Statutory issue sparks into life – A Time for Action or A Time for Debate? Is it really Either/Or?

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    Yesterday we posted Ian McGimpsey’s thoughts on the question of statutory funding, ‘What lies behind the headline?’ Hopefully, we said, it will prompt critical responses. We didn’t have to wait long. And the sparks flew on our Facebook page between Pete Sims, the initiator of the 38 Degree petition in support of a statutory service and Sue Atkins from the IDYW Steering group. Both are happy for us to post the passionate discussion here and we do so in the belief that it ought to inspire the thoughtful activism crucial to our struggle.
    Pete Sims Not the debate we need at this critical moment. Dear me. I would much more like to see physical and passionate campaigning and support to save services than academic navel gazing and potentially divisive claptrap at this particular juncture. Great timing – not
    Susan Atkins Pete, this IS the debate we need, and it is not incompatible with what you describe as ‘physical and passionate campaigning and support to save services’ . IF government funds start to flow once more, and IF those services are ring fenced for youth work, yes that is good news. However if that money is only ring fenced to local authorities, rather than say for instance to a more relevant and creative partnership which includes voluntary sector, local communities and young people, then in many areas that could make for a very sterile service. We DO need to organise, and we most certainly need to under take a calm and honest review of where our strengths are – we need to be building alliances and allies now, to be making dialogue with training agencies and their students. Brother we are in for the long haul here, it is not going to be like some of our previous victories where we have saved the service, reduced cuts, this is about how we rebuild local democracy, accountability and ensure that young people have the opportunities , choices and freedoms that we believe in so passionately . It is not about ‘Delivering Differently,’ as this Government is currently dangling in front of local authorities, it is not about shepherding young people through centres where they get information advice and employability course wrapped up in NCS and outdoor pursuits. It IS about how we can once again engage with young people in social and political education that starts with their lived experience (not ours) and which enables empowers and supports their active participation in developing and delivering a wide range of open access with and for their communities; it’s about Youth Work ; and through that work to support the need to rebuild a careers/ educational information and support service, for proper sexual health and mental health services which understand work with young people, and for flexible education and training with genuine financial support through reinstating EMA – there is more of course – but that’s a start 
    Pete Sims Then continue the debate Susan, but we are not going to have services to debate soon! My energies Susan have been, and will continue to be channeled into saving and then securing Youth Work for the future and for young people.  I believe we have a monumental job to prevent this tide and no amount of theorising and debating at this stage amongst ourselves has ( as evidenced very clearly over the past couple of years) or will save our services. Collective action and mobilisation of a sector is what is needed, that is what is going to keep the doors open of provision and no amount of internal debate and rumination is going to achieve that. We need to empower ourselves, others and young people to feel that we can, at least, try to challenge this assault on young people and our profession. I see little in the article in question that does that – at this point of potential obliteration of what the article wants to debate. I respect your views Susan, but we will have to agree to disagree on this. Let’s still collectivise and use every ounce of energy to challenge and resist this assault and try to create a statutory commitment. This is a time for action, in my opinion, not navel gazing, let’s debate when we’ve secured something to debate about! I would be more than happy to do that then. Until then – onwards and upwards with campaigning!
    Susan Atkins Pete – my position is that debate and action are NOT incompatible – indeed they are essential to any creative rebuild. A statutory base – yes; and take a realistic look at what and who is going to be ‘in charge’ of local authority ‘commissioning’, where are the people who understand and have experience of delivering and managing the work? How many workers have taken or been given redundancy? How many full-time youth workers are employed? In my City there will be no NO full-time generic youth workers employed under the council contract by January, those that won’t have taken redundancy will be reduced to Four days per week, and substantial part-time workers reduced from 18 hours to 10 and will be working FIVE two-hour sessions and no development or prep time.  We do need the discussion , it is just not good enough to think with statutory funding we can erect a ring-fence and with one bound everything will be OK . We need a much better strategy and much more canny tactics to pull this off .  , 
    Pete Sims A creative rebuild Susan? We are in the process of heartless destruction! I’m not sure what you precisely want to discuss or debate. What I do know is that 2000 plus Youth Workers have lost their jobs, council run services are being dismantled,  Vol sector grants are being cut, our profession is in danger of becoming obsolete etc. I am clear, that no amount of discussion and internal debate is going to create the statutory base that will give us a chance to shape and secure services to you people. If (and it won’t be achieved if our energies are diluted and fractioned) we are successful in securing a Statutory base then local arrangements will need to ensure the best and highest quality delivery mechanisms needs to be in place. But cart before the horse! That’s a mile off – let’s concentrate efforts to stop this onslaught and then when we feel we have a chance to secure adequate provision – then collectively debate what it should be. Right now, I firmly believe we need to keep our eye firmly and decisively on the prize of securing political support for a Statutory basis for our work. If we don’t do it now, under conditions that I’ve never seen in the 30 years I’ve been involved in Youth Work, then it will never happen. Susan – we can’t let this moment and opportunity pass. Once again, I deeply respect your views, but not entirely your focus at the moment.
    Susan Atkins Pete – deep breath – what I want to discuss is if and when we achieve the statutory base, THEN WHAT.  The 2000 plus workers who have lost their jobs, and the thousands of young people who are struggling with the impact of government policies on their lives – need more from us than a campaign. ( a campaign that I support by the way). However re the current campaign for the EDM , you know and I know at the very best it will raise some awareness as we meet with email, our MPs to ask them to sign – it is unlikely it will ever be debated, and even more unlikely that under this Government it would pass into policy.
    So the object of the exercise is what ? to raise awareness maybe? to enable that very debate that will put some flesh and blood into the bare bones of a statutory service? If we are not ready for that, the be assured that if/when we do win and get our statutory base, the very people who have been party to ‘the heartless destruction of our service’ will be first in line with their strategies and plans to ensure their roles and authority to continue to make The Decisions about the next stage.
    Pete Sims Final comment! The action will not just be about trying to secure a Statutory base, it will be about supporting the yp and workers due to lose their jobs and livelihoods. There’s a time for talking, a time for doing and a time for doing both. The urgency at hand is nothing like we have ever previously experienced. Let’s save something to debate folks!

