Stories of Asylum: being patient, taking time and building trust

Sharing and interpreting stories are dear to the heart of IDYW’s desire to explain what youth work is. Hence we are especially pleased to draw your attention to the appearance of a booklet, ‘Stories of Asylum’, the outcome of a year-long relationship between youth workers and young asylum seekers, in itself a testament to being patient, taking time and building trust.

 

Stories of Asylum

A youth work project in Warwickshire.

 

As youth workers, we met a group of young asylum seekers through a detached youth work project. We met some of them hanging out in the local park and gradually got to know them and their friends. They were aged between 15 and 19 and came from a variety of countries – Afghanistan, Iraq, Eritrea, Syria to name just a few.

We have been talking to them about their experiences in their home country (one young man left because the Taliban wanted him to wear a suicide vest), their journey here (often ending in a lorry) and their experiences of being in the UK. They were surprised we were interested. No one had asked them to tell ‘their story’ before.

One of the young people expressed a wish to share his story with young people at his school so that they might understand him better. He felt sad that he was called ‘ISIS’ and that people didn’t know the reasons he is here. From that, an idea formed of gathering a range of stories from these young people, printing a booklet and giving it to their school. The young people helped to fill in a funding bid to the local town council to pay for the printing of the booklets.

The story-gathering took place over a year. It needed trust to get the story on paper and time to ensure they were actively involved in the process. Other work took place – trips to get to know their local area; visits to the library to find books they could borrow in their home language; introductions to local places of worship plus some touristy outings.

The booklet is now printed and the second part of the project now begins – ensuring it is used well in schools. Young people are all involved in the promoting of the work, for example, through radio and newspaper interviews.

Hollie Hutchings [Team Leader]

Stories of Asylum  – the booklet in pdf

A limited number of hard copies will be available at next week’s IDYW conference in Birmingham

 

RIP, John Parr, former Head of Youth and Community Work, Westhill College

In Defence of Youth Work is committed to remembering and respecting those, who have contributed to the creative and pluralist tradition of work with young people we wish to defend and extend. 

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John Parr, former Head of Youth and Community Work at the Westhill College in Birmingham died recently. John Holmes has penned this informative and touching tribute.

JOHN PARR

It was in 1978 that I first met John. I was a researcher looking at career paths of ex-students of the JNC qualifying courses in England. I met John, as Head of Community and Youth Work at Westhill College in Birmingham, the longest established Youth Work course. I was looking for support in pursuing research that I was quickly finding out was a highly political and contentious area. John, along with a number of other heads of courses (such as Peter Duke from Leicester, ….) were well aware that the research could threaten the funding of their courses (direct from the DES at this time) but were helpful to me. Little did I know at the time that I would be taking over John’s role at Westhill, on John’s retirement in 1991.

 
By 1978 John had already had a long career in youth work. Born in Liverpool, and with lifelong family links to the city, Birmingham became his home for his adult life. John attended Westhill College as a student in the 1950s and became a lecturer in the 1960s. When I met him I remember he reminded me of my Dad, and seemed from a different generation. His commitment to helping young people was very clear, but for me, as a child of the 1960s, his liking for the youth culture of the 1950s, such as Tommy Steele made him seem the other side of the ‘generation gap’. Only later did I come to realise how open he was to others, how good he was at listening before offering any advice. He had strong principles about not offering advice when not appropriate. I always remember him telling me that he would not interfere with my role when I became head of Community and Youth Work at Westhill. This must have been difficult giving his long links to the college and even living opposite when he retired. It must have grieved him to see Westhill closed and the buildings demolished in the years before he died.

 

John always struck me as a modest man, and so it came as no surprise to find out at his funeral just how much he had done in the service of others. Within youth work, he was highly valued within youth organisations working with homeless young people, involved in youth counselling, and chaired a key committee of the Birmingham Association of Youth Clubs (BAYC) for many years. A story he told me showed how he tried to build links between his various roles, and the enduring power of youth work. A new Westhill Principal, Gordon Benfield, was appointed in the 1960s and when he was introduced to John they greeted each other as long lost friends. Apparently, John had been Gordon’s patrol leader in the Scouts in Liverpool. John persuaded Gordon to become chair of BAYC, so helping to keep youth work central on Westhill’s agenda, at a time when teacher education was becoming dominant.

