Chris Warren reports on the PPE’s stance on the Future of Youth Work

Our thanks to Chris for this feedback on the  following PPE conference.


A personal synopsis of the Public Policy Exchange’s ‘Positive for Youth, Positive for Society: The Future of Youth Work’ 18th May 2016
Chris Warren – Adolescence group manager, Nottinghamshire County Council
Key Points:
• We must change from a position which campaigns to reduces closures, to a stance of ‘Talking Up’ what our engagement with young people has to benefit society as a whole and in particular those senior stake holders in Central and Local government .
• We need to create, and repeat, a narrative that assures current and future funders that they would be ‘missing a trick’, and damaging their portfolios, if they do not to support open access Youth Work.
• Creating a ‘why wouldn’t you’ rather than ‘why you should’ rhetoric around Youth Work.
• We must be clear when engaging providers, that the true voice of young people, through participation and co-production, rather than ‘box ticking’ consultation, adds value to their work.
• We must ‘stop moaning about’ the perceived success and funding of NCS (and this on the day that it became ‘statutory’ during the Queen’s speech) and fully engage with the programme to improve it, for the benefit of the young people.
• The hard work to gain ‘Scraps’ of funding from multitude of sources is better than the closure of provision that is often life changing to young people.
• We must move away from campaigning and lobbying and start a dialogue with senior politicians about how we can assist them to achieve ‘their’ outcomes, including value for money, through good quality long term youth work engaging groups of young people.
• We need to get smarter at describing the cost benefit analysis of Youth Work at the fore front of discussions/bids rather than stressing just the outcomes for young people.

If I can get my act together I’ll respond to the  utterly misplaced, if utterly expected emphasis on cost benefit analysis.

” As the 18th century philosopher Immanuel Kant put it, some things have a price, or relative worth, while other things have a dignity, or inner worth.  More than 200 years later, the categorical incompatibility remains as powerful as ever: The failure of cost-benefit analysis, in Kantian terms, stems from the attempt to weigh costs, which usually have a price, on the same scale as benefits, which often have a dignity.” (Frank Ackerman)

Any thoughts appreciated.


  1. Great words Chris! We have far to long either put our head in the sand hiding behind our lack of ability to show the impact of good quality youth work or we cry foul to cut after cut, without demonstrating our worth. We are in a world where only things that are proven to be working and are indispensable will be funded. We currently have a very small window of opportunity to start showing the value of good quality youth work and the impact we as youth workers have on communities. We must offer different models to meet local needs, sometimes focussing on the community work function of our role, helping to build community capacity. We have to be agile and react to the needs of our communities supporting them to deliver their own solutions and we need to get better at letting people know that youth work is often the solution. We must see NCS as an opportunity for the profession, we have to stop trying to protect youth services and focus on protecting good quality youth work.

  2. Can anyone explain to me the difference between the National Citizens Service’s programme and that of the Explorer Scouts ?

    As I see it the only difference is tha, one is concentrated and the other takes place over several years. The NCS is using millions of pounds of funding copying what volunteers are already providing at minimal cost.

    wouldn’t the resources be better split supporting truly community based organisations such as the Scouts and Guides expand their demographic reach, and freeing up the professional youth workers to concentrate on the one to one and issue based work they truly excel at ?

    • And the NCS is concentrated into a three week programme that lacks continuity as the Youth Service infrastructure has been deeply undermined. Without doubt the billion plus could be more wisely spent. Cameron and Co might sit up if the Scouts and Guides led a Boycott of NCS!? What do you reckon? Always good to hear from you, Tony.

  3. To what extent are the Scouts and Guides supporting the NCS at present ?

    I have been told that The Scout Associations (TSA) evidence to parliament questioned the expense and that TSAs refusal to support it been made compulsory was so strong one of Cameron’s PR people suggest we were unpatriotic.

    If this is incorrect please let me know and I will take it up.

    • Also the one of grant of £3.5 million to support Scouts in areas of high deprivation (Mirror June 4th ) although small compared with Public School Cadet funding is more than those scouts have ever received from any government or youth service.

  4. Let me do a bit of homework there, Tony and/or can other people chip in as to the relationship of the Scouts and Guides to NCS. In my haste I might well be mixing things up with theScouts’ involvement in Step up to Serve. And my suggestion of a boycott was rather tongue-in-cheek.

  5. I don’t recall the Scout Association having any direct involvement with the delivery of the NCS. I would say that any sixteen year old who had been through Scouts or Guides, or similar groups, where the emphasis is on outodoor learning and in serving the community, would not find the NCS much of a Challenge! (pun intended)

    Interesting I made a similar point to Tony’s (Ransley) during a recent discussion with a Cabinet Office member during a London Partnership meeting. The outcome, though I accept they may not be entirely linked, was they then announced that the service would become statutory. My apologies.

