster… however, if I am to believe the kind words that many of you have shared with me over the last couple of days perhaps I can safely say it may have been somewhat of a success.

On more than the odd occasion, as some of you know, over the last year or so I had wished I had not had such a ‘bright idea’ but the feedback many of you have given me and seeing how much people seemed to have got out of meeting up here over the last few days it has genuinely made it all worthwhile – so I would sincerely like to thank you all for your involvement in the conference – in particular the spirit in which you have engaged in conversation and debate – it is you that have made it the success that it has been.

In particular, I would like thank to all those who have come from far and wide – here in the UK we really do not want to cut ourselves off from our neighbours and distant friends – despite what you may read and see… It is certainly the diversity of experiences in no small part that has enriched the 3 days.

I would also like to especially thank the speakers, chairs & panel members, there has been a really high standard of papers. And on that point, I would like to draw your attention to the possibility of submitting a paper for a special issue of a journal, either the Journal of Open Youth Work or the Journal of Applied Youth Studies.

On the subject of diversity of keynote speakers, I was left in an unfortunate position, as I approached seven people to speak at the conference – four women and three men. The four women all declined, so I was left with the three men. The original intention for the panel was two women and two men, one of the women could not be persuaded and was replaced by a man as he shared her perspective.

Two other points in terms of moving forward. Firstly given how much people seemed to have enjoyed the event it occurred to me that we may try and put on another event at some point – there no guarantees but it seems to be something that would be worth looking into.

Secondly, we have tried to capture all the talks on ‘Panopto’ (voice recording and slides) if this has been successful, we will firstly check if anyone objects to their talk being made public and then will upload them on to the post-conference website and it can then form a resource.

Finally please provide any feedback on the event directly to me at

By way of thanks, I would like to mention Clayton Thomas and Mercedes Farhad for their help with the programme, both of whom went the extra mile to produce such a high-quality programme – Mercedes even came in when she was ill and about to go on annual leave, to ensure we got it to the printers on time. I would also like to thank Mark Leather for sharing some of the lessons learnt from the hosting of the European Outdoor Education Seminar last year. Thank you also to the student ambassadors who have helped to ensure the smooth running of the conference and to catering for producing such fine ‘English’ fayre. I would also thank my Erasmus partners for their support.

There are two people who do however need special mention – firstly Tony Jeffs who has so generously shared the many years of experience that he and his colleagues Naomi Thomson, Tania de St Croix, Paula Connaughton and others at Youth & Policy have gleaned from organising and running conferences for many years – this event stands on both his and their shoulders.

One person needs singling out in particular however – for there is really only one person without whom this conference would never have taken place. It was somewhat foisted upon her and she had little say in whether she was to be involved. Furthermore, the timing was terrible as it clashed with the preparations for the biggest event of the year – graduation – however, she has always been 100% behind the project and does everything with a smile. Her attention to detail is exceptional, her organisational skills exemplary and as a colleague of mine Aaron Beacom said to me recently – she is totally unflappable. I would like you to show your warmest appreciation for Helen Thewliss.

I now declare this conference closed and wish you all a safe journey.


The Impact of Youth Work in Europe: A Study of Five European Countries

This book is the culmination of an Erasmus+ funded project which aimed to independently identify the impact of youth work in the UK (England), Finland, Estonia, Italy and France. It applied a participatory evaluation methodology entitled ‘transformative evaluation’ which collated young people’s own accounts of the impact of youth work on their lives – collecting their stories. Over 700 stories were collected in total over a year-long process.


Speakers from the five countries presenting the research findings to the conference

Find an e-book version of the study on this link


Thanks to Stephen Dixon of Marjon for the photos.

Last Acts as Coordinator – No Surprises

As indicated earlier I’m withdrawing from my role as IDYW Coordinator and taking something of a back seat. One of my last acts will be offering a workshop and contributing as an ‘expert’ panellist [a debatable notion] at the Transformative Youth Work conference in Plymouth this week – see this post on my revived blog, Chatting Critically.

Two Years On and still trying to resist neoliberalism’s embrace

The IDYW Steering Group is meeting during the conference and we will publish details of new organisational arrangements next week.

Thanks to everyone for their support, comments and criticism.

The struggle for an open, process-led, improvised young people centred youth work continues!

And, as we say, in another eccentric part of my life – Best Foot Forward!


Taylor on an impact evaluation exercise last year in Leicester

Inequality in Australia: A Young Person’s Perspective


You will find below the link to a revealing piece of qualitative research from New South Wales, Australia. To what extent do you think this perspective resonates across the oceans?

youthaction nsw

Inequality in Australia: A Young Person’s Perspective

Prepared by Youth Action and Western Sydney Regional Information and Research Service (WESTIR)

About Youth Action

Youth Action is the peak organisation representing young people and youth services in NSW. Our work helps build the capacity of young people, youth workers and youth services, and we advocate for positive change on issues affecting these groups.

It is the role of Youth Action to:

• Respond to social and political agendas relating to young people and the youth service sector.
• Provide proactive leadership and advocacy to shape the agenda on issues affecting young people and youth services.
• Collaborate on issues that affect young people and youth workers.
• Promote a positive profile in the media and the community of young people and youth services.
• Build capacity for young people to speak out and take action on issues that affect them.
• Enhance the capacity of the youth services sector to provide high quality services.
• Ensure Youth Action’s organisational development, efficiency, effectiveness and good

The conclusion of the research emphasises housing as the area of most entrenched inequality, which chimes with the concerns expressed by a group of young people I was chatting with in the North-West of England a few months ago – hardly robust evidence, I know but not without significance!

Equitable access to education, housing and employment was regarded as essential for leading a full and healthy life. Interestingly, of the three topics, housing was seen as the area with the most entrenched inequality, with no respondents citing that affordability or inequality was not an issue or calling for policy actions that might increase inequality. In the topics of education and employment, some young people argued for further privatisation and deregulation – policy approaches that arguably would increase existing inequalities. However, housing was viewed by all respondents as a fundamental right. Young people were worried about the future, seeing education as a pathway to gain the qualifications needed for a fulfilling, well-paying job, which would allow them to afford rent and maybe buy a house in the future. However, buying a house was a distant and perhaps impossible dream rather than something they could plan. The responses provided by young people to the three topics discussed here, education, employment, and housing, reveal a politically and socially engaged cohort who are concerned about equality, and who want to see a better future both for themselves and for generations to come.