UNITE Community, Youth and Play Workers
Identifying Risk, Building Resilience and Catching Pokémon
National Conference, Eastbourne, 19 November, 2016
Youth centres are a great place for young people to come together, make friends, mix with others from different backgrounds, participate in a range of positive activities and catch some Pokémon. But behind the façade of games and activities, the work undertaken with young people via the youth work delivery model is far more involved.
Young people voluntarily enter into a relationship with a youth worker and together explore a wide spectrum of issues, from behavioural difficulties, violence and extremism to teenage pregnancy, helping young people to develop the ability to manage difficult situations, build resilience and make appropriate life choices. Preventative work with young people, ensuring that they are equipped with the knowledge and skills to stay safe and to make a positive contribution to society in adult life.
This conference will offer a range of seminars, expert panels and workshops facilitated and delivered by key professionals in the field, and the wider youth and play sector, that will identify, explore and offer new insight into some of the more complex and challenging issues that are faced by professionals in the field and by the children and young people that they work with.
Papers are invited that explore and challenge current policy and practice in relation to the key themes below. All submissions will be disseminated to delegates and may be used to inform discussion and debate. There is also opportunity for these to be published in our journal, Rapport, and be made available on our website.
Papers are invited in relation to the following themes:
‘Keeping children and young people safe and building resilience.’
Resilience has become the buzz word in intervention work with children and young people but the whole notion of resilience can be a challenging concept for both policy makers and front line workers. Youth services and play services are under increasing pressure to avoid exposing children and young people to any manifestation of risk despite the obvious contradiction that in providing support to children and young people experiencing adversity, they may be insulating children from those very experiences that enable them to build resilience in the first place. We invite papers that focus on how best we can work to build resilient children and young people and in particular, how the youth work model can be used to provide the needed to respond to the challenges of adolescence and young adulthood and to navigate successfully in adulthood. We would particularly welcome papers on topics looking at children and young people’s experiences of risk practices relating to alcohol, drug-use and sexual activity; how building digital resilience is a key to keeping young people safe online and how sexualised media and social networking impacts on children and young people.
‘Will Youth Work survive in an ever changing landscape?’
The climate of austerity has resulted in major changes in the nature of youth work provision and has had a major impact on the ways in which youth workers and other service providers work with and for children and young people. We invite papers that encourage critical discussion of policy issues and practice initiatives shaped by these measures. We are particularly interested in papers that challenge dominant policy and practice conversations and which address the recent move away from the traditional focus of youth work towards the employability and skills agenda.
‘Because We’re worth it’
Youth Work is facing increasing pressure to prove its worth and youth workers are now working with young people to deliver predetermined outcomes through time-limited contact. Government cuts to budgets continue to have devastating consequences for the most marginalised and vulnerable people and on the practice of youth work. Where services do remain youth workers struggle to navigate the new terrain, whilst maintaining ethical integrity. However, throughout the history of youth and community work there is a distinct tradition of innovation and diversity with proactive and creative practitioners shaping and influencing agendas based on community needs. We invite papers that explore the context of youth work in contemporary society and offer critical reflection on aspects of youth work practice.
‘The politics of social action’
We know young people in the UK are affected by politics. Unemployment is highest among 16 to 24 year olds and the likelihood of finding a permanent, full-time job is now much lower than it was for generation X causing delays to traditional stages of adulthood; the proportion of young people over 18 living with their parents is increasing year on year and tuition fees are increasing again. Campaigns to get more young people involved in social action emerged in abundance over the past six years as a result of the focus by former PM, David Cameron and his ideas around Big Society with social action projects now found across the UK involving the youth, voluntary, business, education and faith sectors. But with social action now more commonly defined as taking practical action in the service of others, such as restoring a community property or organising a charity event, how do young people participate in the politics of those making decisions about them without them? Every issue of concern to young people is political so how do youth work professionals ensure that young people have an opportunity to change the world around them? We invite papers that explore why youth workers should be the providers of political education and how they could equip young people with a grounding in political theory, the knowledge to dissect the views put forward by their representatives and the ability to debate with them on best policy practice.
Please make submissions via email to Kerry.Jenkins@unitetheunion.org by Monday 17th October 2016.