    Now we have to say don’t go on your explorer trip to Europe with the group you have known since you were six ,and with whom you have built a long and trusting relationship: but instead go along to a NCS week away otherwise we will be in breach of our statutory obligation to promote this excellent opportunity to you.

    • The NCS I recognise is not what I see described here, we have a four week programme, two weeks residential and two weeks developing and delivering a meaningful social action project. This should never be instead of good quality youth work but should compliment a comprehensive local offer. It should also be a sustainable social action project with the good ones continuing well beyond the involvement of NCS. That way we are building capacity with young people within their community for young people to make a real difference to those communities As a local authority youth work lead I am embracing NCS for the opportunity that it offers young people in my county..

  6. Sorry Michael but how does that differ from the Explorer Scout programme ?

    Except that it is far shorter and less cost effective.

    Now if cost efficiency is to be the be all and end all of youth work, shouldn’t the government be running control group experiments such as pumping comparable funding into the voluntary organisations whose programme they are imitating and measuring the outcomes ?

  7. I do not see an either/or situation, The Adventure Scouts are an established uniformed youth group that delivers a varied curriculum and will appeal to certain young people. The NCS is a different model and will appeal to others. Many of the young people I know would not be interested joining The Adventure Scouts, but would be keen to attend NCS. We need to support any administration that will allow us to facilitate the delivery of good quality youth work. Administration after administration have failed to recognise the benefits of youth work cutting year after year. I believe that we need to accept what this government is offering and as a national youth service try to positively influence its shape.

  8. Micheal,l thanks for demonstrating my point about how out of touch the’ professionals’ are with the voluntary sector, the Venture Scout section changed to the Explorer Scout section inn 2002, there never has been an Adventure Scout section within TSA .

    My question was;

    How does what NCS offer differ from the EXPLORER Scouts programme.?

    After Sonia and Margo’s analysis of the cohort group data relating to youth work, the government was faced with either supporting the scout and guides or imitating their programme. This administration chose the big government solution, of switching huge amounts of funding into a poor imitation of what the Explorer scouts were already offering, The National Citizens Service and giving a massive boost to introducing Military Cadets into schools..

    I suspect that this is because both are totally under political control whilst the scouts are dependant on grass roots support from their communities.

    My challenge is;

    Give the voluntary sector the same monster budgets the NCS and CCF are getting and then evaluate the results. As on my reading of the last evaluation the NCS is not reaching a significantly different demographic than the Scout association is.

    • Tony – The difficulty is, of course, that the voluntary sector will not get the same “monster budgets the NCS and CCF are getting” (or even a portion of them) without also being !totally under political control”

      • That would depend on the degree of self sufficiency the voluntary sector maintained within local communities.

        I reckon TSA could provide young people in disadvantaged areas with better long term programmes for 1% (£12 million) of the NCS projected budget, take another 1% to refresh our infrastructure turning our worst huts into modest youth centres and leave £1 billion for the issue based work and one to one counselling the professional youth service excels at.

  9. Michael how many NCS projects have proved sustainable in the long term?

    I would also welcome evidence of where it has complimented the comprehensive local offer!

    I have no doubt it is well delivered and is enjoyed by those who take part, but I have seen little firm evidence of its impact. All I have seen are evaluations with cost benefit analysis based upon yp saying what they will do.

  10. Paul, come to Essex and we will show you, we have lots of examples of young people involved in their community as a direct result of their engagement in NCS. I am not saying it is better than other activity, it is part of our offer.

    • Whilst your in Essex Paul, why not drop into Gilwell Park and ask for a briefing on how a voluntary organisation manages hundreds of residential camp sites, thousands of youth centres, tens of thousands of voluntary youth workers, empowering hundreds of thousands of young people by delivering year round programmes of outdoor activities and community projects.
      On less government support than was gambled on Kids Company after it had officially failed.

  11. Opps Sorry Paul, Whilst Gilwell’s address says Essex it is in fact just outside in Waltham Forrest, my mistake.

  12. Well with its champion gone will the N nationalised C copy of S scouting survive ?

    of course if Gove takes over it will be School Cadet Forces all the way.

    • Interesting thought, Tony, although support for NCS is now a statutory obligation! I like the changed interpretation of the acronym, although hardly nationalised, outsourced and privatised in truth.

      • The proposal to make it statutory was in the queens speech, does it not have to pass through Parliament before it is actually statutory ?

