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.

 

LGA/NYA Conference: Proposing a vision from above – a failure of the imagination?

NYA_No_Background

Tomorrow the Local Government Association [LGA] and the National Youth Agency [NYA] are hosting a conference entitled, A New Vision for Youth Services. With such a quest we have no problem. Indeed we have just held a series of ‘Is the tide turning? events, within which the LGA/NYA desire ‘to consider what the youth services landscape looks like both now and in the future’ would have been appreciated.

However, leave aside the usual standard failure to recognise that the changing landscape is not the result of natural causes, but the consequence of almost four decades of neoliberalism, there is a glaring gap in terms of contributors and, almost certainly, of those attending. Whilst young people are given rightly a platform, youth workers and their organisations are nowhere to be seen.  Where are the youth work trade unions or the Institute of Youth Work? Voices from the grassroots will be absent, not least because it costs £345 plus VAT to attend.

LGA-House

I hardly need to spell out the irony accompanying the location of this top-down event, dominated by senior management in one guise or another. It is being held in Transport House, the former headquarters of the Transport and General Workers’ Union (T&G), and also originally of the Labour Party and the Trades Union Congress. Although I must temper my sardonic tone, knowing that the building was ever the home of bureaucrats rather than workers.

Imagining a future beyond the instrumental and marketised agenda imposed on youth work, reflected uncritically in the day’s programme, for example, the National Citizen Service gets a slot of its own, will require the serious involvement of everyone involved in what has always been at its best a pluralist adventure. Perhaps tomorrow’s conference is a step on the way, but the early signs are not promising. We will be happy to be proved wrong.

logoLGA

Who should attend:
Lead members for children’s services, deputy directors of children’s services, youth work team leaders, organisations delivering youth work

Programme

    9.30 Registration and refreshments
  10.15 Welcome and introduction

Cllr Roy Perry, Vice-Chair, LGA Children and Young People Board and Leader of Hampshire County Council

  10.25 Launch of the LGA’s vision for local government’s role in youth services

Cllr Ryan Brent, LGA Representative on the National Youth Agency Board and Cabinet Member for Children and Families, Portsmouth City Council

  10.40 National Youth Agency

Leigh Middleton, Managing Director, National Youth Agency

  10.55 The role of local government in delivering youth services: panel discussion session

Cllr Ryan Brent, Local Government Association

Michael Bracey, Corporate Director – Children, Milton Keynes Council

Leigh Middleton, National Youth Agency

Matt Lent, Director of Partnerships and Policy, UK Youth

  11.40 Refreshments
  11.55 Keynote speech

Helen Judge, Director General for Performance and Strategy, Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

Questions and discussion

  12.40 National Citizen Service

Jonathan Freeman, NCS Localities Lead

Questions and discussion

  1.10 Lunch and networking
  1.50 The voice of young people

Bernadette Killeen, Youth Involvement Team Manager, Leicester City Council

Brahmpreet Gulati, Leicester City Young People’s Council

Katie Walker, Leicester City Young People’s Council

Elizabeth Harding, Chief Executive, Youth Focus NW

  2.30 Chair’s closing remarks and introduction to workshops
  2.40 Workshops

W1. Delivery models
Aileen Wilson, Head of Early Help Services, Nottingham City Council
Shelley Nicholls, Strategic Lead for Youth Justice and Family Intervention Services, Nottingham City Council
Sandra Richardson, Chief Executive Officer, Knowsley Youth Mutual
Erik Mesel, Senior Grants and Public Policy Manager, John Lyons Charity

W2. Youth Services in Wales
Tim Opie
, Lifelong Learning Policy Officer (Youth), Welsh Local Government Association

  3.25 Comfort break with refreshments
  3.35 Workshops

W3. Youth Services and Social Cohesion
Elaine Morrison, Head of Youth Strategy, Manchester City Council

W4. Mental Health and Wellbeing
Aaron Mansfield
, Health and Wellbeing Project Manager (Young People), Royal Society for Public Health

  4.20 Conference close

 

 

 

Thinking seriously about youth work. And how to prepare people to do it – views from across Europe

Following on from our recent reference to Youth Work in the Commonwealth: A Growth Profession news from Europe of a challenging publication, ‘Thinking Seriously about Youth Work’, which houses over 37 thought-provoking chapters plus a compelling introduction and conclusion. As someone, who over the years has lost some of his faith in the power of the written word, a major concern is that this flood of diverse analysis will drown the potential reader’s interest before they even dip their toe into its contents. I hope my pessimism is misplaced. For now my favourite piece is ‘Youth work in Flanders – Playful usefulness and useful playfulness’ by Guy Redig and Filip Coussée, who, in suggesting that youth work is a necessary kind of wild zone and free space in society, crucial to democracy itself, note that,