 
Another thing I learned at John’s funeral was just how important John’s Christian faith was to him. John was a very active Methodist lay preacher and clearly his faith gave him the strength to do so much for young people. For me as the first, and last, non-Christian head of Community and Youth Work at Westhill, it was somewhat strange to hear the words ‘Bless you’ from John’s lips, but I now recognise the importance of the tradition that John came from and the huge contribution he made.

 

John Holmes, January 2018

Is the tide turning? Agreeing an IDYW position paper for the political arena?

Further to our series of ‘is the tide turning?’ events and, by twist of fate, fast on the heels of John McDonnell’s pledge to support a statutory Youth Service, you will find below a draft of a possible IDYW position paper to be used in discussions with political parties ahead of a General Election, which may not be long in coming.

Obviously the proposals in the paper are little more than bullet points, which will be backed by supplementary explanation and material if dialogue is forthcoming.

At the beginning of next week’s conference this set of proposals will be presented for debate, agreement/disagreement, amendment or indeed rejection.

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TOWARDS AN IN DEFENCE OF YOUTH WORK POSITION PAPER

  1. The neoliberal competitive desire to marketise and individualise is utterly at odds with youth work dedicated to cooperation and the common good.
  2. The rejuvenation of a distinctive, state-supported youth work focused on inclusive, open access provision ought to be based on a radical and complementary relationship between the Local Authority [LA] and a pluralist, independent voluntary sector.
  3. The renewed practice should be sustained by statutory funding, the purpose and allocation of which ought to be determined locally via a democratic youth work ‘council’ made up of young people, workers, voluntary sector representatives, officers and politicians.
  4. Inter-agency work is vital, but youth workers should retain their identity and autonomy rather than be absorbed into multi-disciplinary teams.
  5. Youth Work as an integral element in education from cradle to grave should be situated in the Department for Education.
  6. Youth Work should be associational and conversational, opposed to oppression and exploitation, collective rather than individual in its intent, unfolding at a pace consonant with the building of authentic relationships.
  7. Cornerstones of practice should include the primacy of the voluntary relationship; a critical dialogue starting from young people’s agendas; support for young people’s autonomous activity, for example, work with young women, BAME and LGBTQ+ young people; an engagement with the ‘here and now’; the nurturing of young people-led democracy; and the significance of the skilled, improvisatory worker.
  8. Open access, universal provision is more effective than imposed, targeted work in reaching vulnerable and disadvantaged young people.
  9. Youth Work outcomes, not being prescribed in advance, are complex and often longitudinal. Practice ought to be judged and evaluated, but not subject to the measurement of what is immeasurable.
  10. Training and continuous professional development through the HE institutions and local providers is essential for full-time, part-time and volunteer workers in ensuring the quality of practice.
  11. The National Citizen Service ought to be closed or curtailed, its funding transferred into all-year round provision, of which summer activities will be a part.
  12. JNC terms and conditions ought to be the basis for LA employed staff. However, youth work is not the property of a profession and recognition has to be given to other players, such as Faith groups, in the arena.
  13. Closer links ought to be revived and created between the youth work training agencies, regional youth work units and research centres, such as the Centre for Youth Impact.
  14. Youth Work ought to have advocates at a national level and key organisations such as the NYA and UK Youth ought to develop as critical and independent voices.
  15. Irrespective of Brexit, Youth Work ought to embrace the Declaration of the 2nd European Youth Work Convention [2015] and be internationalist in outlook.
  16. Youth Work is not a soft-policing instrument of social control. Its fundamental aspiration is profoundly educational and political, ’for the many, not the few’. It seeks to nurture the questioning, compassionate young citizen committed to the creation of a socially just and democratic society.

TOWARDS AN IN DEFENCE OF YOUTH WORK POSITION PAPER– Word version

Is the tide turning? John McDonnell commits Labour to a statutory Youth Service.

