The LGA vision for Youth Services – Bernard Davies asks, ‘where is the youth work?’

Further to our earlier post re the LGA/NYA conference in London on Wednesday, we can now direct you to the LGA publication, Bright Futures: our vision for youth services. In its words – helping children and young people to fulfil their potential is a key ambition of all councils, but our children’s services are under increasing pressure. This resource forms part of the LGA’s Bright Futures campaign – our call for fully funded children’s services.


Responding immediately Bernard Davies sounds a welcoming note of caution.

A Local Government Association vision – for Youth Services but not for youth work


Any kind of forward thinking for ‘Youth Services’ is rare enough these days, as the present government has again demonstrated by apparently binning its plans to lay out a youth policy. A new ‘vision’ for these Services is therefore more than welcome, not least perhaps when it comes from an organisation with the potential clout of the Local Government Association (LGA). To be even more optimistic, its new paper could even be taken as validation for IDYW posing the question: ‘So – is the tide turning?’


What’s more, this one has some proposals which resonate strongly with some parts of our own current discussion paper:

  • It starts from a view of young people as citizens now – as ‘a valued and respected part of the community whose needs and wishes are considered equally with those of other groups’.
  • It describes young people’s voices as ‘central’ to any offer to be made to them, including their role in service design and operation.
  • It gives unqualified endorsement to their ‘choos(ing) to attend many services on a voluntary basis’ – and to ‘provision structured around their needs locally’, including ‘universal. open access provision’.
  • It argues for services to ‘focus on developing the skills and attributes of young people, rather than attempting to “fix a problem”’.


It also takes up some specific policy positions which for the present and indeed all recent governments will sound like heresy. On the NCS for example, also echoing a proposal in our own paper, it suggests

… the devolution of a portion of NCS funding to local authorities to support local provision for young people, expanding the reach of NCS funding from a time-limited programme to ongoing support and an enhanced local offer.

It also wants to see the Government explicitly include responsibility for young people within a Ministerial portfolio, to champion young people within government. And, though it continues to take as a given that local councils should remain the body with overall statutory responsibility for these services, it nonetheless explicitly encourages a search for ‘alternative delivery models’ including ‘Young People’s Foundations (to) bring together the public, private, voluntary and community sector…’


And yet, and yet – in no particular order:

  • Why must a paper like this just assume that commissioning is the only way of sharing out public money?
  • Why does it not challenge the statutory limit placed on local authorities’ responsibilities as extending ‘only as far as possible’ given how this has been used repeatedly as an excuse for cutting local Youth Services’ funding?
  • Why in the whole of the document is staff training considered only in relation to ‘safeguarding’?
  • Why, in its wholly uncritical treatment of ‘outcomes’, does the paper never raise the need to develop different methods for assessing these for different practices – and especially of course for an open access, young people-led practice like youth work?


Which brings me finally to the most blatant and damaging absence in the paper: where in fact is the youth work? As such, it gets two passing references in a 3.600-word paper, when for example, alongside ‘youth offending team officers and mental health workers’, youth workers are listed as ‘skilled practitioners’. However, even here, what is highlighted is these practitioners’ purportedly ‘expert knowledge’ for ‘identify(ing) potential issues that require further investigation’ and not the distinctive features of their face-to-face practice. Yet it these which, for so many young people, turn out to be crucial to their actually getting engaged in the first place and ultimately often therefore to their willingness to open themselves up to some striking, personally developmental experiences.     


Even amongst policy-makers with such positive intentions and commitments, it seems, turning the tide for that practice has clearly still some way to go.


Institute of Youth Work questions the government’s commitment to youth work and young people



Tracey Crouch with table tennis bat – ta to


Following on from yesterday’s question, ‘where are the voices of the youth sector?’, it’s heartening to see the Institute of Youth Work [IYW] responding critically to the government’s abandonment of its commitment to a three-year youth policy statement. Indeed the report in CYPN relates that in a strongly worded open letter sent to Tracey Crouch [the minister for civil society], the IYW states that it is “seeking assurances about the value of young people and youth work to yourself and your department”.  The IYW warns that the U-turn could lead to “disaffection” among young people and “consultation fatigue” when the new strategy is consulted on. The Institute goes on to say that “many of our members directly supported young people to be involved in the extensive DCMS consultation workshops earlier this year – losing the policy this was building towards means we may have abused the trust that these people put in us and you that their views will be heard and acted upon.” On the grapevine, we’ve heard that an original draft was even more outspoken, but that diplomacy prevailed! Whatever it is refreshing to see the IYW challenging government policy or in this case the very lack of it.