Flanders youth work operates on the front line. The vast majority of (local) youth work can be described as intuitively hostile to demands for utility or instrumentalisation. At the same time, it has to survive the dominant discourse of using all resources – including youth work – for economic activation and adaptation in a neoliberal system. For the more pessimistic prophets, Flemish youth work can be classified as an anachronism close to extinction, soon to be replaced by professional, efficient and smooth concepts suited to multiple purposes. For other observers, the authenticity, autonomy and joie de vivre of Flemish youth work are unbeatable and will survive con brio. Youth work will survive, stubborn and petulant, peevish and cross, generation after generation.

The complete publication is available online via the following link.

 

Thinking seriously about youth work. And how to prepare people to do it

Hanjo Schild, Nuala Connolly, Francine Labadie, Jan Vanhee, Howard Williamson (eds.)                                                                                                                                                      

Thinking-couv

If we consider the 50 states having ratified the European Cultural Convention of the Council of Europe or the member states of the European Union, the multiple and divergent nature of the realities, theories, concepts and strategies underlying the expression “youth work” becomes evident. Across Europe, youth work takes place in circumstances presenting enormous differences with regard to opportunities, support, structures, recognition and realities, and how it performs reflects the social, cultural, political and economic context and the value systems in which it is undertaken.

By analysing theories and concepts of youth work and by providing insight from various perspectives and geographical and professional backgrounds, the authors hope to further contribute to finding common ground for – and thus assure the quality of – youth work in general. Presenting its purified and essential concept is not the objective here. The focus rather is on describing how to “provide opportunities for all young people to shape their own futures”, as Peter Lauritzen described the fundamental mission of youth work.

The best way to do this remains an open question. This Youth Knowledge book tries to find some answers and strives to communicate the strengths, capacities and impact of youth work to those within the youth sector and those beyond, to those familiar with its concepts and those new to this field, all the while sharing practices and insights and encouraging further reflection.

 

Section I – Theories and concepts in selected European regions and countries includes:

Winning space, building bridges – What youth work is all about by Howard Williamson

Youth work and youth social work in Germany by Andreas Thimmel

Thinking about youth work in Ireland by Maurice Devlin

Influential theories and concepts in UK youth work – What’s going on in England? by Pauline Grace and Tony   Taylor

 

Section II – Key challenges of youth work today includes:

 Youth work and an internationally agreed definition of youth work – More than a tough job by Guy Redig

Keep calm and repeat – Youth work is not (unfortunately) just fun and games by Özgehan Şenyuva and Tomi   Kiilakoski

Young people, youth work and the digital world by Nuala Connolly

Youth radicalisation and the role of youth work in times of (in)security by Dora Giannaki

 

Section III – Reflections on the recommendations made in the Declaration of the 2nd European Youth Work Convention includes:

 Further exploring the common ground – Some introductory remarks by Hanjo Schild

Towards knowledge-based youth work by Helmut Fennes

Funding sustainable youth work by Claudius Siebel

Youth work, cross-sectoral youth policy, and co-operation: critical reflections on a puzzling relationship by Magda Nico

 

 

 

 

No budget for the young

The latest blog from Martin Allen at Education, Economy and Society argues that the Tories have learnt nothing and wonders if Labour will put young people’s concerns at the forefront of its policies.

Hammond

With young voters flocking to Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour in the last General Election https://education-economy-society.com/2017/06/20/young-voters-flock-to-labour/ you’d think the Tories would have wanted to use this week’s budget as an opportunity to win back some lost ground.

But, as one disaster follows another, May and Hammond are just as desperate to shore up their existing support and so, unless you are London based, in a ‘career’ job and with parents able to stump up a large slice of a deposit (by itself, the change does nothing to improve a person’s ability to save) for a bargain £300 000 first-time buy, there’s nothing that can remotely help you refill that fridge, never mind pay off the overdraft.

