Taking A Breath : In Defence Five Years On


Thanks to staciapriscilla.com
Thanks to staciapriscilla.com

Somewhat by chance we are in the midst of revamping our web site. However the change is very timely. In the last few months a range of issues and concerns re the Campaign have emerged.

– We are coming up to our fifth anniversary. By the time we get to our conference in April shouldn’t we have drawn up a balance sheet of our strengths and weaknesses? Is there a case for a refreshed statement of our purpose and intent? What is our present understanding of the continued shifts in the landscape of youth work and work with young people?

– The recent debate about the politics and the language of the Campaign will continue, but on the web site itself we are already trying to respond to criticism. For example, from now on posts will be categorised to help readers filter our content and access the stuff, in which they are most interested. We are conscious that many of you are rushed off your feet and it’s difficult to find time to visit the site. Categories for now will be : In Defence Business and Gossip ; Youth Policy ; Youth Work Practice/Talking to Young People ; Politics and Current Affairs ; Events and Conferences; and The Voluntary and Community Sector.

– Nevertheless, whatever our failings, the Campaign continues to be, we believe, a critical and creative influence on the youth work scene. You will have seen our announcement about a possible Story-Telling European conference in the summer and increasingly a This is Youth Work Book 2 is being envisaged. More news soon.

Finally as ever we need you to find ways of being involved in the Campaign – following and contributing to the site and Facebook,  writing up your own experiences, attending where possible our workshops and seminars and crucially making time at a local level to meet and get support from each other.  One piece of the networking jigsaw that has been missing is a regular mailing and again we are in the throes of putting together manually a new and up-to-date mailing list.

As ever your thoughts appreciated.


  1. Overall, sounds great. Being open to criticism and reflection seems to be one of the IDYWs strongest features, and I hope the discomfort that comes with it continues to drive the movement forward.

    I would simply ask a question that has nothing to do with the overall message of this post (Don’t you just hate it when people pick up on one sentence, become over sensitive or over-think it, and lose the general theme of the post? I’m about to do that. Sorry). What does having a category for ‘voluntary and community sector’ say about the IDYW campaign?

    I’m certainly NOT saying it’s unwelcome or implying it shouldn’t be there! It will be a helpful way for people in that sector to get at information directed at them.

    But often groups that have their own category in anything, be it blogs or book chapters, are those either with particular needs or are marginalised groups. Youth work with young women, or black young people, for example.

    I suppose I’m asking whether the ‘powers that be’ in IDYW think that the voluntary sector are under-represented or at risk of marginalisation in the movement? Are their specific and different needs compared to the statutory sector? Does this imply the movement is (or has been) particularly focussing on statutory youth work or consider it the ‘default’?

    My sensitivity with this comes purely from some recent personal experiences when statutory workers (currently facing redundancy – so understandably disgruntled) talk as if the voluntary sector are the ‘bad guys’, somehow ‘the enemy’, when we’ve been working alongside the statutory sector for many years. I’m just concerned we may be accidentally walking into a ‘divide and conquer’ tactic by creating false dichotomies.

  2. Pete – I’m still chuckling at the idea of the ‘powers that be’ in IDYW. Interestingly, given your challenging question about the Campaign’s emphases and assumptions, of the rough and ready ad-hoc steering group of around 10 folk only two people are in the so-called statutory sector. I don’t think we’ve seen the statutory youth sector as the ‘default’, but it is this sector where the distinctive tradition we defend has perhaps been most squeezed by the target/outcomes drive. This said some of the big battalions in the voluntary sector have also been selling their independence for a seat at the Master’s table. To be honest therefore it is a messy scene, within which parts of the voluntary sector are at the head of defending and continuing the tradition based on the voluntary relationship with young people. Certainly our proposed category, Voluntary and Community, is not meant to be divisive. It is more a recognition that in the climate of cuts and more cuts, workers and agencies in the voluntary sector are more than ever in the forefront of youth work practice.

    • Thanks for taking the time to reply Tony. It is a welcome surprise to here how well represented the voluntary sector are. I wasn’t trying to imply that anyone in IDYW would be attempting to create any divisions deliberately, I can just see a situation where it could happen as one sector moves one way, and the other sector stays – well – the same as it always has.

      Maybe we’ve already moved past the point where ‘youth work’ is a helpful descriptor, maybe we should consider it to be plural – ‘youth works’?

  3. Well done on approaching five years. For `powers that be` to move forward in plurality is a feat in itself. As for the statutory or voluntary it`s more statutory and voluntary sector in terms of where does IDYW `s Youth Work continue to be practiced and debated. The demise of Youth Work, as I know it, in the statutory sector continues and next week Derbyshire Youth Workers will be applying for jobs in a new structure, with Youth Worker in the post title but very little youth work in practice. For me working with young people to force them to accept outcomes eg. exclusion but not as written, Jim, low paid pretend jobs – apprenticeships, etc. is not youth work. It is a full in the face authoritarian agenda and becoming more so every day. For my sins I will be applying to continue my paid employment, hopefully, and compromise my principles in delivering a service to young people which forces other parts of the state to provide their limited resources to young people who require it.

  4. As a group scout leader I am still struggling to find a reason why anyone from voluntary organisations such as mine would want to defend youth work as it is presently practised within the UK. Could some one explain why it is our young peoples interest to engage..

    Thanks Tony

    • I think you may find some in the statutory sector thinking the same thing… I know what I had a brief spell in a local authority and I was asked to break confidences by sharing (not-safeguarding specific) information with the police and social services, so maybe these young people could come to more harm by engaging with youth workers…

      My purely anecdotal experience, though, is that good youth workers find their way creatively around this ethical minefield and ensure – ultimately – the benefits outweigh the risks to the young person.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.