Advocating for the youth sector: Refusing to be silenced in Queensland, Australia

autonomy

On more than one occasion across the last decade, we have lamented the voluntary youth sector’s increasing loss of its vital autonomy, its collusion with neoliberal government diktat and its increasingly corporate outlook. This slide into incorporation continues to be expressed in mergers and takeovers. Just a year ago we noted, ‘Once there were many, now but one? UK Youth and Ambition merge’.  It’s worth remembering too that the National Council for Voluntary Youth Services [NCVYS] once the proudly independent voice of the voluntary youth sector was consigned to the historical waste-bin as part of this process. This week CYPN reports that ‘Youth sector organisations announce merger.’ In this case, it is the new kids on the block, the Centre for Youth Impact and Project Oracle, who have been thrust together, their futures in jeopardy. CYPN  comments, “it is the latest in a long line of mergers in the youth sector in recent years. In January it was announced that youth mental health charities Place2Be and The Art Room would integrate services”.

Of course staying alive, well and critical in the present climate is no easy matter. Down in Australia our friends at Youth Affairs Network Queensland [YANQ] reveal their dilemmas in the latest newsletter.

YANQ

Queensland Government continues its approach to silencing advocacy

It is now over five years since Queensland Government cut operational funding of Youth Affairs Network of Queensland (YANQ). As the peak body representing over 580 individuals and organisations from across the state and with over 30 years history since the youth sector came together and established its peak body, YANQ remains the main advocacy organisation for youth sector in Queensland.

Although it was the LNP/ Newman Government, during its slash and burn reign, that initially defunded YANQ, the ALP since regaining government has only made promises of reinstating YANQ’s funding which are still to be materialised. In the past two years the Government has provided $50k per year to YANQ as interim funding but despite lodging a number of proposals to the Government YANQ still struggles to appropriately fulfil all its peak body role in supporting the youth sector and representing the sector at policy and advocacy level without receiving full operational funding.

The only reason we can think of as to why the Government is not reinstating YANQ’s funding is our outspoken and uncompromising advocacy on youth issues. As many of you be aware, YANQ has a strong value base from which we operate. This value base underpins everything we say and do. We simply cannot compromise the well-being of marginalised young people and for the sake of receiving funding and getting a seat around the table, become silent or accept the injustices that are inflicted on our children and young people.

The role of a peak body in a healthy democracy is not to be an extended arm of the government (as some peaks have unfortunately become). Rather the role of a peak body is to provide critique of policies and programs which Governments have. This critique is based on the information gathered through membership which works in various capacity with young people day in and day out. The collective knowledge of YANQ members runs into thousands of years. It is short sited of a Government to not tap into this knowledge and mistake criticism for being adversarial.

Read more at Queensland Youth Sector News

 

 

Contribute to the Labour Party Consultation, ‘Building a Statutory Youth Service’

Following our concern about the tone of Labour’s proposed revival of youth services – Reviving Youth Work as Soft-Policing: Labour Party Policy? and Bernard Davies responds to Labour’s skewed youth work vision  – we want to motivate contributions to the Party’s consultation on youth services. The content of the consultation document is much more encouraging than the initial press releases.

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Youth services do a vital job in our communities. The benefits they provide for young people are real and long-lasting. However, with direct government funding to local authorities falling by a half since 2010, youth services have seen significant cutbacks as councils seek to make savings. This means that a generation of young people could potentially be left without the opportunity to play a full part in our communities.

Thank you for taking part in the consultation process. Whether you’re a Labour Party member or not, we want to hear your ideas on how the next Labour government should tackle the challenges our country faces, and build a more equal Britain for the many, not the few.

In order to contribute go to the link below, where you can use an embedded submission box or e-mail youthservices@labour.org.uk. 

https://www.policyforum.labour.org.uk/commissions/education/youth-services?ua=submission

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To access a copy of the consultation document, go to https://www.scribd.com/document/385206130/Youth-Services-Consultation?secret_password=Yae5LKPVH5u34jRM05KM#from_embed

The consultation period ends on November 12, 2018

 

 

Bernard Davies responds to Labour’s skewed youth work vision

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.

