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.



  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.



  1. Thanks for the effort put into to this.everyone. As someone out of the professional loop I have a few comments and questions, lets start with Is the Youth Service to be Politically aligned to one particular political party or movement ? If not why are we quoting one parties slogan in 16 ? I’m not fluent in ‘Youth Worker’ so do not understand 1 or 6, I am afraid 9 reads as intended to keep ordinary people at bay and justify failed projects and working practices is there no way lay people can assess the effectiveness of youth projects ?. I would have used Voluntary Youth provision instead of Faith Groups in 12 but I’m biased hope this helps.

  2. Tony- Thanks for the helpful comments. You’re right about the opportunist reference to Labour’s slogan. I put it in late last night – too much village red. Need to think more about 9 as it’s not meant to exclude. It’s a shot across the bows of the impact measurement consultants, but is not meant to suggest, for example, that a youth club management committee or a Scouting equivalent can’t make judgements about how well things are going etc..

  3. I just feel the best way to defend youth work is to build as wider political consensus in support of it as possible rather than make it a party political football.

    To build that consensus youth workers have to be willing to develop easily understandable vocabulary and practice. In my experience Immeasurable means the youth service in my area has come, existed and gone without making any measurable difference to the young people I work with and I suspect that pattern is repeated up and down the country, If the tide is turning and we are to see the return of ‘Professional’ youth workers I hope they will not isolate themselves quite so effectively from the people in all sectors of society whose interest in young peoples welfare would normally make them natural allies.

    If this is a false dawn and LA resources do not stretch to lavish budgets for Professional Youth Services, then Youth Work will continue to be practiced as most of it all ways has been practiced, in the voluntary sector,

    The Voluntary Sector is a relatively untapped resource and a service on a restricted budget could still have a massive impact on young peoples lives by forming a radical policy of truly engaging in the voluntary sectors work rather than trying to maintain i’Its Own’ front line provision.. “Beware of Area Youth Workers bearing grants”

  4. Much appreciated. Lots to respond to, but I’m out tonight. By the ‘immeasurable; I mean the ways in which we influence young people, their sense of themselves, of others, of society. Is there any chance you can make it to our IDYW conference in Birmingham a week Friday? It would be good to meet and exchange views face-to-face. The event itself would gain from your presence and the necessary, awkward questions you ask of the ‘profession’. I love the Health Warning.

  5. I hope to attend the conference but it will depend on the availability of cover for the scout troop.
    The Health Warning came up when having been told there was “No youth centres” a detached team could use to work with their young people I introduced them to one of the three group scout leaders with huts in the area, in return for help bringing the hut up to minimum standards the youth service got the use of a building they didn’t know existed.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.