Following upon the thoughts of Bernard Davies, Whatever happened to the Youth Service, Ian McGimpsey from the School of Education at Birmingham University ventures some tentative and provocative suggestions about how we might revisit the issue of how youth work could be funded. He is especially keen to foster debate so we hope to receive your responses and criticisms.
We need a new, positive vision for the funding that will value and promote youth work. This new vision is needed for two simple reasons. The first is that youth services have had drastic amounts of money lifted out of them in the last six or seven years and the taps aren’t being switched back on in the foreseeable future. The second is that even when the sector had historic highs of government funding just prior to austerity, very many youth workers argued that they were paid to work with young people, sure, but were being prevented from doing youth work. I wrote about those trends in more detail in a previous blog, and had some very early speculative thoughts about what that vision might look like. This blog is an effort to develop those thoughts a little.
We might add a third reason for a new vision of funding: even if the government did switch the taps back on, it would be just as difficult to do youth work as it was under New Labour. Probably more so. Government still spends its cash largely through commissioning. However, that commissioning now tends to fit a social investment model, which demands impact on outcomes (rather than outputs), and often involves some form of ‘payment by results’ model which stages payments to providers until they can provide evidence of outcomes achieved through their work. This tends to mean organisations need more capital in hand to manage cash flow. So, larger charities, consortia and for-profit or social enterprise organisations are winning contracts at the expense of smaller voluntary and community organisations.
So what to do?
In the past statutory funding has disrupted youth work practice. In the future, we want sustained funding that encourages it. I suggest our first positive step in this new ‘late neoliberal’ landscape is to create a new vision that unites the two goals of sustained funding at an adequate scale, with a vision for a youth work practice worthy of the name. I call this a vision for ‘public money’.
Read Ian’s blog in full at PUBLIC MONEY : A NEW VISION OF FUNDING FOR YOUTH WORK