IDYW response to the APPG Inquiry – Are there sufficient youth workers to support youth services and other delivery models for good quality youth work?

YWalive

The third question asked by the NYA on behalf of the All Party Parliamentary Group.

Are there sufficient youth workers to support youth services and other delivery models for good quality youth work?

Our starting point is necessarily young people, their interests and concerns, For instance, the National Council for Voluntary Youth Services [2013] research found that up to 35% of 10-15 year olds were then using a youth club either most days or at least one day a week. Yet, as the Committee will know, some of the Cabinet Office’s own returns, together with research carried out by Unison and more recently by the YMCA all reveal that state funding for youth work facilities has been cut so heavily since 2010 that many local authority Youth Services have disappeared completely and others decimated. As a result across the country up to one million young people have lost their easily accessible, ‘safe place’, all-year-round leisure-time facilities – open access youth clubs and centres, detached work projects and provision for groups such as LGBT young people.

Hence the straightforward response to the question posed is negative. There is also a tension in that phrase “good quality youth work’.  The drive or requirements for evidence and impact assessment to demonstrate value for money are not the only ways to gauge ‘quality’. In many cases, it could be said that they lead to a distortion in the work in order to fulfil the requirements to provide the figures and the audit trails. However, that apart, because of the cuts in services there is a marked change in the number of workers delivering open access services on the ground.  One significant, oft-hidden, result of this is the diminishing number of workers, lost through redundancy and retirement, able to meet the supervision requirements specified by the NYA and JNC. The circle is vicious as both open access provision and staff experienced in this field disappear.

Weighing up the number of youth workers available is rendered all the more difficult as the breakdown of the local authority youth service has led to the fragmentation of what are recognised as appropriate qualifications. Many national and local voluntary organisations, including faith groups and uniformed organisations, the police, private companies, sports clubs and associations and even the military now seek to deliver their own versions of work with young people.  There is little in the way of collaboration and no clear picture of exactly what is being provided, and what the qualifications are of the people employed. For example, many NCS programmes recruit both volunteers and paid workers who are university students following all manner of degrees from languages to science . Other organisations recognise military service as appropriate experience or, less controversially, the completion of an NVQ certificate or diploma.

Certainly, it seems indisputable that, compared with 2010, there are now far too few youth workers (paid or voluntary) and far too few open access youth work  facilities within which those workers can practice in their distinctive ways.

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