 

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Bernard listens attentively to Jon Ord – ta to Justin Wylie for the photo

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?

Sincerely,

Bernard Davies

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.

 

Youth services try to mould young people – how about they help young people mould society instead? A view from outside our ranks

Laura Kelly, a Research Fellow and Ellie Munro, a PhD student, both at the University of Birmingham offer an insightful analysis of the present situation facing youth work and youth services. It’s heartening to read such a supportive and informative piece from outside of our own ranks.

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Ta to Radical Youth, Notts

Youth services try to mould young people – how about they help young people mould society instead?

Laurie and Ellie conclude:

Under the current government, youth services look set to further embed an emphasis on civic responsibility, while young people’s entitlements – to affordable housing, secure employment and educational and recreational services – are side-lined. And although Labour’s plans may do more to secure funding and embed services in local authorities across England, they will be weakened if youth services are seen only as a tool for shaping law-abiding and employment-ready young people.

A more radical approach to youth work and services would support young people to identify and collectively challenge the factors that threaten their security and well-being. If any future government – Labour, Conservative or otherwise – truly wishes to empower young people, they will have to be bold enough to take a more politicised view of social action and value youth workers as educators and advocates – not just policy instruments.

NCS coming under increasing political pressure from local government

REVIVING YOUTH WORK AND REIMAGINING A YOUTH SERVICE: IDYW STARTING POINTS

15. The National Citizen Service ought to be closed or curtailed, its funding transferred into all-year round provision, of which summer activities will be a part.

We won’t get above ourselves, but perhaps the Local Government Association has seen the leaflet containing our proposals. Be that as it may, the National Citizen Service is coming under increasing pressure as this Guardian piece reveals.

 

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Ta to dailysquat.com

Councils have urged ministers to shift funds from David Cameron’s residential youth scheme to their own year-round schemes after it emerged his project used 95% of all government spending on youth services despite reaching relatively few teenagers.

The Local Government Association said some of the £634m allocated to the National Citizen Service (NCS) over the past few years would make up for some of the cuts to council schemes. More than 600 youth centres had closed.

The NCS was one of Cameron’s early announcements as prime minister in 2010 – part of his “big society” policy. It offers three to four-week programmes where 15- to 17-year-olds work in teams on projects connected to skills and the community.

The scheme, which was allocated £1.5bn in funding overall, has faced criticism for lax spending controls and poor management.

Last month a parliamentary answer from Tracey Crouch, the culture minister, revealed the NCS had, in 2016 alone, spent almost £10m on places which were never filled.

Other questions from Labour to Crouch found that companies working with the NHS were permitted to make profits from the service and that two local partners delivering the scheme had hit serious financial difficulties.

You must forgive me for raising an eyebrow at the sweeping reply from the Department for Digital, Culture Media and Sport [DCMS].

A spokeswoman for the Department for DCMS said the NCS had “improved the lives of 400,000 young people in disadvantaged areas across the country”.

Given the emphasis nowadays on what we are told is sophisticated data collection in the youth sector I might have expected a more revealing sense of what improvement and disadvantage mean. Then again perhaps not.

The response from such as the National Youth Agency, who have actively and uncritically supported Cameron’s increasingly discredited vanity project, will be significant. What price now the absurd claim that NCS is the fastest growing youth movement in the UK since the Scouts started a century ago? As if a grassroots youth movement could be created from above by government diktat.

Let’s keep the pressure on to revive and reimagine via the Labour Party consultation and NYA’s National Youth Work Week.

 

Reviving Youth Work as Soft-Policing: Labour Party Policy?

Spare me the lecture on pragmatism, but my heart sinks. To resuscitate the youth service as primarily a ‘soft-policing’ agency with crime reduction ‘targets’ flies in the face of our history and philosophy, whatever its own contradictions.

