Threatening Youth Work : The Illusion of Outcomes – Part Two : The Critique

Clearly struggling with doubt and uncertainty!

As is my wont I’ve messed around a lot with this attempted analysis of the debilitating impact of the outcomes agenda on youth work. Finally following debate in Leeds, Bolton, Wigan and dissident corners of the Internet,  we are trying out an interview format as a vehicle for these musings.  Our hope is that this way of presenting the argument might maintain your interest and draw you into a response.

The full interview is to be found here:

Threatening Youth Work : The Illusion of Outcomes – Open Office/Microsoft Word

Threatening Youth Work : The Illusion of Outcomes – pdf version

The text comes complete with footnotes and references.

We were tempted to procure your attention by singling out contentious arguments within the interview and posting controversial ‘sound-bites’. We will content ourselves with just a couple.

To prescribe outcomes is to stifle the improvised and creative character of practice, which can produce ‘unforeseen’ outcomes, initially never imagined by any of the participants. Dictating outcomes bans intuition and thinking otherwise. For instance it condemns the worker, who makes the judgement to leave well alone the alienated individual or group until the moment seems ripe. Inevitably such a worker cannot deliver the data as demanded.


The die is cast immediately. The product of the framework is to be the ’emotionally resilient’ young individual, who through the planned interventions of youth workers, will shrug their shoulders at adversity. Utterly in tune with government policy this manufactured individual will have less need for public services such as health and social welfare and will be willing to work for whatever wages, zero-hour contracts or indeed benefits are on offer. This is the self-centred, compliant young person of neo-liberalism’s dreams. The last thing such an obedient cipher would do is to ask, “how come this is happening to me, my mates, to thousands of others?” Nowhere in the Framework is there an acknowledgement that to talk of personal change demands an engagement with the social and political circumstances underpinning young people’s lives.

Thoughtfully sceptical?

As the interview format implies, this is in no way a definitive statement. It is an exploration, a work in progress. But it is my best thinking at the moment and I stand by its conviction. As ever your comments and criticisms would be deeply appreciated. In truth the Comments mechanism on the site doesn’t work very well. Indeed we get more exchange of opinion on our Facebook page at

In this context if anyone is moved to contribute in a bit more depth to an Outcomes debate, please send your thoughts to Tony at and he will happily create a new post on the main page of the site.


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