Compare this to the bland statement proffered by Leigh Middleton, managing director of the National Youth Agency, which ignores utterly the amount of empty talk already endured: “I am pleased that the minister has launched consultation on a strategy for civil society and welcome the opportunity to continue our dialogue with DCMS. My hope is that this is a real opportunity to get young people listened to and their needs focused on by government.”

Read the letter in full – Tracey Crouch MP – Open Letter 20.11.17

PS DCMS stands for Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

Austerity is punishing an entire generation – where are the voices of the ‘youth sector’?

Sunday’s Guardian carried a letter signed by over a hundred leading academics and activists, ‘The chancellor must end austerity now – it is punishing an entire generation.’ We publish it in full below and ponder why we still await a similar, impassioned call from the youth sector’s leadership?


The violence of austerity cover - cropped

Ta to


Seven years of austerity has destroyed lives. An estimated 30,000 excess deaths can be linked to cuts in NHS spending and the social care crisis in 2015 alone. The number of food parcels given to impoverished Britons has grown from tens of thousands in 2010 to over a million. Children are suffering from real-terms spending cuts in up to 88% of schools. The public sector pay cap has meant that millions of workers are struggling to make ends meet.

Alongside the mounting human costs, austerity has hurt our economy. The UK has experienced its weakest recovery on record and suffers from poor levels of investment, leading to low productivity and falling wages. This government has missed every one of its own debt reduction targets because austerity simply doesn’t work.

The case for cuts has been grounded in ideology and untruths. We’ve been told public debt is the outcome of overspending on public services rather than bailing out the banks. We’ve been told that while the government can find money for the DUP, we cannot afford the investment in public services and infrastructure. We’ve been told that unless we “tighten our belts” we’ll saddle future generations with debt – but it’s the onslaught of cuts that is punishing an entire generation.

Given the unprecedented economic uncertainty posed by Brexit negotiations and the private sector’s failure to invest, we cannot risk exacerbating an already anaemic recovery with further public spending cuts. We’ve reached a dangerous tipping point. Austerity has failed the British people and the British economy. We demand the chancellor ends austerity now.

Kicking off National Youth Work Week without a selfie, but with a Corbyn eulogy

There I was wondering whether I’d get stick for political bias if I posted this paean of praise to youth work by Jeremy Coburn, when along comes a National Youth Agency newsletter recommending its message. So without further ado.


Certainly, his avowed stance lends weight to the argument that we should be focusing our attention on winning the support of the anti-austerity parties, led by Labour, for a reimagined Youth Service as an integral part of a National Education Service. It will be fascinating to see the feedback from our ‘Is the tide turning?’ events being held this week.



However, I’ve failed miserably to respond to the NYA’s request to be part of the Support youth services with a selfie in #YWW17 – details on the link. I could summon up neither the courage nor conceit to comply. I know I’m a curmudgeon. In an attempt to save face, as I reckoned they owed me a favour or two, I tried the idea out on Glyka, our rescue dog and Leonidas, our rescue racehorse.  My line was that Glyka would look cute and Leo aristocratic with the bonus I could post the pics on Facebook and generate huge numbers of ‘likes’ and giddily appreciative comments. Both of them were scathing in the face of my embarrassing ignorance. Me taking a picture of them did not count as a ‘selfie. With a bark and a neigh I was dismissed from their presence. Anyway if you feel so inclined, you can make up for my abashed surliness. Cheers.


SUPPORTING VOTES AT 16 – back the bill


Representation of the People (Young People’s Enfranchisement and Education) Bill 2017-19

This Bill is to have its second reading debate today, Friday 3 November 2017.



Ta to the British Youth Council


Blogs on BYC page


The best way for young people to learn about politics is to get involved



“What we need is a country that wholeheartedly supports and listens to young people”



“There’s a clear appetite in young people to be involved in the democratic process”



Turning the Tide in Birmingham, November 8 – Have your say



(In partnership with Birmingham Association of Youth Clubs

and Youth Work Europe)





a BIG CONVERSATION for youth workers


Wednesday 8th November

10.30 – 13.30


581 Pershore Road


                   B29 7EL                      


“Should local authority youth services be re-opened, or are there different ways that state-supported youth work can be organised?”