In recent months we have been asking if the tide is turning for youth work? Our question is given fresh impetus by the welcome news that John McDonnell has registered his desire to see the inclusion of a commitment to a statutory Youth Service in the Labour Party’s Manifesto. Particularly encouraging is his insistence that this should happen as an integral element of a ‘New Education Service creating lifelong learning from cradle to grave’.  See below the full text of his contribution to the GFTU Union Building Conference 2018 plus video.

McDonnell’s intervention is all the more timely as next week’s IDYW national conference on March 9 in Birmingham will be exploring a set of proposals that might inform the re-emergence of open youth work and a democratised Youth Service. Watch this space.

John McDonnell:  Contribution to GFTU Union Building Conference 2018.

The General Federation of Trade Unions has an important and distinct role to play in the British trade union movement.

As it approaches its 120th year it is fitting to see that it is still dynamic and leading the way in terms of the transformative power of trade union and community education.

The GFTU’s education programme is the biggest and most imaginative in the Movement and supports trade unionists in developing the practical skills, political and economic understanding and sense of history that are so vital today.

But it is also good to see that the GFTU is consciously reaching out to the wider public to keep the flag of trade unionism flying and reaching out through exciting events such as its youth festival to the next generation of younger trade unionists.

I recognise that trade union work to re-engage the younger generation will also be assisted by the rebuilding of the Youth Service so callously pulled apart by the Conservatives. This is why I am supporting the inclusion in the next Labour Party Manifesto the commitment to create a statutory Youth Service as part of the New Education Service creating lifelong learning from cradle to grave.

I am very impressed that the GFTU is offering new training courses for trade union trainers with Leeds Beckett University and Newman University. This is pioneering work indeed and will create a new generation of fully trained and qualified trade union trainers.

Such tremendous commitment to education within the GFTU is also reflected in its commitment to the Shout Out Project. This is greatly appreciated and we hope that together through my office, the GFTU and affiliated unions to bring greatly needed civic and personal and social education back to our communities.

The GFTU Education in Action programme is well worth a visit.

 

 

Introduction to Street Based Youth Work; Detached Youth Work for the young people of today

It’s great to see the D2N2 Youth Work Alliance providing challenging training at no cost. I’d quite like to do the course myself if only to discuss how the notion of ‘radicalisation’ has been distorted. If you’re in the area, don’t miss out.

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The D2N2 Youth Work Alliance, Series of Free Seminars presents;

Introduction to Street Based Youth Work; Detached Youth Work for the young people of today

Tuesday 20th March 2018, 7pm for a prompt 7.30pm start and a 9pm finish.

Held at Monty Hind Training Centre, Leen Gate, Lenton, Nottingham NG7 2LX (This venue has been provided free of charge by Nottinghamshire Clubs for Young People)

Target Audience; Those who believe in the value of Youth Work to young people including; Voluntary and Statutory Youth Work managers, practitioners, volunteers, students and those in positions of influence to shape today’s practice with young people.

Learning outcomes; those participating will gain an understanding of the unique value of Detached/Mobile/Outreach youth work approaches, which establish appropriate trusting relationships with young people who choose to spend their free time on the streets and public spaces rather than in organised activity. This approach engages young people in open access social education to enable them to be both safer and happier through an increase in both their resilience and objectivity. In addition to working on young people’s own agendas, it can be utilised to address wider concerns including:

· Avoiding Radicalisation; through regularly providing, at a location of the young people’s choosing, a safe place to engage in conversations around their thoughts, feelings and desires on this subject and to both increase their ability to objectively question and develop their own personal de-escalation strategies

· Preventing Sexual Exploitation; through developing long-term trusting relationships which enable constructive conversations and understanding around both appropriate and inappropriate (exploitative) sexual relationships and have the opportunity to adopt positive practical strategies to keep themselves safe

· Resilience to joining a ‘gang’ or ‘crime’ culture; establishing long-term appropriate trusting and supportive relationships, on young people’s own terms and in an environment of their choosing. To support young people to look objectively at their life choices and consider other options and activities which may increase their resilience, at an early age, to making decisions which may negatively affect their, and their communities, future wellbeing and happiness

Seminar content will include;

· The crucial importance of developing trusting relationships with young people and the structured youth work conversations that follow. (References to academic texts and further reading)

· Clarification of detached work, outreach work and mobile work, and their differing benefits to young people (References to academic texts and further reading)

· Skills/knowledge (training/induction) required by youth workers to be able to plan and deliver this area of work

· Skills/knowledge required of line managers to develop, support and resource quality, street-based work with young people

· Political, community and interagency concerns/support for these areas of youth work including its efficient use of resources

· Consideration of safe working practices, including the obligation to report concerns.

