Further to our post questioning the direction of the recent Labour Party commitment to youth services, Reviving Youth Work as Soft-Policing: Labour Party Policy? you will find below a letter to the Guardian from Bernard Davies, which was sadly not published.
TO THE GUARDIAN
A commitment by one of the main political parties to require councils to provide a minimum level of local youth provision (‘Labour vows to rebuild youth services’, 31 July) is to be welcomed after the way those services have been devastated under ‘austerity’. As a sign that it is taking this seriously, it is good to know, too, that it has commissioned its own research to support other findings that council spending on these services has fallen by at least 50% since 2012.
For those of us who were involved in youth work before all this started, however, Labour’s rationale for its policy in very depressing. Without in any way denying the importance of tackling youth crime, and in particular knife crime, it is surely worth restating that most of the up to nearly 30% of the 10-15 age group who were using or sampling youth work facilities in 2013 were not actual or even potential criminals. Whether they engaged as a member of a now abandoned club or through a now closed-down detached work project, the work started from the interests and concerns they brought with them and had unashamedly educational and developmental goals. It thus assumed their potential and sought to encourage and support them to go, not just to where they’d never been before, but to where, individually and with their peers, they might never have dreamed of going. Along the way, of course, the practice might also often turn out to be ‘preventative’ of all sorts of less positive outcomes.
Why is a party which claims to be breaking out of the dominant neo-liberal ways of making policy adopting such unimaginative, conformist and indeed negative aspirations in its approach to this, for young people, crucial area of public services?
Clearly, it is incumbent on us to respond to the Labour Party [LP] consultation led by Cat Smith, the party’s shadow youth minister. We’ll do a separate post this week explaining how to make a submission. It’s not necessary to be an LP member to be involved.