IDYW Response to the APPG Inquiry – What are the key issues and challenges faced by young people being addressed by current youth service provisions?

YWalive

The second question asked by the NYA on behalf of the All Party Parliamentary Group.

What are the key issues and challenges faced by young people being addressed by current youth service provisions?

‘Have we got a vision of the future that is optimistic and democratic?’ This fundamental question facing society at large is one most keenly felt by young people, for whom life is increasingly precarious. After four decades of the neoliberal emphasis on the self-sufficient individual and the rule of the market young people are to be found in the mire of its contradictions, not least the the consequences of the policy of austerity upon families and communities. The impact of cuts in Public Services have been particularly disproportionate on what we once knew as the Youth Service, The figures of these cuts are now well known, so we don’t need to repeat them here, suffice to say there is a dearth of places for the free association of young people, of spaces to explore and create for themselves collectively visions of their future, to struggle with the issues they experience whether this be lack of meaningful employment, concerns about climate change, dilemmas in their personal and home life, sexual choices, opportunities for arts, music or sport or needing somewhere to live. In short there is a lack of provision, wherein young people explore self-critically the purpose and direction of their lives

Currently, we are all aware of the increase in concern over the mental health of young people – their anxiety,, their loneliness, their failure to be happy or well. The overwhelming political and professional response is to individualise, making the young person responsible for their alleged condition. If the isolation and fragmentation of young people’s lives are not seen as a collective or community issue, the tendency is to move to a case-work deficit model at odds with a young people-centred, process-led youth work. In this context we would argue that present youth services provision is losing its identity, shifting towards behavioural modification programmes, which focus on compliance with rather than criticism of the status quo. Young people need spaces, which are not experienced as being about regulation and surveillance.

The emphasis on conformity is at odds with a commitment to the nurturing of the questioning and informed young citizen, essential to the defence and extension of democracy in these increasingly authoritarian times. We believe that youth work can play a significant part in this struggle for democracy, provided it is granted a level of autonomy, which allows it to be responsive and improvisatory. To take the classic question of young people’s participation impressive work has been done through the mediums of youth councils and parliaments but in many ways these only scratch the surface. As the important PARTiSPACE research argues there is a fundamental flaw in many efforts to get young people to participate – ‘young people are being seen as not knowing or not wanting to participate and therefore needing education. There is little attention paid to structures of inequality and dominance or to young people’s competences and ideas. Rather than through teaching and training, participation is learned by ‘doing’. In our view, youth workers, operating outside of the formal structures of schooling, training, social services and youth justice, can support young people’s self-determination in a distinctive manner and thus enhance the democratic character of society as a whole.

IDYW Response to the APPG Inquiry – What is the role of youth work in addressing the needs and opportunities for young people?

 

 

YWalive

Ta to andyclow.com

The first question asked by the NYA on behalf of the All Party Parliamentary Group.

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What is the role of youth work in addressing the needs and opportunities for young people?

There are many different versions of youth work and it is highly likely the Committee will hear about many of them.  It is a term much used and much abused, reduced in recent times to mean more or less any form of work with young people. In contrast ‘In Defence of Youth Work’  argues that youth work takes place in a distinctive, open and free setting outside of the formal and imposed institutions of society, for example, schools, social services and youth justice. It starts from young people’s identification of their needs. It is holistic in intent, rooted in meaningful association and challenging conversation. Above all, it is based on the building of relationships with young people, which can be neither prescribed nor imposed. So often now, youth workers are directed to work with young people because they are perceived by others to have a problem, or to be causing a problem, or to be deficient in some way. This work demands predetermined outcomes, to be achieved within a set timescale. It may well be appropriate in other settings, but it contravenes an essential ingredient in the youth work process.  The rhythm and pace of our interaction with young people are under their control.

 

Thus we reaffirm our belief in an emancipatory and democratic Youth Work, founded on cornerstones of a practice, which:

  • works in non-stigmatising  with young people as young people who choose to be involved;
  • takes place in open-access settings – physical, social and cultural spaces which young people can ‘own’ and experience as safe;
  • is rooted in mutually respectful and trusting relationships amongst young people and between young person and adults;
  • offers young people informal educational opportunities and challenges which recognise their strengths and potential and start from their concerns and interests;
  • within boundaries of consistency and reliability, responds flexibly and creatively to young people in their here-and-now  as well as to their ‘transitions’;
  • works with and through their peer networks and wider shared identities, in the process identifying and responding as appropriate to individual needs and concerns;
  • at times deliberately blurs personal and professional boundaries  in order to communicate as openly and honestly as possible with young people;
  • uses activities both as vehicles for young people’s personal development and as opportunities in their own right for individual and group achievement and affirmation.

