Youth and No Work – a thoughtful, challenging reflection from Sally Baxter

In this latest article on the Youth & Policy site, Sally Baxter begins:

As a youth worker in a small London based organisation I wanted to share my experience, taking the journey from developing online youth work to furlough, which offers a contrasting perspective to the recent article in this journal entitled ‘Youth Work under lockdown’ (Barclay, 2020). [ Also see https://indefenceofyouthwork.com/2020/04/23/youth-work-under-lockdown-so-how-do-we-do-this-lauren-barclay-reports/]

I hope reading her thoughtful and questioning conclusion will encourage you to read the article in full.

Article: Youth and no work – the full piece

Time for reflection

Some organisations have continued to operate. The continued operation raises questions of a saviour complex.

“A psychological construct which makes a person feel the need to save other people. This person has a strong tendency to seek people who desperately need help and to assist them, often sacrificing their own needs for these people.” (Benton, 2017)

To what extent is this driven by the need to be at the epicentre? To be useful? We can see this in other places: dangerous trends on social media, for example, of non-qualified well-intentioned people setting themselves up to become a broker between domestic abuse victims and the police. Are youth and community workers on a mission to justify ourselves as the advocate between the community and the state?

In times of social unease when people have felt let down by the state, it is the community workers who rally people, organise, capture the mood and often become spokespersons for the movement.  As criticism grows of the government handling of the COVID-19 crisis, is this providing an ideal time to offer some comfort and stability to others? Or are youth and community workers desperate to justify their salaries? To satisfy funders? To be seen in line with other professionals: teachers, social workers.

Are we (as a sector) worried we will lose touch with young people and when this is over and its reopening time, they will reopen with no-one to reopen for? We do this nearly every September. Young people join secondary schools with larger enrichment programmes then primary or go off to college and university and have changing priorities. Junior members transition to senior youth club and new members join following summer activities. This change is part of the work, we understand that young people want to belong to the youth club and we help them make the most of it, but they are never ‘our young people’.

Currently we do not know how long this will last. We do not know when we can reopen and return to work and what the long term effects of this will be.

Most of us have had the ‘what will be the first thing you do’ chat. Often talking like we have been in a four year war zone not a four week lock down to keep us safe during a pandemic. So, we remain optimistic that after being so restricted, young people will be ready to try new things, to get outside, get active and engaged in defining the post COVID-19 era.

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