Back in December we reported that TAG [ The Professional Association for Lecturers in Youth and Community Work ] was entering the fray of consultation with an ambitious series of ‘Shaping the Future’ conferences in March 2016. We stressed our obligation to participate in these events. In addition we marked our commitment to cooperate with TAG in its desire to gather evidence to inform a subsequent report on the shaping of future youth and community work.
The following statement from TAG is offered as a framework for responses to the key question posed, ‘what do you see as the future for youth and community work?’
As part of the series of forthcoming regional conferences, on the future of youth and community work being organised by the Professional Association of Lecturers in Youth and Community Work (TAG), we are interested in getting the views of colleagues on the future of the profession. How do you see the future of youth and community work philosophically, practically, organisationally, politically, socially and professionally? We are interested in ideas that are ‘visionary’ and ‘pragmatic’. As a means of furthering dialogue, extracts of the thread may be highlighted and offered as catalysts for further discussion at the regional conferences, with a summary of discussion at these events posted back on to the blog. We are also considering ways of capturing these imagined futures in potential publications. If you do not want your comments to be included in any such publication (pseudonyms/ participant codes would be used), please indicate on your post. Any further questions or comments can be directed to Graham Bright at email@example.com
Thus we would encourage both IDYW supporters and critics to contribute to the debate. As well as responding directly to Graham you can use the Comments facility on this blog/web site to post your thoughts. So too we will be collecting responses on our Facebook page, which we know many people find more user-friendly. A significant advantage of posting publicly either here or there is that your ideas have the chance of prompting and catalysing further thinking, either ‘visionary or pragmatic’.
Please direct further questions about the conferences themselves to: firstname.lastname@example.org
I strongly welcome TAG’s initiative in setting up these conferences and in seeking comment in advance on youth and community work’s future. In the present circumstances this kind of open debate is much needed.
In offering my own comment, I need first to acknowledge that my focus is very specifically on open access youth work – a practice whose bottom lines are for me that it takes place in settings which young people choose to attend and which builds its educational efforts from that voluntary involvement and on the interests and concerns which THESE young people bring with them.
I recognise that, against the odds, this practice is surviving, especially in parts of the faith and voluntary sectors. Nonetheless, given the cuts in provision which have already happened and the loss of so many of the trained and experienced staff running it, to say nothing of the cuts we know are to come, this distinctive way of working with young people clearly now has a very risky future. And this despite the evidence – confirmed again in the NCVYS 2013 Youth Report – that these facilities are likely to attract anything up to a million regular users.
For me therefore one important question for a dialogue of the kind TAG is promoting is: how, especially collectively, can we help sustain and even revive this practice?
What as urgently in my view needs to be taken on board, however, is that, as the NYA reminded us in 2014, ‘there is no longer a common form of youth service across England’. In other words, at perhaps at even greater risk than the actual practice is the model of state provision and support for youth work which we have taken for granted for over seventy years and which, at least in England in the wake of the Albemarle Report, became the dominant provider.
I have great respect for the way colleagues in the field are campaigning to save and indeed restore this model – the local authority Youth Service. I also however have a ‘take’ on what is happening which starts from two rather different propositions:
1. That – with its many bureaucratic constraints and in recent years its increasing demands for targets and statistically ‘measured’ ‘impacts’ and ‘outcomes’– this model of state provision has been far from perfect as a home for open access youth work.
2. That the growing gap in state provision, though in the short-term clearly disastrous for so much youth work, could in the longer run offer us an opportunity to begin to conceptualise and campaign for a radically re-imagined model of state provision and funding which is much more congruent with the practice’s defining features.
For me therefore a second question prompted by the TAG initiative is: is such ‘re-imagining’ a necessary and worthwhile task; and, if it is, how might we begin to tackle it?
17 January 2016