If youth work is to be renewed in the interests of young people and the common good, it is essential that state and voluntary sector policy-makers and providers start from this kind of positive definition of the practice, its purpose and role – as an educational and developmental provision for a wide range of young people who choose to engage in their own leisure time. On the other hand, if in the present political, media and funding climate the Committee makes the case primarily on the grounds that youth work could help reduce knife crime or drug-taking or school drop-outs, important as these issues are, what will almost certainly get ‘revived’ are ‘youth services’ that once again are ‘targeted’. As a result, most of those up-to-a-million young people who have been most directly affected by the systematic deconstruction of local Youth Services will get little if any benefit.

NHS at 70: Defending the Common Good Together

                                                             #NHSwontletgo

NHS at 70

Thanks to Sue Atkins for the collage

In our proposal,

REVIVING YOUTH WORK AND REIMAGINING A YOUTH SERVICE

our final point signals our solidarity with the struggle to defend the National Health Service on its 70th birthday.

The renaissance we urge hinges on a break from the competitive market and the self-centred individualism of neoliberalism and the [re]creation of a Youth Work dedicated to cooperation and the common good.

 

 

Issues in Youth Work: Intersectionality and Identity Politics

no singleissues

Ta to pinklarkin.com

Further to my recent post on the return of patriarchy I’ve had a couple of conversations about the how far the concept of intersectionality is influencing youth work practice. A  thread in these chats was the relationship between intersectionality and the notion of identity politics. Were they the same, different, even at odds with one another? Of course, much depended on our definitions of these ideas. For what it’s worth our rough and ready understandings were that intersectionality speaks to the crucial interconnectedness of who you are in terms of relations of power – your class, gender, race, sexuality, disability and faith, whereas identity politics focused on a specific sense of who you are can fail to speak to the connections. Perhaps it needs to be said that we weren’t talking about identity politics as caricatured in a Daily Mail editorial.

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Our tentative conclusion was that youth work practice, where it does engage with relations of power, leans towards identity politics rather than intersectionality. We presumed this tension is present in discussions about power on  Youth Work and allied courses in Higher Education and wondered if any lecturers and students might chip in their thoughts. Then, lo and behold, I tripped over a challenging piece by Sincere Kirabo on Open Democracy, entitled, Why criticisms of identity politics sound ridiculous to me.

Naysayers associate intersectionality with their favorite bogey monster: “identity politics.”

The phrase “identity politics” is merely a pejorative blanket term that invokes a variety of ambiguous, cherry-picked ideas of political failings.

Declaring something is “identity politics” is often a measure taken to trivialize identity-based issues that make many members of dominant social groups uncomfortable (e.g., Black Lives Matter critiquing anti-black racism, feminists critiquing sexism, LGBTQ activists critiquing cis-heteronormativity, etc.).

Basically, “identity politics” is used as an expression to identify political deviance — to describe political actions defying imbalanced political structures we’ve been conditioned to accept.

I hope you might read the piece in full as it poses many important questions and offers a useful historical backcloth to the emergence of intersectionality as an analytic tool.

Writer, educator, and social activist Sikivu Hutchinson explains it this way:

Intersectionality is the human condition. It addresses the multiple positions of privilege and disadvantage that human beings occupy and experience in a global context shaped by white supremacy, capitalism, neoliberalism, patriarchy, heterosexism, ableism, segregation and state violence.

Intersectionality upends the single variable politics of being “left” or “right.” It speaks to the very nature of positionality in a world in which it’s impossible to stake a claim on a solitary fixed identity that isn’t informed by one’s relationship to social, political and economic structures of power, authority and control that are themselves rooted in specific histories.

 

Youth Sector proposals ignored in Queensland state budget

Worrying news from our good friends in Queensland, Australia as the Labour administration ignores its proposals for investment in the youth sector.

 

YANQ

Another State Budget, Another Opportunity Missed

It was highly disappointing to see the Queensland State Budget ignoring the youth sector’s urgent needs. YANQ had outlined a number of proposals to the Treasury to have investment in youth sector increased. We specifically asked for additional funding for existing youth services as well as funding for new services and support structure for the sector as a whole. We had also asked for YANQ’s funding to be reinstated.

Tens of millions of dollars were directed towards expanding youth prisons and employing extra youth prison guards in this year’s budget. The government continues to pay lip service to investment in prevention but the budget papers, once again, confirmed that Labor, similar to LNP is showing no leadership in shifting the policy agenda and investment from territory end to prevention.

And then there is the concept of competing priorities. For example, the Queensland Ballet school received $14.5 million dollars towards expanding their facility. This is on top of $3.5 million in operational funding which they received from Queensland government in the past year. The $14.5 million given to the Queensland Ballet would have funded YANQ for over 50 years.

The youth sector is the only sector in Queensland which does not have a funded peak body. Youth services across the state have been starved of funding and they are left with no proper support for their networking, workforce and professional development. The government has shut the doors on the youth sector when it comes to policy development.

It is hard for us to be clear if the Labor government is consciously mirroring LNP when it comes to ignoring the plight of marginalised young people or if it is the public service which has become set in old ways and not being prepared to provide contemporary advice in a frank and fearless manner to the government of the day. Either way marginalised young people continue to be the losers. But make no mistake, we as a society will pay for this short-sightedness of our politicians and public servants.

