First of all I must convey our apologies if you know all this already. However we are in the middle of delving into the background behind the Coalition’s ‘Positive for Youth’ arrangements. Amongst these is the award of a 10 million pound grant to Youth United. And I’m pleased to hear a few readers ask ‘who?’. I realise I both knew, yet the penny hadn’t dropped. Let’s go slow and quote from the Youth United web site.
HRH The Prince of Wales has long been committed to supporting young people and developing opportunities for them. In 2009 he brought together the largest voluntary youth organisations under the banner of Youth United to develop more joint working and to think about how opportunities for young people could be increased.
Member organisations that deliver to young people are: The Scouts Association; Girlguiding UK; St John Ambulance; Army Cadets; The Sea Cadets; Boys’ Brigade; Girls’ Brigade; Volunteer Police Cadets and Air Training Corps.
Supporting organisations who deliver programmes to members are: The Prince’s Trust; RNLI; Mountain Rescue and BTCV.
Supporting organisations are: CRFCA; Chief Fire Officer Association; HM Coastguard and The Association of Chief Police Officers.
Now I’ll hold my hand up here. I did work in Derbyshire as a Community and Education Officer in the late 80’s when the County Council had a brief, dizzy spell, within which it withdrew grant-aid from uniformed organisations on the grounds they were ‘para-military’! But I never bought into the daftness. Indeed, as a pluralist, I can claim to being instrumental in the formation of the Wigan Council for Voluntary Youth Services in the 1990’s , the most prominent members of which were from the Scouts, Guides, Boys’ and Girls’ Brigades.
The crucial basis for our pluralist partnership was that we recognised and respected that by and large we worked with different groups of young people. Our provision was complementary, offering differing ideological perspectives in a healthy mix of provision.
It is in this context that I express a concern about this significant grant to what we might call the traditional voluntary sector at a time when its partner since Albemarle, open local authority youth work, is fast disappearing.
I am troubled too by the involvement of Rod Jarman Associates Ltd in procuring this grant for Youth United. Now I know this is the name of the game nowadays. Consultancies, often led by retired senior managers, duck and dive, claiming to offer exceptional expertise in the winning of contracts, the meeting of outcomes, the achievement of efficiency etc. This outfit is no exception to the rule. They claim, we can provide support to any aspect of policing, community safety or youth engagement work. The emphasis is not altogether surprising. The Director completed 31 years with the Metropolitan Police, the Lead Associate from Community Sports Innovation Ltd 27 years, whilst the Training Coordinator did 7 years, including time as the Staff Officer to the Territorial and then Safer Neighbourhood programmes. The consultancy continues to be involved in developing the programme structures and that useful all-purpose task, the analysis of need.
I have no quarrel with significant support going to these youth organisations, but in the present climate it skews provision. What is certain is that if the government was bent on funding what it perceives as ‘conservative’ organisations, it had no need for advice from so-called independent consultants drawn from the ranks of probably the most distrusted police force in the country. Youth United itself has loads of experienced and committed folk, who are capable of running their own shows. Back in 1991 the Tories tried to impose on the statutory and voluntary sectors a common curriculum for youth work. To their credit both sides of the youth work partnership refused the imposition. Twenty years on I fear that the partnership, however historically fragile, has been fatally undermined. The statutory sector hollowed out. The voluntary sector bought off.