Find below a few thoughts I scribbled for Facebook this morning following a SKY News piece on Youth Service cuts. I need to flesh out this argument, given that I believe that an emphasis on linking the case for youth work to social problems and anti-social behaviour has grown exponentially over the last two decades. For my part I think this has proved profoundly counter-productive. For the moment here’s my FB rant, which a few people have suggested be posted on the IDYW site.
There’s just been a short piece on Sky News, drawing upon, but not acknowledging the UNISON report. Interviews in the Hideaway Centre, Moss Side, Manchester and with Sue Atkins, wearing her South Yorkshire hat. Whilst Sue tried eloquently to place the cuts within the assault on liberal education and public services as a whole, the thrust of the piece was all about closures and cuts leading perhaps to more crime, higher unemployment etc….. The difficulty for us is that this dressed up ‘keeps them off the streets’ line finds us singing from the same hymn sheet as those in favour of targeting, early intervention etc… Thus the councillor from the Local Government Association at the end of the piece is saying, ‘the trouble is open-access ‘programmes’ [as he mistakenly puts it] have failed so we are going to put the money that remains into targeted youth social work and we will achieve ‘more with less’. As things stand we will not win this circular argument. Conspicuously absent is the understanding that youth work is informal education focused holistically and critically on young people’s definitions of their needs and desires. And I’m tired of being told that folk don’t understand this argument. Over the years, presenting reports, chatting to parents etc.. I’ve never found this to be the case. And this applies to the councillors to whom I’ve reported. The crunch has always come when budgets are being cut. It’s at that moment when politicians suddenly suffer from collective amnesia and claim they don’t get it. And as we can see all the bloody data in the world is pretty meaningless in this scenario of imposed austerity. With our backs to the wall more than ever we need to defend youth work as educational and voluntary, not preventative and imposed.