    Pete Sims Lol – Final, final comment! The number of MPs signing has now risen to 47. It was recent action that has caused that.

    Believe me, there is an incredible and increasing amount of work (not just emails etc) and action taking place behind the scenes to secure Youth Services on a daily basis, if you can lend some time please let me know and we can discuss what you can do! Your help is needed at this historic period for our work. Let’s put any differences aside and debate them later!

    That this House believes that all young people across the UK should have access to a statutory funded,…
    Susan Atkins Pete – I am not sure if you have got that I am most definitely NOT sitting here merely engaging in an academic debate; nor to my knowledge is anyone else here. Like I said it is NOT about Either Or – it IS about WHAT and HOW . Many of the workers I know who have lost their jobs as youth workers and many students currently undertaking courses in our universities, are applying and seeing their only future is in Youth Offending Services or Behavioural Support in Schools. They tell me it feels like the closest they will get to ‘proper’ youth work. This then is another one of our problems here and probably in other places too , many Local Authority do not seem to know the difference between wide-ranging services working with young people from YOT, to Looked After, through Sports & Recreation and CSE, ( the children families and young people agenda) and Youth Work as you and I understand it . I was at the Regional youth Work Conference on Friday and the Previous week at Birmingham with In Defence – on BOTH occasions we discussed at length and urged people to support the EDM and the Choose Youth Campaign. Today I am at my desk in YASY and in between preparing for a meeting with our landlord to negotiate a rent holiday or something to relieve the pressures on our finances, writing a lottery bid to document our 50 years of history with the young Black Community, and talking to some of the young men and women who are part of our work here – I am contacting workers who I know are affected by the latest cuts and in the face of little or no Union Activity and sadly non-union workers – looking at how we can bring them together in any form of collective voice to make their case to the City Council and to their Management. If I sound slightly frustrated – it’s because I AM – and every ounce of my energy IS engaged in the struggle in all its multi-dimensional manifestations and possibilities. Keeping our eyes on the prize indeed – and it may just be that the prize right now is keeping that vision of better possibility alive and well. . . . . . Oh yes and now I am eating my lunch too!
    Pete Sims Fantastic Susan. All power to you! Keep up the good fight! If there is anything I can do to help, practically, then please let me know. I will do all I can.

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