 

 

 

Gus John responds to Teresa May’s ‘Windrush’ invitation

Gus John arrived in the UK in August 1964, aged 19, to study for the priesthood. But almost from the moment he arrived, he became involved in what was to become his life’s calling – education, youth work and the struggle for social justice and human rights for embattled communities as an activist and an academic.

gusjohn

Ta to Gusjohn.com

Open Letter to Prime Minister Theresa May

Dear Prime Minister

 Re:   Invitation to a reception for the 70th anniversary of Windrush at 10 Downing Street

It was with both surprise and utter bemusement that I received your invitation to the above.

We in this country have become used to foreign heads of state and leaders of movements being made international pariahs and being refused entry to the UK.   Robert Mugabe, Muammar Gaddafi, Louis Farrakhan, among others.   In my book, Prime Minister, the policies of your government, the incitement to racial hatred that they undoubtedly represent and the denial of fundamental human rights and the right to life itself to citizens of the Windrush generation who devoted all of their adult years to the development of Britain are enough to make you no less a pariah in the eyes of the Commonwealth and of the freedom-loving world than those whom your government over time has sought to ostracise.

 

In July 2013, with you as Home Secretary,  your government’s own vans were running around London boroughs with a large ‘immigrant’ population and displaying huge billboards targeted at ‘illegal’ immigrants and telling them to ‘Go Home or Face Arrest’.  What is worse is that your government lied not just to ‘illegal immigrants’ whom it wished to flush out, but to the public whom it wished to impress with its ‘zero tolerance’ stance on illegal immigration: ‘106 Arrests Last Week In Your Area’.  It turns out that 106 was the total number of arrests across the 6 pilot boroughs in which the vans had operated over a period of two days.  Arrests, not prosecutions or deportations. In your attempts to create ‘a hostile environment’ for ‘illegal’ immigrants, you placed 4 generations of Windrush arrivants and their descendants in the sight of any would be defender of white Britain and its borders, including racists and neo-fascists who felt they had a patriotic duty to help prevent Britain from being ‘swamped’ by any means necessary, including murder and mayhem.

On 16 June 2016, Jo Cox MP was brutally murdered in a street in her constituency of Batley & Spen in West Yorkshire by the white supremacist, Thomas Mair.  Cox was unequivocal in her support for refugees, asylum seekers and economic migrants escaping armed conflict, genocide and hunger and risking their lives in rickety boats to cross the Mediterranean into Europe.  She was doing this in a country where the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) was focusing the two main parliamentary parties on the anger of the white British population at their failure to control immigration and reclaim ‘Little England’ from the clutches and the legal strictures of the European Union, its Schengen Treaty, free movement of labour and human rights protocols.

Despite that horrific murder and all it said about Britain and its relentless conflation of immigration and race, the British electorate voted by a narrow margin to leave the European Union and ‘claim our country back’.  What is worse, both as Home Secretary and as the post-Cameron Prime Minister, you redoubled your efforts to create a ‘hostile environment’ for immigrants, condemning long retired workers of the Windrush generation to uncertainty, misery, physical hardship and denial of the same life saving health services for which they had paid throughout their working lives.

It may well be, Prime Minister, that you would have the good grace to take the opportunity to tell your invited guests how sorry you are for your part in all of that brutal, inhumane and racist treatment of former colonised Africans who have and had no interest other than to serve this nation and do their best by their communities and families.  But, one of the uglier manifestations of whiteness in this society is an unassailable sense of in-your-face entitlement.  I do not believe that you are entitled to the magnanimity of those misguided folk who might well be happy to receive your invitation and to attend your Windrush anniversary celebration.  As far as I am concerned, I stand with those who suffered detention, deportation and mental ill health, some of whom even now face an earlier death as a result of being denied access to health services on account of your ‘hostile environment’ regime.

It would be a shameful betrayal to them all to accept your invitation and join you in Downing Street to mark the arrival of the Windrush 70 years ago and the contribution to British society of those whom it brought and their descendants.

Invite me again, please, when you meet with civil society to discuss the findings and recommendations of the Royal Commission on Reparations for African Enslavement which you would no doubt waste no more time in establishing on the back of your government’s Windrush scandal.

Yours, with sadness

 Professor Gus John

Equality and Human Rights Campaigner

Also see Gus John’s powerful critique of the Windrush Project itself.

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70th Anniversary of Windrush 1948

The Ten Minute Bill and a problematic PMQ?

 

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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.

Ironically May’s weak response would have been rendered even weaker if Lloyd had at least mentioned the precarious future visited upon young people by the Tories’ policies.

 

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]

The Prime Minister
I think “Nice try” is the answer to the hon. Gentleman, but he said that there were fewer opportunities for young people here in this country. May I just point out to him the considerable improvement there has been in the opportunities for young people to get into work and the way in which we have seen youth unemployment coming down?

Some more photos from Facebook of the great turnout at the Palace of Varieties, to borrow a phrase from Denis Skinner.

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10minutebill