News from the Streets

Thanks to Graeme Tiffany for these updates re developments in detached and street work.

1. Report from the UK Federation for Detached Youth Work, May 2010.

The UK Federation for Detached Youth Work has been working hard recently. A new executive committee, voted in at last November’s annual conference, has agreed a range of actions that they hope will advance the cause of detached and street-based youth work both at home and abroad.

A particular focus is to build upon the immensely successful national conference of 2009, which aimed to promote more positive attitudes to the street. The conference agreed that a context of La Securité did little to support young people’s personal and social education, especially in public space. A range of workshops identified the positive value of pro-social interventions and the capacity that street work has to support young people’s involvement in community development and political decision-making systems.

The desire for optimism was tinged with a realisation that bureaucratic systems continue to inhibit progressive practice and the flexibility and mobility that are the hallmarks of effective interventions. Members of the Federation have been contributing to an information-gathering process designed to expose the debilitating extent to which workers have to record and account for their work on the basis of narrow systems of measurement and monitoring. A call was made for a celebration of evaluation and accountability, as concepts by which street workers were happy to be judged by – ways of viewing the world that are sympathetic to the subtleties of detached youth work.

Further afield, the Fed. made a contribution to the recent EU conference ‘Mutual Learning on Active Inclusion and Homelessness’ in Brussels alongside Dynamo International lynch pin Edwin de Boevé . Reporting back on the outcomes of Project Progress, it made recommendations about future European youth policy.

Speaking of policy, this is an important time. The Belgian Presidency of the EU has identified ‘youth’ as a focus. The forthcoming international conferences in Pamplona and Brussels will be attended by UK delegates, keen to contribute to a dialogue on how best to influence policy makers. Likewise, the July meeting of youth work historians in Ghent represents an opportunity to inform the future through the exploration of the history of European Street Work.

A recent visit to London from street work colleagues from Germany proved another wonderful example of the value of cross cultural and mutual learning. A number of those present will be working together, it is hoped, on an EU funded research programme into street work interventions into combating and preventing street violence. Projects from England, Germany and Austria have invested a lot of time in putting together a bid to the Daphne III programme and look forward to a positive response from commissioners in the near future.

The UK Federation for Detached Youth Work continues to exist on a shoe-string but takes heart from the revenue it makes from well attended conferences and the sale of guide books it has produced detailing good practice in detached youth work. At least it is free to think and act, to a large degree, outside of an oppressive culture of funder prescribed outcomes.

In sum, the Fed. is in good shape, optimistic about the future, and continues to celebrate the positive benefits of engagement with colleagues in other countries – and the contribution this makes to improving services to young people in our country.

A final comment about the commitment many detached youth workers in the UK are making to their own professional development: many, many, are embarking on post-graduate training. Knowledge is power; a luta continua!

2. And the subject of Graeme’s contribution to the International Street Workers’ conference in Pamplona next month:

Infancy, youth and social exclusion: dominant theories in European Youth Policy: wither progressivism?

Detached and street-based youth workers have always spoken of working within a socio-educative context. Throughout the history of this practice politicians and policy makers have also been interested in other forms of intervention, especially in the fight against juvenile delinquency and crime. Deterrence and punishment has always been popular. But with new scientific understanding of the brain much more is talked about biological and psychological approaches. Some scientists now theorise the ‘teen brain’. Others point to the genetic determinants of anti-social behaviour. As the policy context becomes increasingly informed by the Risk Factor Prevention Paradigm (RFPP) what will the impact of this ‘brave new world’ be on street work? Is there also an economic dimension; one that will drive a sense that the marginalised can be ‘identified’ and ‘activated’, rather than actively, socially included? Can a context of education and social welfare be defended? Is a progressive future for street work, especially in the context of La Crise, possible?

3. And advance notice of a much larger gathering in Brussels at the end of the year.

Dynamo 2nd International Street Work Conference

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