The £350 increase in the level you start paying income tax – worth about £70 a year, will certainly exempt a fair few from tax altogether, yet if full-time students in part-time jobs are excluded, only half of 18-24-year olds are in the labour market. By comparison, there’s been a £1350 increase in the 40% income tax ceiling (it’s now £46,350). There’s no further moves on student tuition fees (May has previously announced an increase in the repayment threshold and Parliament voted down new fee increases) and no direct reference to the need to rescue apprenticeships. https://radicaledbks.files.wordpress.com/2013/09/a-great-training-robbery1.pdf

While recent developments have shown that increasing spending on education and training won’t necessarily lead to better employment outcomes; some schools will welcome the increased financial incentives for increasing the number of students taking Maths beyond GCSE. But even here, the amount is modest (£600 a student) and many employer representatives now argue that it would be better to have a broader post-16 curriculum rather than the current specialist one.

Young people have been affected the most from the fall in living standards since the economic downturn http://www.if.org.uk/2013/06/21/new-evidence-shows-young-adults-have-suffered-most-from-the-recession/ and approaching a third are estimated to be living in poverty, Labour will want to put their interests at the top of its agenda.

 

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 poverty.ac.uk

 

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.

Youth Work in the Commonwealth: A Growth Profession

The Commonwealth Secretariat has published a major report, ‘Youth Work in the Commonwealth: A Growth Profession’ which seeks to establish a baseline of youth work in the Commonwealth.

The foreword begins:

More than 60 percent of the population of the Commonwealth is aged under 30,
and young people’s unique needs and capabilities, and the importance of their role in
national development, have been the central premise of the Commonwealth Youth
Programme for over four decades. This is also enshrined in the Commonwealth
Charter, which recognises ‘the positive and active role and contributions of young
people in promoting development, peace, democracy and in protecting and promoting
other Commonwealth values, such as tolerance and understanding, including respect
for other cultures’.
Youth workers have an essential, but often under-recognised and under-resourced,
role in engaging and supporting young people to be these positive and productive
citizens who contribute to national peace and prosperity.

BeltonC'wealth

At the launch of the publication, Brian Belton, the lead writer, made a presentation, which is to be found here in full – Belton commonwealth

These excerpts should whet your appetite.

Build a Collaborative Vision of what youth work is
We need a collaborative vision of what youth work is, what it can (and can’t do) and be prepared to review and develop this according to the changing needs of young people and global economic and social considerations. But this needs to be informed by a broad base, not just ‘northern’ and ‘academic’ interpretations, but particularly practices developed and pioneered, at the grassroots level, in the global south.

One definition of ‘academic’ is “not of practical relevance; of only theoretical interest”. We love our theories for sure, but so often they are made to look pallid on exposure to reality. What youth work is, how it might effectively be done, cannot be satisfactorily cobbled together from behind the walls of the ivory towers.

Establish and implement supervision frameworks
Supervision is what differentiates youth work as a reflective practice that advances via dialogue and dialectical processes. It encompasses the main tool of youth work, focused and questioning examination of phenomena and circumstances; it is the basis of accountability and so ethical and rights-based practice. Supervision is a means of managing, evaluating and supporting practitioners and practice and a means to promote learning from the same.

Brian concludes:

However, without investment in the base, we will be that much less likely to know what it is that works in youth work and therefore less able to ensure the continued growth of a sector that can make full use of professional practices and understanding. I put it to you that the latter situation, where there is relatively little invested in the base, is one ensured to be fraught with frustration and inefficiency, as well-educated but effectively practically naive professionals lead young people to destinations premised more on hope and grand ideals than couched in a broad knowledge of practicalities and possibilities.

The comprehensive and challenging report can be downloaded as a pdf.

Youth Work in the Commonwealth
A Growth Profession

Naomi Thompson – Woman of the Present and the Future

I’ve got many a reservation about the ‘Awards’ culture in today’s society – cue more cries about my continuing slide into miserabilism. However, I did manage a genuine smile at the news that this week Naomi Thompson was the recipient of the Woman of the Future Professions Award. I’m not sure about the notion of the future as in the here and now Naomi has contributed significantly to the world of youth work as a youth worker and lecturer, as a writer, her latest book being ‘Young People and Church since 1900: Engagement and Exclusion’ and, not least from our point of view, as a passionate and committed member of the IDYW steering group.

naomi

The Professions Award recognises women who are making a significant contribution in sectors such as legal, medicine, accounting and education, and who are tipped to reach the top of their field.

The judges described her as ‘an ambitious role model for students, especially with her mixed methods research experience and focus on youth work, religion and crime’.

Naomi Thompson said: “I was humbled and delighted to win the Women of the Future Award after being short-listed alongside some incredible women. The judges commended my research in many areas and my journey from becoming a young parent at aged 20.

“However, the award is a recognition not just of my journey but of the people who have supported me along the way, including the academics and students who supported my nomination – proving no woman is an island.”