Network of Regional Youth Work Units’ challenging proposals for a would-be Tory strategy for young people

In this week’s Children & Young People Now you will find an article, Youth work network calls for redistribution of NCS cash. It opens:

Money earmarked for the National Citizen Service (NCS) should be redirected to support cash-strapped statutory and voluntary youth services, a group of youth work organisations has said.

The group in question is the long-standing network of Regional Youth Work Units. And the network’s response to the government’s alleged commitment to a 3-year strategy for young people goes far beyond the matter of Cameron’s vanity project. Indeed we think it is a valuable and challenging contribution to the present debate about the future of both youth work and services for young people. At this very moment, we are exploring whether the network and IDYW might join together to catalyse further discussion. In this spirit and ahead of the appearance of an IDYW paper, ‘Reimagining Youth Work’ you will find below the network’s proposals in their entirety.

 

3-Year Strategy for Young People

What should a 3-year government strategy for young people contain?

The Network of Regional Youth Work Units welcomes DCMS commitment to develop a 3-year strategy for young people. We want to work with the government, youth sector colleagues and young people to ensure that the strategy is a genuine cross-departmental initiative that takes into account the many different factors that impact on young people’s lives and does not concern itself simply with the elements that are included in DCMS’s current brief. We want to see a strategy that fully engages education, health, care, arts, sport, transport and aspires to make England a country where young people are encouraged to feel they are a valued part of the community.

election reform

A starting point would be to respond to young people’s demands for voting rights at 16, which would recognise young people as active citizens whose views are as important as other people in the community. Evidence from the Scottish Independence Referendum in 2014 showed that young people used their votes responsibly. There are opportunities coming up in elections for Metro-Mayors where votes at 16 could be piloted and evaluated in England. We urge the government to use these elections to test take-up of votes at 16.

We believe there are some important issues to address for the youth sector itself and want to see these emphasised in the strategy.

  • Young people and their parents believe that the people who work with them in youth organisations are trained and qualified in what they do. Increasingly this is not the case as the infrastructure and funding for training youth workers has withered during the austerity years since 2010, and most of those working in youth organisations have no or little access to relevant training and qualifications. Young people and communities benefit from a skilled and confident workforce and it is essential that some resources are found to make training and qualifications available, particularly to those working in voluntary sector organisations, whether paid or in a voluntary capacity. The sector has maintained a coherent framework for training and qualifications, including apprenticeships, and this should be extended and made more widely available.
  • There is a strong emphasis on involving young people in social action in the current government approach, and we support this drive. However, the way in which social action is defined should be broadened, to include more youth-led and issue-based campaigning alongside more formal volunteering. Young people become active citizens in a number of ways, and all possible routes should be included in the youth strategy.
  • Youth work and work with young people now happens in a very wide range of settings, both open access and targeted at young people with specific needs and vulnerabilities. The key elements remain the same, however – building long-term trusted relationships between the worker and young people and working in locations, at times and on issues that are chosen by young people. The notion of social pedagogy, widely used in mainland Europe should be given more serious consideration as an effective way of working with young people, and a youth strategy that provided opportunities to pilot the approach with young people in England would be welcome
  • Finally, resources for work with young people have been greatly diminished since 2010 as a result of local authority cuts and fewer specific opportunities for grant aid for youth organisations from trusts and major funders. The government currently makes a very substantial contribution to one flagship project, National Citizens Service, and we question whether this is the right approach in a time when the youth sector and services to young people in general are under enormous pressure. Investing so heavily in NCS, particularly in its current format of a single 4-week programme for 16-year-olds when in many areas there is no provision available for the rest of the year does not seem to us to be an effective way to support young people into active citizenship. We would advocate for a significant reduction in resourcing for this model of NCS in order to free up money for essential infrastructure such as trained staff and support to voluntary organisations to help them improve their offer to young people and become more sustainable.

The Network of Regional Youth Work Units through its members in regions supports the development of a 3-year strategy and will be happy to work with partners to engage young people and the youth sector across the country.

Treasuring, but not measuring: Personal and social development – Tony Taylor

In theory, I’m about to have a quiet August, largely free from maintaining the IDYW website, responding to Facebook and twittering. Obviously, you will be devastated at the news, but never fear find below the link to the latest article on the rejuvenated Youth & Policy platform. By chance, it’s a piece of mine, something of a rant about my deep misgivings about the contemporary, neoliberal obsession with measuring the immeasurable and its insidious impact on youth work. I know it’s hardly holiday reading, but if you do get round to glancing at its sparkling prose, comments however caustic welcomed.

Treasuring, but not measuring: Personal and social development

Perplexed as usual – Ta to Justin Wyllie for photo

Tony Taylor of In Defence of Youth Work (IDYW) was invited by the Centre for Youth Impact (CYI) to debate with Paul Oginsky at a conference ‘Measure & Treasure’ held on March 16th, 2017 in London. The following is a version of what he would have said if time had allowed. It is structured around the five questions posed in advance of the conference by Bethia McNeil, the CYI’s director.

I begin:

As you might expect there are differing interpretations of what we mean by PSD, but all aspire to be holistic, to be concerned with the whole person, their values, their knowledge, their skills, their emotions and desires. Fascinatingly, from a youth work perspective, half a century ago in 1967, Bernard Davies and Alan Gibson, in repudiating the common-sense idea of an incremental adolescent journey to adult maturity, argued that the fundamental purpose of PSD should be to help young people acquire the social skills of cooperation and comradeship, to develop a commitment to the common good. In stark contrast today’s dominant version of PSD is deeply individualistic, leaning for sustenance on developmental and cognitive psychology with their behavioural impositions of stages, roles, traits and norms upon young people growing up. For my part, I remain committed to the version espoused by Davies and Gibson, later to be summed up in a 1977 Wigan Youth Service Programme of Action as ‘personal, social and political awareness’. Or, indeed, if I am mischievous, PSD is a matter of ‘consciousness’, the very mention of which poses insoluble dilemmas for those wishing to calculate its existence.

Along the way I muse:

My comment on neutrality takes me to a final point regarding the idea of character itself. The pioneers of youth work, the likes of George Williams, Lily Montagu and Baden-Powell, would warm to its re-emergence, confident in their concern to nurture young men and women of good Christian or Jewish character. Explicitly they engaged without embarrassment with two inextricably interrelated questions, which, if we are similarly honest, we cannot escape:

In what sort of society do we wish to live? What are its characteristics?
And, depending on our answer, what sort of characters, do we think, are best suited to either the maintenance of what is or the creation of something yet to be?

and

In terms of being challenged about what they’re up to, whilst researchers, workers, funders, politicians may want to stand outside of the social relations they are seeking to influence, this is impossible, if oft wilfully ignored. Being involved in the process of personal and social development is not a laboratory experiment. If you wish to measure the resilience of a young person, if you wish to make a judgement on their character, the very same measurements and judgements ought to be asked of yourself, of funders, of managers, of politicians. In my opinion, it takes some cheek for politicians, not notable for their collective honesty and integrity, to pontificate about what they see as the appropriate form of PSD for young people. The same goes for all of us. As they say, we’re all in this together. All our characters are up for grabs.

I conclude with a couple of questions:

Are you measuring how successful you have been in manufacturing an emotionally resilient young person who will put up with the slings and arrows of outrageous social policies, accept their lot, and believes there is no alternative?

Or are we evaluating how successful we have been in creating, albeit tentatively, a critical, questioning young person, who seeks to change their lot in concert with others, who continues to imagine that a fairer, juster, more democratic society is possible, that the present calamitous state of affairs is not the best that humanity can do?

 

ChooseYouth AGM and Re-launch Meeting September 2017

Important alert from Kerry Jenkins. IDYW will be sending a couple of representatives.

choose youth logo

Dear friends,

It has been over a year since we came together at the event ‘Youth Work and Youth Services: Our Shared Future’ and much has happened over this past twelve months.

A government with no real mandate continues to oversee the destruction of youth services up and down the UK and more than ever we need our collective strength to discuss strategies to combat this.

We have been given some hope with the Labour Party revitalised under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn and willing and eager to discuss youth policy.

Our next meeting will be held on the 4TH September at 11 am in room 11, north wing entrance (marked A on the map attached) at the Guildhall, London.

It is important that you all send a representative to this meeting if possible as we need to refocus our campaign and get on with the very important job at hand.

If you can let me know the names of people representing your organisation who will be attending by the 28th August this will assist with the internal booking system.

We will also be electing to the positions of Chair and Secretary and I will be happy to receive expressions of interest for either of these positions in advance of the meeting.

Please also forward this message on to other sector contacts who may be interested in joining us.

Regards

Kerry Jenkins
Secretary ChooseYouth

Guildhall map

Youth work in Japan: Why does storytelling matter? IDYW Seminar, September 1

_doorway1jethro

Ta to Jethro Brice

Colin Brent sends news re the fascinating prospect of hearing about youth work in Japan and the influence of IDYW’s Story-Telling approach upon the Japanese scrutiny of practice.

In Defence of Youth Work’s Engaging Critically Seminars

Youth work in Japan: Why does storytelling matter?

story telling 2

Friday, September 1 from 11:00 –14:00

Bollo Brook Youth Centre, 272 Osborne Road, W3 8SR, London

Programme 

· Creating spaces to write and read about practice – creating the Japanese version of ‘This is Youth Work’ (Maki Hiratsuka)

· Two stories from youth work practice in Japan

· Discussion

Background

Maki Hiratsuka is working with researchers and youth work practitioners from Japan to undertake international research in youth work that focuses on the creation of ‘the space’ for ‘writing down the practice and reading it together’. Inspired by the In Defence of Youth Work publication ‘This is Youth Work: Stories from Practice’ , they are aiming to publish the Japanese version online by the end of 2017. It is also hoped to make it into a series. As in England, ‘numerical’ evaluation has prevailed in Japan. As a counter-measure, the research group propose story-telling.

In Defence of Youth Work is a forum for critical discussion on youth work. We are committed to encouraging an open and pluralist debate at a time of limited opportunities for collective discussion. We are looking forward to welcoming researchers and youth workers from Japan to share and discuss the similarities and differences in the practice and governance of youth work in our two countries.

See also Facebook events page to indicate interest/to say you’re going.

Youth Work in Japan

 

“Understanding and Engaging Young Men- A Wise Guys initiative

This report from the Wise Guys prompts questions about how much consciously critical work with young men is going on? It would be enlightening to hear from workers about what they’re up to in their day-to-day practice.

 

masculinity

Ta to menscentre.ca

 

Wise Guys Training Workshop “Understanding and Engaging Young Men” at Lancaster CVS 21st July

This was our first workshop as part of the Wise Guys Training venture, started by ourselves, Geoff Brand and Charlie Bluglass. The venue for this half day session was kindly donated by Lancaster CVS

The session was aimed at adult staff from local agencies involved with children and young people. Our nine participants (7 female and 2 male) came from 6 different local organisations:

Lancaster City Housing Homeless Unit
Lancashire County Council Wellbeing Prevention and Early Help Unit
More Music in Morecambe
Barnardo’s Moving on Project
Lancashire Youth Challenge
Safenet

We provided a range of practical activities which included exploring what we mean by masculinity, looking at stereotypes of ‘traditional’ masculinity and emotions that are acceptable for young men to display. Compared to running the same exercises with groups of Year 10 young men, there were some notable differences in perception about what the ‘ideal man’ looked like. This made for some useful discussion and learning. Cultural differences in what is seen as masculine were also discussed, for example in Turkey it is acceptable for heterosexual men to kiss on meeting, but not to wear earrings.

The emphasis all the way through was on activities and techniques that practitioners could run with their young people. The session wrapped up with a chance to problem-solve and receive peer feedback on solutions to any challenges that were being experienced in the field.

Feedback on the workshop was very positive and has also helped us tighten up a few elements. A couple of ideas were sparked off for us. One of these is that we would love to run a workshop jointly with staff and young men, as this could support workers to be even better allies and further develop empathy and understanding on both sides. Is there anyone out there interested in seeing if we can make this happen?

Contact us:
wiseguys.training@gmail.com

 

Celebrating Youth & Policy 2 – Tania de St Croix bidding goodbye to NCS?

