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.
TOWARDS AN IN DEFENCE OF YOUTH WORK POSITION PAPER
- The neoliberal competitive desire to marketise and individualise is utterly at odds with youth work dedicated to cooperation and the common good.
- 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.
- 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.
- Inter-agency work is vital, but youth workers should retain their identity and autonomy rather than be absorbed into multi-disciplinary teams.
- Youth Work as an integral element in education from cradle to grave should be situated in the Department for Education.
- 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.
- 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.
- Open access, universal provision is more effective than imposed, targeted work in reaching vulnerable and disadvantaged young people.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Irrespective of Brexit, Youth Work ought to embrace the Declaration of the 2nd European Youth Work Convention  and be internationalist in outlook.
- 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