In the last few weeks both the North-East and South-East steering groups have been discussing ‘where things are up to’ and ‘where things might be going’. In particular they have focused on issues of representation from the regions and a timetable leading to a possible national In Defence of Youth Work conference. Parallel conversations have also taken place between individual supporters across the country. The following is my attempt to summarise the present situation and sketch a possible timetable for the next six months or so.
Whilst the North-East and South-East have held regional meetings and established steering groups, other areas are still in their infancy. Thus the West Midlands, Leeds/Humberside and South Yorkshire held their first open meetings only recently in July and in other areas we have isolated supporters. The North-West has not got a steering group, but hopes to hold a second regional in the Autumn. The West Midlands steering group met a few days ago, whereas South Yorkshire have identified a Steering Group coordinator, but no more. The Leeds meeting did not identify an organising group, but is committed to a future In Defence event. In addition supportive noises have been made by individuals in Scotland , Wales and Northern Ireland , but these have yet to take on any organisational form. Inevitably we are in a state of uneven development. Becoming more organised is bedevilled too at this moment by the holiday period.
This said there is pressure to bring together regional representatives and to collectivise further the campaign. Indeed the North-East have suggested using our presence at the Social Work Action Network conference, September 10/11 in Bath as the basis for an initial meeting to look at progress. This will be worth doing, but I think we need to recognise that most regions need more time to find their feet. Also, in my opinion, all meetings should remain open to any supporters sufficiently galvanised to make the effort.
A Rough Timetable for Discussion [including meetings already planned]
September 9 : Third London and South-East Regional Meeting at Goldsmiths.
September 10/11: In Defence workshop being presented to the SWAN conference at Bath University at the time of writing by Tony Taylor, Tania de st Croix[South-East] and Don Jenkins [North-East] – on the Thursday afternoon. Other In Defence supporters are attending, so at the very least an informal discussion can take place. Please get in touch with Tony if you feel you can get to Bath to participate in this initial chat. Given the conference timetable the Thursday evening might be the best time.
September 21: Second North-East Regional meeting in Newcastle.
Early October: would it be practical and feasible to hold at this time a somewhat more formal meeting for regional representatives and others or is it still too precipitate? Day? Venue?
November 13/14/15: National Federation of Detached Youth Work conference in Wigan. The suggestion is that in conjunction we aim for a national In Defence organising meeting, perhaps on Friday, 13 November, hoping that by this time more regions will be represented. The principal task would be to talk through the case for a national conference and organise the arrangements if this seems the right way forward. The North-East group are concerned that as yet we lack a Manifesto or a list of Campaign demands. In this sense we are but an emerging force with a critique.
During the period sketched we need to make the maximum use of the In Defence blog, the Google mail group and social networking sites such as Facebook in encouraging the widest debate and in involving seriously supporters outside of the developing regional structure.
As ever your thoughts and criticisms appreciated. I’m conscious there is a NE steering group on August 4 so it would be good to get their collective response.
Although I can see that people are looking ahead for opportunities to meet & discuss the agenda, the fact remains that at this time, many employers (mine included) are not paying for staff to attend conferences, especially their front line staff. My worry is that many people may then be excluded from participating in valuable debate and opportunities for critical thinking, for example at the detatched work conference you mention, I know I will not be able to attend as I am not a detatched worker (fickle I know!)
On a national conference..I asked my employer for time & costings to attend a recent History of youth work conference in Durham, however, they did not think my attendance was valuable to my job and hence I missed out on what sounded like a great opportunity to learn..I get the feeling that the ‘critical’ edge to these gatherings is quite scary for employers and hence fear that any such conference maybe attended by those who have the means or status in organsations.
However I agree the internet groups set up, are a valuable way forward in reaching & including many people, but in addition I wonder if you feel there is value in emailing regular bulletin’s across youth work services, sharing key thoughts, questions & progress of the campaign, this may reach more youth workers and help keep debate alive & kicking across organsations.
Thanks for your comments, which touch on some vital issues facing us.
On the question of employers supporting workers in attending conferences, we might hope that managers would be sufficiently enlightened to see that the questioning atmosphere of a Youth & Policy History conference would be valuable in developing a worker’s practice. However it seems that a significant number are threatened by the spectre of a critical, challenging workforce. Thus, it is highly unlikely that workers will be supported in attending in any official way such an explicitly critical campaign as ours. Although there are some notable exceptions, where managers and workers have turned up in unison!
To be honest I don’t think we can have any expectation that the campaign’s endeavours will be supported by the vast number of employers and managers. We are the Opposition. In this sense we need to revive a tradition that expects nothing from the bosses. And resurrecting this tradition means we have to look at how we can raise funds, how we can enable lower-paid workers to be involved. We need to ensure that our events are low-cost [already this is happening in the regions]; that we explore using pooled fare systems and the like. In my view our independence is crucial and that requires us to look after each other in the best ways we can.
As for your suggestion about issuing a regular bulletin across youth services I’m well up for doing something like this, but wonder how it might be distributed. How would we ensure that it gets into workers’ hands? Given my observations on independence and costs, I think it would have to depend on individuals within services agreeing to be the distribution person, receiving by e-mail the bulletin and then circulating it locally in whatever format seems appropriate. Yours and other folks’ thoughts appreciated.
Thanks again for raising these questions.
I certainly have never expected management to support workers in this “oppositional” campaign. I mean, it wouldn’t be very “revolutionary” would it? It would be a bit like your mum picking you up from the pub when you were 15. Where’s the fun it that?
I must admit I’m a little daunted by the dispersion of the forum to other social network sites. I find it difficult enough provoking a debate from the core forum. You’re broadening the potential of engagement but aren’t you also dividing the focus of debate?
Spreading the butter too thinly? I can see what you mean especially as you’ve made a real effort to spark debate without overwhelming success.
The Google group is meant to be in essence the means of keeping all supporters in the picture. I’m clear that more than a few people are not Internet junkies and they find it useful to receive a regular briefing.
Whatever we need to keep monitoring the situation.
Hope you’re not overly daunted as your contributions much appreciated.
I hardly visit CYPN website anymore. There seems to be an invisible barrier to debate. Maybe it’s fear, maybe it’s apathy or maybe I’m just talking utter bollocks and no one has the heart to tell me. Overly daunted? I’m certainly starting to feel a bit … futile. There’s no escape. I’m God’s lonely youth worker.
I’d like to come to one of the regionals. The next one at Deptford certainly looks “possible” but the idea of travel costs, a day (or two) off work and finding somewhere to stay… well I’m wondering if it will be easier for me just to stay home and watch the highlights on match of the day. Also, the very little personal time I have left is generally spent convincing my wife and kids that I love them too.
I’ve noted that there is steering group coordinator for the South Yorks area. Any details about who this is?
I’m conscious I don’t know your abode so not sure of the practical implications of the Deptford option. Could try to help on the accommodation front.
I’ll look into and confirm who has put themselves forward as a would-be South Yorkshire coordinator.
And just to say I find the bollocks you talk stimulating, helpful and not at all futile!
“God’s lonely youth worker” I know it feels like that at times Lenny, but it isn’t the case. Do you think God intends for you to be lonely? And please remember that almost all social advances in this country that were worth the while were dismissed as bollocks at some point on the way.