        No point preaching to the converted on this I assume the left are opposed. Using the terms Outsourced and Privatised isn’t going to turn the Tories off the idea pointing out it is Big Government, Tax and Spend might. Emphasising its an expensive copy of scouting might.

  13. I was trying to be light-hearted, Tony, rather than being Leftily [a new word, perchance?]correct. And I’m sure that the Tories will be much more sensitive to the accusation that they’ve stolen from Baden-Powell’s inheritance. Best wishes.

  14. Sorry Tony that’s the second one of your light hearted comments I’ve missed, put it down to it been a bad week politically

    I am under no illusions that the Tories care about scouting, in fact I am sure they don’t

    Just pointing out that using words such as outsourced and privatised will only encourage them.

    Nationalised, Big Government and Tax and Spend however seem to have the same effect as garlic upon vampire souls. Perhaps those youth workers opposing the introduction of statutory NCS should use them and see if they work.

  15. I doubt the NCS is going anywhere anytime soon. It may be Cameron’s project, but I don’t think it’s removal will be high on any potential leaders to do list.

  16. OK after almost a month of posting I still waiting for someone to explain the differences between the National Citizens Service’s programme and the Explorer Scouts Programme ?

    Chris Warren, Micheal O’Brien, anyone ?

  17. Your question Tony is clearly rhetorical. As I have previously pointed out the NCS is a very expensive model , which in my view delivers no intrinsic value that could not have been achieved by existing provision, including your beloved scouts at substantially less cost.

    This money could be utilised to greater effect and reach considerably more young people if it were less prescriptive and channelled to existing providers.

    But it isn’t and it will not be at least until 2020.

  18. ‘Beloved scouts’ you clearly have never spent a week in a field with them 🙂

    A week is a long time in politics and until this current post referendum ‘Game of Thrones’ is over who knows what policies will still be running. The NCS has for the first time brought the cost effectiveness of the statutory sector into direct comparison with the voluntary sector which is a mistake. The statutory sector does have unique selling points but providing summer camps and doing ”Good Deeds” isn’t one of them. The long term future of the professional youth worker is in providing issue based specialists to the voluntary sector, building resilient communities and one to one counselling and mentoring, not using huge budgets duplicating what is already there.

  19. I am involved in delivery of NCS and have very little knowledge of Explorer Scouts. When I offered my child the opportunity to join the local Explorer Scouts, they looked at me like I had two heads.

    Many young people will not make a promise to the queen and will not wear a uniform or “silly scarf”. They did however gain a great deal from attendance at NCS, it is a matter of choice. God forbid somebody decides to make scouting statutory.

  20. Well you have clearly gained a ‘little’ knowledge of Explorer Scouts since your last post Micheal, you at least got the name right this time.

    One of my arguments is also that it should be a matter of choice but that the choices should be presented equally,

    Is there is anything in the NCS programme which isn’t based on the traditional scout combination of outdoor education and community service ?

    If so please state what it is

    If not then respect the young people who have chosen scouting by funding their outdoor education and community service to the same extent. Or does your respect for young people only extend to those who share Micheal O’Brien’s views on politics and clothing ?

    You highlight an image problem which I admit exists. Unlike the NCS Scouting isn’t a politicians vanity project so hasn’t been given so much taxpayers funding they can afford sponsor the Simpsons on Sky or purchase advertising slots during the European semi finals ( how much did that actually cost?) It would be interesting to see how that kind of advertising would change perceptions of Explorer Scouts.

  21. sorry a couple of corrections;

    who have chosen scouting, by funding etc.

    and I somehow deleted the line

    My argument isn’t that scouting should be statutory, but that The National Citizens Service should run by volunteers and funded by voluntary donations, leaving statory funding for child protection and welfare.

  22. “If not then respect the young people who have chosen scouting by funding their outdoor education and community service to the same extent. Or does your respect for young people only extend to those who share Micheal O’Brien’s views on politics and clothing?”

    How rude!

    You know nothing about my level of respect for young people, my views on politics or clothing. You have just taken this thread from a simple exchange of views on a well written article looking at the future of youth work to a personal campaign to further a model of youth work considered old fashioned and middle class by many. You have done this by insulting me, conversation over.

  23. So back to my first post

    ”Can anyone explain to me the difference between the National Citizens Service and that of the Explorer Scouts ?”

  24. My apologises AGAIN, (Tony T I can not find a way of editing posts after they have been posted any ideas
    my first question was in fact

    ”Can anyone explain to me the difference between the National Citizens Service PROGRAM and that of the Explorer Scouts ?

    and it is the difference in PROGRAMME I have consistently requested not the difference in the DEMOGRAPHIC take up real or imagined, massive state funding and statutory support might bring.

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