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:

 

IDYW response to the APPG Inquiry – What are the training and workforce development needs to secure and sustain youth work?

YWalive

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

What are the training and workforce development needs to secure and sustain youth work?

Recent evidence has indicated that the number of courses leading to JNC-recognised youth and community work qualifications has fallen substantially since 2012, with only 36 undergraduate degree courses still operating in 2014-15. Structures for training and qualifying part-time and volunteer youth workers have also become much more fragmented and indeed privatised, leaving participants often having to fund themselves on the routes that are available.

The main route now for ‘professional qualification’ is a degree course although there are still courses up to Level 3 that are delivered ‘locally’ through various training providers. In the past workers would often start working either as a paid worker or volunteer in their local youth centre/project. However the significant change in funding arrangements for delivering part-time training (now the NVQ), together with the severe cuts in Local Authority Youth Services, the dominance of the outsourcing and commissioning culture,, means that we have lost an underpinning foundation for the planning and delivery of professional development for the workforce. In particular, we have lost an authentically local character to training and staff development. Training isn’t commissioned to meet need, but is ‘provided’ by organisations that can procure funding to offer a Level 2 qualification.  Those going through training frequently have no work or volunteer experience.

The collapse of Local Authority Youth Services and the demise of open access youth work has posed enormous problems for universities offering youth work degrees. Inevitably they have had to adjust to a fast-changing workscape, within which many of their graduates find employment in Schools, Youth Social Work, Youth Justice and beyond. The pressure is to produce students, who are employable in a diversity of settings, which in itself is no bad thing. However, from our perspective, the casualty in this blurring of the boundaries is the improvisatory and autonomous youth work we sacrifice at our peril. Addressing this concern is far from easy. Clearly, a renewal of open youth work on the ground is vital, alongside revisiting alternative routes to qualification, the extension of a reimagined NVQ qualification beyond Level 3 and the reinvigoration of Level 1/2 part-time training.

If open access, process-led youth work is, in any substantial and effective form, to again be made available to those thousands of young people who no longer have any access to it, dedicated and state funded action will be needed to provide sufficient and appropriate training opportunities for both full-time and part-time paid and volunteer youth workers, not forgetting students in Higher Education.

 

IDYW response to the APPG Inquiry – Are there sufficient youth workers to support youth services and other delivery models for good quality youth work?

YWalive

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

Are there sufficient youth workers to support youth services and other delivery models for good quality youth work?

Our starting point is necessarily young people, their interests and concerns, For instance, the National Council for Voluntary Youth Services [2013] research found that up to 35% of 10-15 year olds were then using a youth club either most days or at least one day a week. Yet, as the Committee will know, some of the Cabinet Office’s own returns, together with research carried out by Unison and more recently by the YMCA all reveal that state funding for youth work facilities has been cut so heavily since 2010 that many local authority Youth Services have disappeared completely and others decimated. As a result across the country up to one million young people have lost their easily accessible, ‘safe place’, all-year-round leisure-time facilities – open access youth clubs and centres, detached work projects and provision for groups such as LGBT young people.

Hence the straightforward response to the question posed is negative. There is also a tension in that phrase “good quality youth work’.  The drive or requirements for evidence and impact assessment to demonstrate value for money are not the only ways to gauge ‘quality’. In many cases, it could be said that they lead to a distortion in the work in order to fulfil the requirements to provide the figures and the audit trails. However, that apart, because of the cuts in services there is a marked change in the number of workers delivering open access services on the ground.  One significant, oft-hidden, result of this is the diminishing number of workers, lost through redundancy and retirement, able to meet the supervision requirements specified by the NYA and JNC. The circle is vicious as both open access provision and staff experienced in this field disappear.

Weighing up the number of youth workers available is rendered all the more difficult as the breakdown of the local authority youth service has led to the fragmentation of what are recognised as appropriate qualifications. Many national and local voluntary organisations, including faith groups and uniformed organisations, the police, private companies, sports clubs and associations and even the military now seek to deliver their own versions of work with young people.  There is little in the way of collaboration and no clear picture of exactly what is being provided, and what the qualifications are of the people employed. For example, many NCS programmes recruit both volunteers and paid workers who are university students following all manner of degrees from languages to science . Other organisations recognise military service as appropriate experience or, less controversially, the completion of an NVQ certificate or diploma.

