As Howard Williamson observes it’s hardly a shock to witness Labour’s abandonment of Ed Miliband’s 2011 pledge to make youth services statutory. Despite the hardworking efforts of Pete Sims, the NUS, Choose Youth and company, including ourselves, to put pressure on Labour both in front of and behind the scenes, the party’s shadow children’s minister Steve McCabe peddles the neo-liberal ‘commissioned services’ line. This is reported in today’s Children and Young People Now, Labour ditches statutory youth services pledge.
Ironically, in highlighting youth work campaigners angry at the decision, CYPN cites Fair Play for Children, who evidently have little grasp of youth work as informal education, arguing it “be returned to its “lawful role” of recreational provision for all young people”. And then rub salt into many a youth worker’s wound by quoting Jon Boagey, acting CEO of the National Youth Agency as saying, “Funding a statutory youth service would have indicated that the Labour party values the role of youth work in young people’s development.” With the best will in the world the NYA has hardly played a leading role in the fight to hold Labour to its pledge.
Be that as it may, this is an opportune moment to call the bluff on the feigned ignorance about youth work’s role beloved of politicians of all stripes. including Steve McCabe, who weakly suggests, “There is a major issue about identifying proper funding for youth services. More work needs to be done on it. We are not there on it yet.” One place to start will be our joint event with Youth & Policy and Birmingham University next week on April 21 – the launch of Bernard Davies’ revised ‘Manifesto for our Times’ in the morning and Ian McGimpsey’s exploration of what statutory might mean in the afternoon. Come along, vent your frustration, share your thoughts and experience. For the struggle continues, whoever wins the election.