“What principles should underpin the revival of open youth work?”


“How can these changes be made feasible in terms of funding, infrastructure and staffing?”


Responses will be fed back to In Defence of Youth Work

for analysis and dissemination.


Please RSVP

to John Grace:

or Ed Wright:


In preparation for this event, colleagues may wish to read an article by

Bernard Davies in the May edition of Youth and Policy (pp24-44):


And the paper “Is the tide turning?” by In Defence of Youth Work at:

Hidden Faces – young people leaving care speak out

Alison Wilkinson gets in touch with this important message and moving video, hoping in particular that you will use the resource and let her know you’ve done so.


National Care Leavers Week 2017

I am writing to you in my role as Youth Services Manager for Bournville Village Trust (BVT), a housing association in the West Midlands founded by George Cadbury in 1900.

Part of my role at BVT involves the strategic management of our supported living scheme for 16-18 year old care leavers, and it is particularly in my role as advocate for them, in which I write to you.

Currently, there are around 94,000 young people in care in the UK*; that’s the same as the amount of people who were estimated to attend Reading Festival this year! There has been a 7% increase in children in care since 2010 and that figure is still rising*.

National Care Leavers Week 2017 runs from the 25th October to 1st November and aims to highlight some of the challenges that care leavers face daily, as well as raise the profile of some of the fantastic work that happens in partnership with, or because of, care leavers.

Earlier this year, BVT had the pleasure of working with Rage Arts on a 4-week film project for the Urban Film Club, which empowers young people to make a professional film of their choice over 3 weeks. Our group were passionate about making a film which challenged the stereotypes of care leavers and positively raised their profile. The result is one of this year’s finalists in Bottle Smoke Film Festival: ‘Hidden Faces’.  

The script is an amalgamation of experiences and observations informed by the groups collective entering and growing up through the care system. It is a powerful and poignant piece of theatre from which the group hope positive discussions about those in and leaving care, will emerge.



The theme this year of National Care Leavers Week is ‘togetherness’ and so, it’s fitting that ‘Hidden Faces’ questions how much a part of society young people leaving local authority care feel.

I asked one of the young people what she thought about showing ‘Hidden Faces’ to a group of delegates at a conference next week, her reply was “I think everyone should see it, it explains how a lot of us feel”. I asked her what she meant by that and she elaborated:
“People think, assume, that everyone comes from a ‘normal’ background. They don’t. Not everyone. And sometimes, obviously not everyone, but a lot of people who go through care, well, they have other problems too. Like, they feel rejected by people, sometimes their parents, sometimes other people; or they don’t have or know their family at all. A lot of people I know in care have a hard time. They find it hard to trust people and they have problems. Depression and that. They self-harm or get really angry and no one understands why, sometimes they don’t understand why even! I’m about to move into my own property as I turn18. I’ve decorated it and all that, but I don’t know….I don’t feel happy. I don’t feel like I deserve it; it feels like things are going too well, and I’m waiting for it to fall apart.”
Another care leaver who I spoke with a few weeks ago, who is now a mum in her 40s said something similar:
“I was angry when I was younger. I didn’t know what I was angry about, but I was angry. I’d go round to friend’s houses for tea, and because I went to a school in a nice area; those houses were really big and really nice; and I felt…like I was trespassing in some way, like I didn’t belong there, I was out of place. And that made me angry too. And upset.”

The young people who made ‘Hidden Faces’ wanted to show the depths of complexity and emotion that can surround a care leaver’s life, and inspire both care leavers and wider society to recognise this, but not allow it to limit their ambitions in life! We recognise of course there is much more to this subject, this is just the start of a much wider discourse which social and political commentary will undoubtedly play a part.

If you decide to use the film, could I please ask you to fill in the accompanying data form to the best of your ability. We are trying to track how widely the message is spread and to reach at least 2,000 people in this next week and a half. If you are sharing on social media could I ask you to use the hashtags: #HiddenFaces and #NCLW17 and include our Twitter handle @BVTNews This will help enormously with the data collection.

National Care leavers Week 2017 Data Monitoring Form