Once there were many, now but one? UK Youth and Ambition merge

We got a sniff of this latest manoeuvre in the youth sector the other day and it has come to pass.

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Youth work organisations UK Youth and Ambition have merged, it has been announced.

The announcement is accompanied by the usual managerial rationalisations, the two CEO’s vying to outdo one another in a contest of cliche. Anna Smee, chief executive of UK Youth claims, “we feel we are much more credible now as the one leading organisation that works across non-uniformed and, to some extent, uniformed youth organisations.” Emma Revie, chief executive of Ambition, said coming together strengthens both organisations. “By joining forces with UK Youth, I’m confident we have the potential to be greater together than the sum of our parts and I’m excited to see what we can achieve.”

For our part we remain sceptical about the claim that this merger will strengthen the voice and quality of the youth work sector. It will strengthen a particular voice, centralised and still wedded to a neoliberal ideology of self-improved young people and self-improved workers. In the present political ferment a plurality of voices would be much healthier.

As it is, as CYPN notes,

The move comes just two years after Ambition, which was known as Clubs for Young People until 2012, merged with the Confederation of Heads of Young People’s Services, the organisation for local authority youth service leaders. Ambition also merged with the now defunct National Council for Voluntary Youth Services last year.

And, indeed, a proposed merger between UK Youth and the National Agency was on the cards for a time last year. We won’t hold our breath if this possibility is soon revived.

It’s worth remembering too that the NCVYS once proudly presented itself as the independent voice of the voluntary youth sector.

To complete the exchange of banalities, Tracy Crouch, the Minister of a government, which has implemented a succession of policies antagonistic to the needs of young people, never mind youth work itself, welcomes the corporate move, “UK Youth and Ambition have both done fantastic work supporting young people across the country and I am confident that this partnership will only strengthen their offering.

“Together I’m sure they will continue to lead the way championing youth voices, and supporting innovation and partnerships.”

By now, though, I suppose we are meant to do no more than shrug our shoulders at such empty rhetoric.

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