Seminar structure;

The seminar will take the form of a brief introduction, covering history and terminology. Followed by an informal structured conversation between the tutor team and those attending, it will be facilitated through a series of pre-planned open questions and challenges.

The event is facilitated by volunteers from the D2N2 Youth Work Alliance

Please book your place through the following link;

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/o/d2n2-youth-work-alliance-16640913659

Brighton campaign reaps rewards – Council to boost youth work spending by £90K

 

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Pre-Qual on the streets of Brighton a year ago

 

Almost exactly a year ago we were congratulating the Brighton ‘Protect Youth Services’ campaign on its creative and successful defence of youth provision in the town. In the aftermath the Pre-Qual group in a thoughtful and challenging blog concluded:

If this campaign to protect youth services has proved one thing, it is that when you organise around a demand which is achievable, have an argument which is strong enough and you pursue that argument with enough persistence and a great enough diversity of tactics, you can achieve concrete success. These were the key elements which won the youth service campaign; saving the service was realistically achievable, the arguments were solid and we simply did not leave the council alone, pursuing every possible avenue available to us, from getting out onto the streets to legally challenging the consultation process. By following this formula we believe that we can be successful in fighting off the cuts again next year, but we can’t do it on our own: we need your help.

It certainly looks as if this advice was taken on board. Indeed CYPN reports, Council to boost youth work spending by £90K :

Proposals set to be considered by members of Brighton and Hove Council next Thursday (22 February) will see the extra money handed to local youth work providers.

A “cross party youth group”, set up in Brighton last year to bring politicians and young people together, will decide how the additional funding should be spent.

“The £90k proposal will be discussed at the next cross party youth group, which includes representatives from the three political groups and from various youth groups across the city,” a council spokesman said.

“It is this group which will be recommending how this additional money should be prioritised.”

 

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Adam looking chuffed

 

Adam Muirhead, chair of the Institute for Youth Work and local youth worker, who will be speaking at our IDYW national conference on March 9,  has welcomed Brighton and Hove’s decision to buck the national trend of continuing cuts. Interestingly at least part of the reason for the exceptional nature of the decision might well lie in the fact that the town’s politics are volatile and contested – Labour, Greens and Tories vying for influence and power. None of them can afford to be smug and indifferent to the views of their public, including young people, so often ignored.

“Local politicians from across different parties in Brighton and Hove have really tried to listen to young people,” Adam suggests.

“They have then put their money where their mouth is by being supportive of young people, empowering them and protective of youth services.”

The £90,000 extra spend on youth work is part of a package of additional funding, worth £460,000, to improve support for young people in Brighton and Hove.

It’s good to begin a week with uplifting news. Sending our thanks and solidarity to the young people and youth workers of Brighton, who’ve continued the fight so capably.

Neoliberal Norms see UK Youth and NYA competing and individualising

At the end of last week, I was involved in a debate at the Youth&Policy conference about where youth work has come from, where it’s up to and where it might be going? Within this discussion, it was impossible to escape the impact of neoliberal assumptions on our practice, such as the rule of the market, the necessity of competition and the individualising of our experience. But wasn’t it all a bit abstract?

 

Within hours of getting home reality responded, ‘not at all’.

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The CYPN reports that ‘UK Youth and NYA in running for £1.8m grant.’

Youth work organisations UK Youth and the National Youth Agency (NYA) are to compete for £1.8m of funding to deliver projects to support girls and young women.

Funding charity Spirit of 2012 and the government-backed #iwill campaign have agreed to provide funding of £10,000 to each organisation to develop respective projects intended to empower girls and young women to change their communities for the benefit of other girls.

Either the NYA project called Fire and Wire, which will work with girls and young women in former mining communities or a UK Youth project to offer volunteering opportunities for girls with the British Red Cross will be awarded the full £1.8m.

