Yesterday I did a quick response on our Facebook page to the CYPN story that Lisa Nandy, Labour’s shadow minister for civil society, which includes youth work, had defended the party’s decision to ditch its statutory services pledge.
Being somewhat parochial I’d irritatedly posted:
I know I’m biased, having been a worker and officer in Wigan, but Lisa Nandy’s depiction of the Wigan Youth Zone as ‘innovative practice’ is at best disingenuous. The hub and spoke analogy suggests that this Wigan town centre ‘positive activities’ centre serves the whole of the Metropolitan Borough with talk of local services and indeed transport links. I’d like to know what links there are with, say, the Higher Folds estate in Leigh, the Hag Fold estate in Atherton, the Shakerley estate in Tyldesley, all significant towns in their own right, 7 – 10 miles from Wigan. More examples could be added. Any more info on the real situation in Wigan Borough gratefully received at firstname.lastname@example.org
Lest I mislead I did some homework on the latest from the Zone and its transport arrangements, which do include a coach from Higher Folds on Fridays and a shared coach with Tyldesley on Saturdays. Places though have to be reserved in advance. The timings too are significant. The transport leaves at either 4.30 or 5.00 p.m. and returns by 9.00 p.m at the latest. The journey can take an hour. Clearly those taking up this limited offer are likely to be at school and committed to undertaking an activity on arrival. With the best will in the world this is not ‘innovative’. It is a somewhat tortuous and slightly embarrassed way offering leisure opportunities to a small number of motivated young people on the outskirts of a large Metropolitan Borough, where the principal facility is simply out of reach and indeed out of touch. It’s a far cry from a local and organic youth work delivered through a mix of clubs and projects, where young people set the rhythm of conversations and events.
The Facebook post has engendered a host of angry responses to Nandy’s claim that Labour is intent on a ‘root and branch’ review, given the party’s speculation that ‘promising a statutory youth service might not have delivered the provision needed by young people’. In a revealing turn of phrase Nandy implies that the statutory pledge means ‘forcing councils to provide a minimum level of youth provision’- why not obliging?
Lisa Nandy invokes quite rightly the need for young people’s critical involvement, but reveals her ideological bias in favour of a particular way of providing services.
“One of the primary purposes of the review is to consider how we extend real power to young people over the design, commissioning and accountability of youth services in their area. Young people in areas where they drive services and can hold them to account are where those services are most valued”.
This very question of real power and young people could have been explored whilst retaining the commitment to statutory funding. At this very moment IDYW, together with Youth & Policy and Birmingham University, is interrogating via Ian McGimpsey’s research the differing ways in which the statutory might be implemented. And we would allow for sure that in this investigation of what might be the future we should converse with such initiatives as the Lambeth Youth Cooperative.
To further ruffle youth work feathers CYPN note that “Nandy reiterated Labour’s election manifesto commitment to expanding the National Citizen Service so that it provides better value for money and has more of a ‘long-term impact’ on young people.” Thus it appears that this massively advertised, self-styled ‘once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for 15-17 year olds.’ will lie outside of any ‘root and branch’ review.This is the case even though she seems to allow there is an issue about its effectiveness and that given the collapse of youth services nationally the one-off NCS experience is not grounded in any on-going provision for young people.
All in all Lisa Nandy’s apologetics don’t fill us with confidence about a review, which, whilst ‘root and branch’, will be swift as “young people can’t wait” – something of a contradiction in terms. It will be interesting to see who is to carry out the review. Suggestions welcome.