The first of our Starting Points for REVIVING YOUTH WORK AND REIMAGINING A YOUTH SERVICE  published a few months ago declared:

Youth Work’s fundamental aspiration is profoundly educational, political and universal. It seeks to nurture the questioning, compassionate young citizen committed to the development of a socially just and democratic society. It is not a soft-policing instrument of social control.

Meanwhile,

Labour announces plans to make provision of youth services compulsory to tackle violent crime

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Ta to the idleman.co.uk

 

Announcing Labour’s plans for youth services, Mr Khan said: “As violent crime continues to rise across the country, it’s more vital than ever that we get tough on the causes of crime, as well as crime.

Of course, I protest too much the writing was on the wall at Prime Minister’s Questions back in early June.

Lloyd Russell-Moyle (Brighton, Kemptown) (Lab/Co-op)

Q7. Last year, a quarter of young people thought about suicide, and one in nine attempted suicide. Young people are three times more likely to be lonely than older people. Knife crime is up, and gang crime is up. There are fewer opportunities for young people than ever before—68% of our youth services ​have been cut since 2010—with young people having nowhere to go, nothing to do and no one to speak to. Is it now time for a statutory youth service, and will the Prime Minister support my ten-minute rule Bill after Prime Minister’s questions? [905633]

At the time I commented:

I’m probably illustrating how out of touch I am, but I continue to disagree with the line taken by Lloyd in his question to Teresa May. Arguing for a Youth Service on the grounds that an alarming number of young people have felt suicidal or that knife and gang crime is rising does not offer, in my opinion, a convincing and sustainable basis for renewing universal, open access, informal education provision, which remains valuable in its own right, whilst being humble about its part in tackling social dilemmas rooted deeply in an alienating and exploitative society.

Out of touch indeed!

 

 

A Better Way – improving services and building communities

insights for a better way

A new publication from the ‘A Better Way’ network deserves our serious and critical attention. Entitled, Insights for A Better Way: improving services and building strong communities it is a thought-provoking mix of stories, ideas and case studies.

The group explains:

Communities could be so much stronger, services so much better and this collection of insights lights the way. Individually, the contributions flesh out our Better Way propositions (see below). Collectively, they develop four themes that take us a further step toward our ultimate ‘call to action’, providing rich ideas, practical experience and inspiration.

First, we’ve started to demonstrate the value of stories that move hearts as well as minds, bringing the propositions alive and giving ‘ideas friends’. Take this story by Julia Unwin, one of many that will inspire you. Second, these essays tell us what we mean by ‘shared leadership’, a concept that lies at the heart of our belief in collaboration rather than competition. Sue Tibballs invites us to be bold in taking social power and Cate Newnes-Smith calls on us to become ‘systems leaders – two of many powerful essays on this theme.  Third, the rich potential of communities, people and organisations is really brought home here, with writers such as Karin Woodley advocating organisations that practice ‘radical listening’ and Sona Mahtani and Olli Batchelor, to name just a few, writing about places and institutions that give people power, voice and agency.  Finally, there’s ideas and experience in this volume for putting all of the Better Way propositions into practice, avoiding lip-service, from Rich Wilson’s Good Help, David Robinson’s Warm Web, to Matt Kepple‘s Wikipedia for the social sector – just three examples out of very many thought-provoking pieces.

If you’d like to read the whole collection, it’s available here, including an introduction which gives more details about these themes and how they are brought out in the essays.

Some individual pieces can be found on our blog page, including contributions by Polly NeateJulia UnwinGraeme DuncanKathy EvansAlicia MooreSona Mahtani and Colin Falconer.  A number are being featured by Civil Society news: essays by Caroline SlocockChris WrightMatt Kepple, Karin Woodley, Mark JohnsonSue TibballsSo Jung Rim and Steve Wyler.

Or if you’d like to focus on the essays that shed light on a particular Better Way proposition, you can find them here: