Beyond Brexit: The Impact of Leaving the EU on the Youth Work Sector

Y&P

A challenging piece from Annette and Sinéad on at least two levels.

  1. Our own ‘is the tide turning?’ discussion paper ignores Brexit. Why?
  2. They continue to suggest that many of us, despite our claim to be reimagining the future, are hampered by a fear of the unknown.

We should seek to address these criticisms in next month’s debates.

The UK having voted to leave the EU, Annette Coburn and Sinéad Gormally consider potential problems and possibilities for youth work within post-Brexit Britain, with a focus on Scotland in particular. They outline how youth work has reached a ‘tipping point’ in its evolution, where austerity measures have consistently undermined it. They examine the potential impact of the further loss of EU funding. Recognising that it is entirely uncharted territory, they assert that despite the inherent concerns, Brexit could also be a catalyst for re-imagining youth work as a creative and resistant practice within social and informal education.

Beyond Brexit: The Impact of Leaving the EU on the Youth Work Sector

Sue Atkins, an extraordinary woman – 80 Years an Activist

 

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Last weekend Sheffield was warmed by autumnal sun and the joy emanating from those gathered at Sue Atkins’ 80th birthday party. Crossing the festooned threshold of the venue was to be thrown into a melting pot of humanity – youth workers past and present, the very young and the quite old, the toothful and toothless, folk from a diversity of cultures and backgrounds, All were thrust together through their shared respect and affection for a remarkable woman, who has devoted much of her life to a form of youth work, that aspires to be ‘volatile and voluntary, creative and collective – an association and conversation without guarantees’, informed at every turn by a genuine love for young people.

For my part, I met Sue first at a tumultuous Community and Youth Service Association [CYSA] conference in around 1980, out of which through the power of caucusing emerged the Community and Youth Workers Union [CYWU], of which she was to be a future President. Of her lengthy sojourn within youth work many a tale could be told, which suggests much sooner rather than later, an interview with Sue would be fascinating and revealing. Indeed it would shed light on why in the late 1980’s, in a memorable phrase, she described me, amongst others, as ‘a shite in whining armour’. Watch this space.

For now it’s sobering to note that she continues to be a leading light of the voluntary organisation, Youth Association South Yorkshire, a member of the Education and Training Standards Committee (ETS), the body that provides professional validation for youth work qualifications in England, on behalf of the JNC for Youth & Community Workers, not forgetting her formidable presence on our very own In Defence of Youth Work steering group.

Amongst the variety of tributes made during the day a highlight was the heartfelt rendition of this clever rewriting by Julia Lyford of a Flanders and Swann ditty, ‘The Gas Man cometh’. I suspect its lyrics will strike a chord with many a youth worker visiting these pages.

 

The Youth Worker Cometh

(With acknowledgements or apologies to Flanders and Swann)

 

In June of 1940 a circular was born

It spoke of building character, for brains but also brawn

It hoped to foster places where young people chose to be

Both physical and social, or just for jamboree

And it all made work for the volunteer to do dum dum dum…dah dah dah

 

The fifties kept on building up the recreation show

The teenager was born, discovered coffee and Bongo

In uniforms or sports strips or in drama, choir or dance

Communities and charities took up a moral stance

And it all made work for the youth leader to do dum dum dum….dah dah dah

 

‘Twas in the 1960s that Albemarle was cool,

It led to flashy centres, to arts labs and to pool

The dawning of Aquarius gave pace to drugs and sex

And self-determination meant that most of us were wrecks

But it all made work for co-counsellors to do dah dah dah…dah dah dah

 

The Seventies saw people start to recognise the gaps

To notice gender, race and class and reach for the detached

Nintendo loomed, and numbers fell, young people stayed away

So issue – based and project work began to have their day

And it all made work for the activist to do dum dum dum dah dah dah

 

The Eighties saw the riots, young people were ‘at risk’

From HIV or pregnancy or other kinds of fix

The Union fought the cuts and tackled section 28

We had to look for outcomes, with process out the gate

And it all made work for youth officers to do dum dum dum dah dah dah

 

From YTS to work – or not – young people bore the brunt

The nineties went thematic and put learning at the front

We taught in schools, had casework loads and tried to join it up

We ended with Connexions, aspirations all amock

And it all made work for personal advisers to do dum dum dum dah dah dah

 

The Noughties said ‘Youth Matters’ and we ended up in Trusts

We raided health and care funds and pretended to consult  

We safeguarded the vulnerable but not so much ourselves

We got bogged down in paperwork or starting stacking shelves

And it all made work for the volunteer to do dum dum dum…dah dah dah

 

So – in the twenty-tens Sue’s raised us all up in Defence ……

She’s given us momentum, to let youth work re-commence!

 

FOR THE TUNE!!

And, just to close by observing that to say Sue has been an activist for 80 years seems to be stretching a point. Yet I can just imagine Sue emerging from the womb with a half-apologetic, searching question already on her lips. So eighty years it is and long may it continue.

 

 

 

Youth & Policy on Feminism resurgent, Worklessness and the NCS Money-Tree

Having been out of action for a week and with loads happening I can’t sadly do justice to the latest trio of articles from the new-style Youth & Policy. However, they are all worth your time and contribute significantly to our understanding of the fluctuating scenario, within which we find ourselves.

Y&P

Young Women, Youth Work and Spaces: Resurgent Feminist Approaches

Janet Batsleer begins:

There has – in one thread of youth and community work – been a long-standing desire to link our practice in the most excluded and precaritised neighbourhoods with working-class social movements which also seek to turn back and away from sexism, racism and other oppressive forces (Batsleer, 2013). It is in this context – as such movements against neoliberalism are gathering strength again and being reframed – that I was invited in 2017 by two wonderful projects to act as a consultant to their work. The first is based with YouthLink Scotland and has involved an oral history of the links between youth work and the women’s movement in Scotland (www.scotswummin.org). The second is the publication by a Brussels NGO called Childcare Activists of a pamphlet called: Filles et autres minorises….des jeunes comme les autres? Vers un travail de jeunesse accessible a tou(s) (tes) which translated as ‘Girls and other minorities: youth like the others? Towards a youth work accessible to all?’ (www.activistchildcare.org). This study by Eleanor Miller and Mouhad Reghif, highlighted sexism, racism and intersectionality as key issues for street work, all of which have been captured in this pamphlet. In May 2017 I was invited to speak at a Conference for street workers and key figures in Francophone NGO’s from Belgium and France where the pamphlet was launched. What follows is a brief extract from my presentation.

 

Exploring ‘generations and cultures of worklessness’ in contemporary Britain

Despite research which emphasises that the idea of ‘generations of worklessness’ is a myth, the general public, politicians and the mainstream media still suggest that generations and cultures of worklessness exist in contemporary Britain. Kevin Ralston and Vernon Gayle outline evidence that disputes this damaging myth.

Introduction
The concepts of generations and cultures of worklessness have popular, political and international resonance. In politics, high profile figures, such as the UK Government Minister Chris Grayling, are on record as stating there are ‘four generations of families where no-one has ever had a job’ (in MacDonald et al, 2013). Esther McVey, when she was UK Minister for Employment, made reference to the widespread idea that there is a ‘something for nothing culture’ among some of those claiming benefits (DWP, 2013). The general notion, that there is a section of undeserving poor who should receive punishment or correction, is a central concept in neo-liberal politics (Wiggan, 2012; Soss et al, 2011; Wacquant, 2009; de Goede, 1996). Ideas associated with generations and cultures of worklessness also regularly appear in the traditional UK print media and the international press. For example, in 2013, the Daily Mail reported the story of an individual convicted of burning down his house, which resulted in deaths. They reported his status as a benefit claimant and described living on welfare benefits as a ‘lifestyle choice’ for some.

 

The National Citizen Service and The “Magic Money Tree”

This article by Sean Murphy draws on interviews with youth workers to argue that youth citizenship and engagement would be better supported by sustained youth and community work, rather than through the National Citizen Service.

Introduction
We are living in precarious times. Theresa May’s ‘snap election’ has catapulted the United Kingdom into a minority Conservative administration, and a far cry from the ‘strong and stable’ pre-election mantra. The nation is careering towards a Brexit with a limited mandate, its government, the economy and politics are in a state of flux. As Youniss et al. (2002) suggest, these changes can easily reshape concepts such as national identity, nationhood, and multiculturalism within a globalised world; and in such a moment, the meaning of citizenship can no longer be taken for granted. Moreover, the ‘snap election’ has led to the Conservative government devising a political deal with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) reportedly worth over £1.5billion additional public spending for Northern Ireland.

Latest CONCEPT traverses youth work, adult education, governance and mental distress

CONCEPT

Another stimulating group of articles from our good friends at CONCEPT.

Vol 8, No 2 (2017)

Summer

Is the tide turning? An IDYW initiative that means little without you.

 

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Is the tide turning?

Policy proposals for youth work: A discussion paper.

                                         In Defence of Youth Work, Summer 2017

Summary

It is likely that local authority youth services will have disappeared by 2020. Yet in the aftermath of the 2017 general election, there are renewed possibilities for state-supported open youth work. This discussion paper will argue that progressive, political parties, focused on the common good rather than private interest, should make an explicit commitment to open, universal, all year round youth work. In order to put this commitment into practice, the following questions need further discussion:

  • Should local authority youth services be reopened, 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?

We encourage you to discuss these questions informally and in organised groups, with young people, colleagues, students, friends, policy makers, decision makers, campaigners and activists. We are conscious that our thinking relates most directly to youth work in England and Wales, but hope that its argument will have resonance for practitioners in Scotland and Northern Ireland. All feedback will be greatly valued.

tideturning

isthetideturningfinal – the discussion paper in full {WORD}

isthe tideturningfinal – the discussion paper in full {PDF}

A Provisional Timetable of Activity

We are looking to use the National Youth Work Week, November 6 – 12, as a point of reference, especially as its theme is:

Youth Services: youth work for today and tomorrow

Our hope is that a diversity of local and regional meetings will take place in and around this week, although not necessarily so. For the moment we are not envisaging an explicitly national event. Thus, from now, we are taking a two-pronged approach.

  1. We are approaching specific people to act as organisers of regional gatherings.
  2. We are hoping very much that this initiative will resonate with our readers/supporters and that you will feel moved to organise meetings at a local level, however small or large. To repeat, please feel free to get your act together as you think fit.

On Wednesday we will post a proposal offering a possible template based on the discussion paper, which might be useful as you get your head around planning a meeting.

In some ways, our ‘Is the tide turning?’ initiative is a test of our collective energy and sense of purpose. We believe together we can rise to the challenge. We hope you agree.

‘The idea of an educated public’: ‘One can only think for oneself if one does not think by oneself’ [Alasdair McIntyre (1987)]

For more information and to let us know you are throwing your questioning hat into the ring of critical debate, contact isthetideturning@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

Youth work, performativity and the new youth impact agenda: getting paid for numbers? – Tania de St Croix

 

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Tania de St Croix

 

The ‘impactful’ youth organisation relies on self-improving youth workers and self-improving young people – ideal entrepreneurial, neoliberal subjects.

Continuing the debate on the youth impact agenda Tania de St Croix, a member of the IDYW steering group, has published a provocative, yet nuanced, incisive and widely-researched article, Youth work, performativity and the new youth impact agenda: getting paid for numbers? in the Journal of Education Policy. I’d be tempted to say it is robust and rigorous, if that tired phrase had not been done to death and lost all meaning. Its appearance is timely, coming only a few days before the Centre for Youth Impact’s gathering in London, Shaping the future of impact measurement. Her shot across the bows of the ‘impacteers’ is that their fixation threatens to marginalise further open access, process-centred youth work. A distinctive strength of her analysis is that it is grounded in her research project’s face-to-face engagement with part-time youth workers and volunteers, often a silent and silenced constituency.

Abstract

A growing policy emphasis on measurement and outcomes has led to cultures of performativity, which are transforming what educators do and how they feel about themselves in relation to their work. While most analysis of performativity in education has focused on schools, this article investigates parallel developments in youth work. Youth work is a practice of informal education, in which young people learn and develop through activities, conversation and association. Its evaluation and monitoring have changed over the past two decades, as funding has become tied to targets and measureable outcomes. This article focuses on the English context, where government and third sector organisations are promoting a ‘youth impact agenda’, encouraging organisations to predefine and measure their outcomes. Drawing on data from interviews and focus groups with youth workers, the article argues that the current emphasis on impact risks further marginalising youth work at a time when this practice is already suffering from extensive spending cuts. The article concludes that we need to re-think the purposes and processes of evaluation and accountability – in youth work and beyond – in ways that genuinely value the perspectives of young people and grassroots practitioners.

A brief excerpt to whet the appetite:

Open youth work is particularly unsuited to ‘measurement’ because of its open-ended nature and its basis in peer group learning and informal education. Rather than outcomes being defined in advance, they emerge in negotiation with young people, and the focus is likely to shift and develop in relation to the specific individuals and groups attending, their needs and interests, and the changing social and political context in which they take place. The everyday activities of open youth work can even appear chaotic or purposeless to an outsider: perhaps a rowdy game of cards is in progress in a corner; another group is gathered around chatting and laughing; some people are painting a mural; others appear to be in deep and serious conversation by the kettle. These ‘everyday’ situations are supplemented with more structured elements introduced in negotiation with young people (perhaps an outdoor activities residential or making a film); ‘projects’ that are easier to report on. What is more difficult to describe, let alone measure, is the long-term relationship-based engagement that is at the core of the work, and without which specific projects would be less likely to happen; there is a significant focus in open youth work on process, on what happens ‘between the cracks’ and over time. It is this emphasis on and celebration of the informal and the open-ended that brings youth work into conflict with cultures of managerial accountability and performativity.

My one reservation is that Tania does not pursue what I think is a debilitating consequence of datafication, namely fabrication. Getting paid for by numbers leads to numbers being made up. This tendency is systemic. From my conversations, there is no reason to believe youth work is exempt from this malady.  Perhaps I exaggerate and it would appear that this issue did not emerge explicitly within Tania’s research. Or perchance it remains suppressed.

In a piece, Threatening Youth Work,  I put together with Marilyn Taylor the following exchange takes place.

I’m sure some people will be deeply offended by the implication that results, the need to compete are undermining the integrity of practice.

 
Without doubt, it is happening. To return to the overall argument made by Toby Lowe, his research into Outcomes-based Management reveals that wherever it is being used – in the Health Service, in Social Services, in Housing – ‘gaming’ occurs. To put it bluntly, the need to meet targets and outcomes leads managers and workers into manipulating and fabricating the data. As Toby is at pains to say this is not about maverick individuals, bad apples. ‘Gaming’, falsifying the figures, is a systemic dilemma. It is the consequence of a flawed approach to evaluating the purpose and quality of practice. As things stand youth work has invested its very soul into the Outcomes project. Whilst workers will talk off the record about malpractice, the cost of blowing the whistle would be enormous. It would be perceived as an act of treason.

New development: The paradox of outcomes—the more we measure, the less we understand – Toby Lowe

The Future of Youth Work in Australia? Telling its compelling story

Next week we will be launching a discussion paper, ‘Is the tide turning?’, which seeks to reimagine a youth work freed from the shackles of neoliberal dogma. Looking ahead we hope to organise a number of regional meetings to coincide with the National Youth Agency’s Youth Work Week, the theme of which is ‘Youth Services: youth work for today and tomorrow’.

Meanwhile, across the oceans in Australia, the Youth Affairs Council Victoria is staging a major conference, grappling with much the same questions and dilemmas.

Victoria conference

Front + Centre
The role and future of youth work 

18 – 20 October 2017
The Pullman Hotel, East Melbourne

The conference will explore themes around the changing nature of youth work, the complexities of our practice and how we tell the compelling story of youth work and its positive impacts.

Front + Centre will bring together youth workers from community, government and for-purpose agencies to shape the future of the youth sector.

We’ll explore the hot topics, tackle the big questions and discuss new research and good practice.

We’re talking three days jam-packed with inspiring presentations, thought-provoking conversations and hands-on workshops from some of the most renowned thinkers and doers in youth work.

A snapshot of key topics in our program:

Day 1 – Our Practice: today and beyond

The big picture — youth work now and in the future
Ending family violence and promoting respectful relationships
Youth justice is everybody’s business

 
Day 2 – Using data and telling stories

Studying young Australians’ lives to help shape the future
Telling powerful stories of youth work
Sparking change through collaborative arts

 
Day 3 – Inclusive engagement

Young people, gender and sexuality
Are you ready for the NDIS?
Meaningful youth engagement and participation

 
Each day will provide interactive workshops on a range of topics, across research, policy and advocacy, youth work 101 and practice masterclasses. You will learn from ground-breaking researchers, thought-leaders and practitioners; share ideas for navigating the ever-changing challenges and complexities of our practice; develop ways to articulate and communicate the value and impact of youth work and, build meaningful connections with passionate peers

 

I think you will find the packed conference programme full of resonance.

 

And, amidst its diversity of workshops, given our long-standing advocacy of Story-telling as a vital way of understanding our practice, you will find the following:

Telling powerful stories
Powerful stories help us articulate the value of youth work and make us better advocates. Storytelling skills help connect and engage us with young people, influence decision-makers and make sense of our own lives. Learn fundamental principles of storytelling and campaigning: how to tell stories of youth work that are authentic, compelling and impactful.

We’ll keep an eye out for a conference report.