Certainly, it seems indisputable that, compared with 2010, there are now far too few youth workers (paid or voluntary) and far too few open access youth work  facilities within which those workers can practice in their distinctive ways.

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.

nya-logo-new

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.

A July Pot-Pourri of Youth Work News and Opinion

Perhaps our favourite youth work blogger, James Ballantyne asks, ‘When was the last time you had reflective supervision for your youth work? never?

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Yet good supervision can do a number of things (and supervision is different from management, or at least management can also include supervision, see my other posts on this topic for more) but good supervision as Joan Tash described in ‘Working with the unattached’ deems supervision to be an ‘experimental relationship’ in which the dreams and ideas of the worker have a space to circulate, fester and be talked through.


 

CYPN features a number of developments.

DCMS logo

Give youth work remit back to DfE, children’s services leaders urge

Children’s services leaders have called for the Department for Education (DfE) to be handed back responsibility for youth work policy.

As part of an evidence submission to the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Youth Affairs inquiry into youth work, the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) said youth policy has been “cast adrift” from the rest of children’s services since moving to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

 

Guides and Scouts unite for £2.4m expansion push

It would be interesting to see the funding bid and the accompanying definitions of ‘deprived’ and ‘diverse’.

Girlguiding and the Scout Association are seeking to open 200 new units in deprived areas of England by 2020 as part of a £2.4m joint project between the UK’s two largest youth organisations.

 

Council drops plan for youth services mutual

It would be revealing to hear more from the grass-roots about the Young Foundation model developed by the Lyon’s Charity.

A plan to create a mutual to run youth services at a local authority in the north east of England have been dropped.

Hartlepool Council has confirmed that it had been considering setting up a mutual to deliver youth services but decided not to proceed.

“There had been previous proposals to look at a youth service mutual as part of a review of youth service provision, however, the council has since decided to continue with the existing in-house youth service arrangement,” a spokesman said.

As part of its in-house provision, the council has set up a new partnership organisation, called the Hartlepool Young People’s Foundation, which brings the local authority together with local youth services providers to better co-ordinate support for young people.


 

Y&P

YOUTH & POLICY carries a new article,

How does an international student influence youth work policy in Wales and England?

Ken Ebihara is an international youth and community student studying in Wales. He offers his perspective on youth work policies in Wales and England and suggests ways in which international students can influence both policy and practice.

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Transformative Youth Work International Conference: Developing and Communicating Impact – Last chance for places!

marjon

Transformative Youth Work International Conference: Developing and Communicating Impact
4-6 September 2018, University of St Mark and St John, Plymouth

Book before 22nd June 2018 to join the conference. Registration available via this link

This conference will specifically address the issue of outcomes and the impact of youth work. The conference, supported by Erasmus +, will bring together a range of experts from across Europe and the wider world, to showcase the latest research on the Impact of Youth Work, including publication of the Erasmus + funded 2 year comparative study of the Impact of Youth Work in UK, Finland, Estonia, Italy and France. Keynote confirmed as Professor Rob White from Tasmania University addressing: ‘Innovative Approaches to Transformative Youth Work Practice’. Over 70 non-UK participants have already booked incl. from Japan, Nepal, USA and New Zealand, so be sure to reserve your place before the final deadline of 22nd June 2018.

PS Tony Taylor of IDYW is a contributor on the panel at the end of the conference. Given his hostility to the neoliberal discourse of outcomes and impact, it will be interesting to see how his argument is received.

Mapping Open Access Youth Work : Join the IDYW Collective Exercise

Ta to unravellingthemind.co.uk

Every now and then, someone on the In Defence of Youth Work Facebook page brings up the subject of mapping youth provision around the country. So now we have decided to try to do this, using our greatest resource – you (cue motivational cheers). This involves everyone with knowledge of open access provision around their area to drop pins onto a google maps shared document, accessed here: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1h5AIffHOKF1at5HeDQuA32Uo9dA&usp=sharing

Open the Youthclubsmap file for detailed information about how to join the exercise.

Youthclubsmap

Feedback, suggestions warmly welcomed.

Thanks to Colin Brent for initiating this exercise in collaboration.