The Fire and Wire project is being run jointly by the NYA and social action company Platform Thirty1. It focuses on helping girls and young women in former mining communities better understand their potential through neuroscience, psychology and physiology training.

Further information on Fire and Wire is to be found on the Platform Thirty1 website.

Every girl should know her worth and that she is valued for her individuality. Fire & Wire works with girls in former mining communities teaching the basics of neuroscience, developing an understanding of how their brains work and how best they can utilise their physiology and psychology. The project also equips participants with leadership and creative skills, helping them develop their own projects for change at both an individual and community level with younger peers.

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Is it just me, who wants to ask a few questions about all of this?

  1. Forgive my naivete, but why are these two leading youth work organisations in competition for the funding, even being pump-primed for the showdown? Would it not have been possible to negotiate a cooperative compromise, in which each took half of the finance available? Or are we to deduce that both outfits desperately need the cash to survive and will fight to the death to win, irrespective of the cost to the loser?
  2.  As for youth workers teaching the basics of neuroscience to young women I’m bound to ask, ‘what are these agreed and accepted basics?’ As best I understand the continuing neuroscience research into how brains work, including, of course, what gets called ‘the teen brain’ [and I do follow it closely] remains full of possibilities, full of contradictions. It remains a contested arena.  And, many, if not most neuroscientists, regret how their provisional, often speculative findings become popularised and hardened into supposed truths about the human condition. In particular, concern is expressed at the prevalence and influence of ‘neuromyths’ in schools. As an example,  the idea of hemispheric dominance (whether you are “left-brained” or “right-brained”) determines how you learn. Some educators split young people simplistically into visualisers and verbalisers, even though this division does not stand up to serious scrutiny. Neuroscience does not float free from ideology. Thus in neoliberal times, it can all too easily be used to confirm an ‘individualist’ agenda, in which young people are assured if they pull their socks up, they can make it, whatever the social constraints. They can even express their individuality, provided it conforms to neoliberal expectation.
  3. Thus Katy Fielding, assistant director of operations at the National Youth Agency announces that “Our Fire and Wire project will support practitioners to enable young women to belong, develop and thrive in some of the most disadvantaged areas of the UK and we are extremely excited to get started.” The dilemma is that the area of Derbyshire, where the project will be based, has not been disadvantaged by chance or natural causes. The disadvantage remains the consequence of the conscious and vicious assault by the Thatcher government on the mining communities of this area in the 1980’s.  I lived through this period directly as I was the District Youth and Community Education Officer for Bolsover and my office was in Shirebrook. The women, young and old, were at the heart of resistance to the violence wreaked on their communities. Indeed through the efforts of the Miners’ Wives Support Group, the abandoned Shirebrook Primary School was converted into a Women’s Centre, complete with a nursery and creche, essential to freeing up the women to pursue the educational courses on offer. Supportive work was pursued with girls and young women through the youth club, a detached project and a specific young women’s project in Bolsover. Obviously, in the long run, these initiatives failed to prevent the tragic degeneration of these communities. Indeed, as I write, thirty years on, the Bolsover District Council is implementing yet another Regeneration Scheme.
  4. None of this is to suggest that a project such as Wire and Fire is a waste of time.  However a few years ago I returned to Shirebrook, home now of the infamous Sports Direct company. Disillusionment, even despair filled the smokeless air. The young people were not struggling because they didn’t know how their brains worked. Rather they were struggling because of a lack of opportunities, choices and meaningful jobs. Surely, any intervention has both to build individual and collective confidence, at one and the same time as challenging the stifling circumstances. Perhaps I’m not seeing the coal for the coke, but the immediate publicity for the competition and its entrants does feel decidedly up neoliberalism’s street.  The social problems created by neoliberal policies are always outsourced to us as ‘our’ problems and, whilst we run around trying to fix things, the neoliberals smirk.

Certainly, though, my anxiety, probably due to an overreliance upon my amygdala, can be dispelled if the detailed rationale for both bids as a result of the pump-primed development stage is placed in the public arena. As you will suspect I’ll be especially interested in what constitutes the basic neuroscience to be taught to young women.