Y&P

The second of our pieces from the new-look Y&P sees Tania de St Croix continuing her incisive and provocative analyses of Cameron’s vanity project, once called by Tim Loughton in a phrase of utter ignorance ‘the fastest growing social movement in Europe’, namely, the National Citizen Service. Tania gave a version of this argument to our recent IDYW seminars in Manchester and London. Certainly, its sense of the contradictions within NCS will feed into a discussion paper we are preparing, which will seek to explore future scenarios for youth work in a turbulent political climate.

Time to say goodbye to the National Citizen Service?

 

DeStCroixT-Cropped-146x159

Tania de St Croix

 

 

Tania writes:

Until recent political events, the practice of re-imagining youth work – thinking in a utopian way about what youth work could, or should, become – may have been a creatively rich exercise, yet it sometimes felt futile, at least beyond the very local scale. In the light of the recent general election campaign and results, and without over-romanticising the possibilities for electoral politics, it is now not only reasonable but even urgent for practitioners, activists and researchers to think seriously and practically about what kind of youth work policy and practice we would like to see, and how we might get from here to there.

She asserts:

In this context, reviewing the NCS may not appear to be the most pressing priority for the field. However, a re-imagined youth policy that does not question the basis of NCS would be both problematic and contradictory. Just as local authority youth services were, quite rightly, the target of robust criticism by progressives in the past (for example, for being overly bureaucratic, too ready to see young people as ‘problems’ to be ‘fixed’, insufficiently self-critical, and too quick to conform to the policy priorities of the day), today the NCS receives the bulk of government money and support for youth work. As such, it must be subjected to critical scrutiny.

 

Post-Seminars, Post-Steering group, Post-Election reimaginings – awakening from the deep slumber of decided opinion

The dates for the IDYW seminars on the question of state-funded youth work/National Citizen Service plus our steering group meeting were in the diary long before Teresa May’s opportunist blunder in calling a General Election. Little did she know, but her snap decision and its fallout influenced significantly the nature of the discussions at all our gatherings. In essence, an important and far-reaching question was posed for our consideration.

Despite losing, does the unexpected support for a Corbyn-led Labour Party, riding on an explicit social-democratic manifesto, signal a promising break from the suffocating grip of neoliberal ideas upon society at large and youth work in particular?

 

In wondering thus, we are minded that the Open Letter, which launched IDYW, first drafted in late 2008, exuded what might be seen as a naive optimism.

 

deepslumber

Ta to theatlantic.com

 

Capitalism is revealed yet again as a system of crisis: ‘all that is solid melts into air’. Society is shocked into waking from ‘the deep slumber of decided opinion’. The arrogant confidence of those embracing the so-called ‘new managerialism’, which has so afflicted Youth Work, is severely dented. Against this tumultuous background, alternatives across the board are being sought. We believe this is a moment to be seized. Our contention is that we need to reaffirm our belief in an emancipatory and democratic Youth Work.

In 2017, suitably sobered, our meetings displayed a cautious optimism towards the turn of events, declaring no more than this is a moment not to be missed. In this spirit, we are in the midst of preparing a discussion paper for your perusal and criticism, which will also be the basis for a range of IDYW gatherings in the late Summer/early Autumn, which will hopefully include young people as well as ourselves.

Contrary to the stereotype of IDYW as a haven of nostalgia for a post-Albemarle Golden Age, still peddled recently at a national conference, the paper will seek to reimagine the possibility of state-funded, open-access, pluralist youth provision, which learns from both past and present, good and bad practice, not least in terms of hierarchical and horizontal management approaches; which engages with the often disjointed relationship between the so-called statutory and voluntary sectors; which weighs up recent developments, such as the emergence of social enterprise initiatives and the spectre of the National Citizen Service; which revisits the issue of what sort of training and development might inform the renaissance of youth work as a distinctive educational setting; and which explores tentatively what local and national structures might be congruent with our vision.

Looking down the road we hope that our discussions will lead to the creation of a policy statement aimed without apology at those political parties seeking to break from austerity and neoliberalism.

Watch this space and muck in as the argument flowers.