I’ve been away from the IDYW desk for a week so I’m aware that bringing your attention to the latest UNISON report, ‘A Future at Risk’ is hardly breaking news. However this latest research into the continuing demise of open access youth work and the collapse of the local authority Youth Service provides crucial information in the struggle to turn back the tide.
UNISON argue that an estimated £387m has been cut from youth service budgets since 2010, adding there is “more of the same for youth services in the years to come. Already we can report that in the year 2016-17 and beyond, there is likely to be at least £26m more cuts in youth service spending, the loss of around 800 more jobs, more than 30 youth centres closed.”
For my part, whilst recognising the pragmatic attraction of the argument, I remain at odds with the overriding emphasis on the preventative role of youth work caught in this extract.
“These young people will have nowhere to turn, there will be no-one who is qualified or
trained to help support them with the issues they have. This will lead to more anti-social
behaviour, gangs, depression and poor mental health in young people, and increased
work for the police forces that have also been cut. Truancy will rise, school results
tables will be poor and homelessness could rise. Parents also need to know that their
children are safe and not getting into drugs, drinking alcohol or being bullied. A youth
centre is a safe place where young people are confined to one place where they can
hang out, receive the support and advice/leadership they may need. That might be
boosting their confidence, learning new skills and being taught about risks. Our centres
and staff help young people by working with other agencies putting them in touch
with counsellors, finding them somewhere to live, keeping them out of trouble with the
police, helping to turn lives around and giving them a positive future.”
Leave aside the notion of young people being confined to a place by youth workers, the failure to recognise youth work as an educational engagement with young people, which does not start from seeing them as immediate or future social problems, gives far too much ground to the targeted and behavioural agenda.
See BBC coverage at Youth services heading towards collapse, says union
Read the full report – THE DAMAGE
Whatever my misgivings about some sections of the report it needs to be used widely in discussion with politicians, which brings me to the very recent interview with Jeremy Corbyn in the Observer. where he talks of reshaping education in Britain. Given he expresses a commitment to’ wrap around education’ and to the renaissance of adult education we might have hoped for an acknowledgement of youth work as a integral part of education ‘from cradle to grave’. Sadly there is none. Perhaps Jeremy has bought the line that youth work is a form of preventative welfare practice. I’m told that Jeremy does get youth work so the lack of reference may be no more than an oversight. If so, I think Jeremy missed a trick in omitting youth work from his educational plan of action. Hopefully those close to him might have a word in his ear.