Annette and Sinead argue that the time has come for professionally qualified youth workers and informal educators to be actively contributing to educational policy, alongside other professionals; instead of being restricted and pigeonholed by neoliberal discourses which place young people in deficit.
The article begins:
UK discourse depicts young people as out of control and in need of punitive policy responses amid concerns about knife and gun crime, poor mental health or unemployment. Yet, while policy seeks to alleviate persistent problems that young people face in contemporary society, it often responds by using language that stigmatises and dehumanises young people who are labelled as vulnerable, scrounger or troublesome in a situation where the, ‘lack of decent employment (or any employment)accessible to these young people is airbrushed out of the picture’ (Mackie, 2019:3). Yet, this article asserts the viable and purposeful role of professionally qualified youth workers as informal educators which is largely missing from policy and traditional educational research literature. In responding to Ledwith (2018), who argues that simply offering a critique, ‘cannot dismantle the power of the neoliberal story without a captivating counter narrative’ (p.23), we seek new narratives, that are, ‘inspired by values that are at the heart of the future we would like to see’ (p.23).