How do we get mental wealth?

A Long Read for the weekend about how we achieve mental wealth. It is a welcome shot across the bows of professionals, including youth workers, who act as if the dilemmas are individual rather than social and political.

mental wealth

 

Alliance blog

In his address to a Labour Party conference fringe event, Paul Atkinson examines the social and political forces at work in our society’s current approach to psychological distress and asks what we need from a new government to support and nourish the nation’s mental wealth.


For whatever reasons – reasons that I think are very important and need to be explored – the emotional and psychological difficulties of living in this society are becoming increasingly visible and alarming: in our families; in our schools and colleges; in our local communities; in the attention drawn to mental ill health by (social) media, charities and celebrities, as well as politicians and social policy makers.

Should we think of this growing attention to mental health and the emotional conditions of contemporary life as a sign of growing awareness of the pain and suffering that has always been with us, hidden away in the private closet…

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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.

Character education and social justice

Given the increasing emphasis on character education in youth work, see this critique by Gary Walsh.

curriculum for equity

by Gary Walsh

As character educationcontinues to gain influence in educational policy in the UK and elsewhere, it becomes more and more important to ensure it receives adequate critique. Having worked in the field of character education and studied the research base for a number of years, I have concluded that the legitimacy of traditional approaches to character education should be critically examined from a social justice perspective. The purpose of this post is to explain why I think this is the case. In doing so I hope this proves a useful point of reflection for any interested practitioners or researchers.

The Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues make the grand and enticing claim that character is “the basis for human and societal flourishing“. This is somewhat alluring because it sounds empowering and inclusive: the implicit promise is that we can all flourish no matter who we are.

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Young Mayor of Lewisham – the candidates’ manifestos

Thanks to Malcolm Ball for this insight into the process underpinning the election of the Young Mayor of Lewisham.

young mayor

THE CANDIDATES’ MANIFESTOS

THE CANDIDATES’ YOUTUBE STATEMENTS  

For further background, analysis and critique of the Young Mayor’s Project see – ‘Extending democracy to young people: is it time for youth suffrage?’ by
Kalbir Shukra in Youth&Policy 116

Latest from Y&P – Brian Belton on Colonised Youth

brianb

Brian Belton

Colonised youth

Brian Belton’s provocative paper looks at youth identity, and how responses to young people tend to undermine understanding of this group’s economic and political position.

The ethnic discourses that have been the basis for apartheid and genocide have been effectively reinterpreted by ‘enlightened’ benefactors, helpers, professionals, activists and academics as the supposed means of addressing what are essentially economic, social and/or political causation. Standing back it is hard not to understand the attempts of these well-meaning groups to ameliorate structures fundamental to the economic formation via an ethnic or racial discourse. It is difficult not to feel that this is a bit like trying to stop a leak in the roof by a change of attitude – the application of subtle psychological tactics and the preaching of moral imperatives to solve hard practical defects. Essentially this saves on tools and replacement materials, but it will not stop the leak; it’ll just get worse. Not quite like buying second-hand water cannon to address potential rebellion of disaffected youth in the hot days of August but about as pointless.

It is perhaps by now redundant to point out how this chimes with the professional and rights-conscious responses to youth that fail to do much more than perpetuate the deficit position of the young by way of moral placebo and calls for adult ethics to be enacted. This is deeply colonial; the social agenda with regard to youth is thus founded on assumed deficiency of age, and so subject to a form of colonial oppression.

I suspect it’s not at all redundant.

 

 

Unite calls for youth affairs minister to coordinate policies for young people

Video of the presentation plus Q&A from yesterday’s fringe meeting at the Labour Party conference. Thanks to Nick Robinson

A call has been made for a youth affairs minister to coordinate services for young people across government by Unite, the country’s largest union. 

The demand for a minister with a seat in the cabinet will come in a new research report to be launched by the union at the Labour party conference on Sunday (24 September).

The need for a senior minister to knock heads together across Whitehall comes after a period which has seen youth and community services in England seriously eroded by the Tories’ austerity policies since 2010.

In the foreword to the report, Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “Alongside these devastating cuts, youth workers have simultaneously faced attacks on their very profession itself.

“The research findings confirm our fears that the imposition of austerity
measures have devastated the sector. Employers are engaged in a divide-and-rule exercise which feeds ‘a race to the bottom’ and increasingly imposed a ‘one size fits all’ culture on the sector.”

The key demand in the report is for a specific minister for youth affairs to be an advocate for young people in government. The role would straddle Whitehall departments and assess government policy on the aspirations and lives of young people.

This ministerial appointment should be accompanied by a statutory youth services bill that places new legal duties on local authorities to provide a professional youth service and consult young people on changes, such as cuts, closures and removal of services.

Unite national officer for community and youth workers Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe said: “What this research identifies is the systematic erosion of youth services in England since 2010. This report is a blueprint for action and a key recommendation is the appointment of a cabinet-level youth affairs minister.

“He/she would have the ministerial clout to cut through across departments to ensure coherent and joined-up policies that benefit young people, often with serious personal problems, and the staff that provide those services.

“We strongly support the Joint Negotiating Committee for Youth and Community Workers as the quality benchmark to maintain the pay and employment conditions, status and professionalism of youth workers in these challenging times.”

The report also contains the results of a snapshot survey which revealed that 55 per cent of youth workers had experienced change to the services that they deliver; with 73 per cent of those replying that these changes had a negative impact on the provision of services for young people.

The report Youth Work: Professionals Valued was launched at a fringe meeting at the Labour party conference entitled: Moving forward: Rebuilding Youth Services under a Labour Government in hall 4, Hilton Brighton Metropole on Sunday (24 September) at 16.00.

The Youth Work Unit Yorkshire and the Humber was commissioned in April 2017 by Unite to conduct this research. It was a direct response to an attempt by the Local Government Association (LGA) to remove the national collective bargaining agreement called the Joint Negotiating Committee for Youth and Community Workers (JNC) in 2015-2016. 

Two new articles from Y&P – On NEETS and Young Muslims

Continuing the promise of Y&P’s revised format, two new, stimulating articles are awaiting your perusal.

From ‘NEET’ to ‘Unknown’: Who is responsible for young people not in education, employment or training?

NEETS

Situating his discussion in its recent historical context, Liam Wrigley examines how young people labelled as ‘NEET’ have now become ‘unknown’ or ‘lost’, arguing that this is due to a lack of clear strategy concerning actors that have been responsibilised in responding to the employment, training and welfare needs of young people.

The number of young people (between 16-24 years of age) who experience being Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET) has been of grave concern, with the rates of young people labelled as not in education, employment or training remaining high (Simmons et al, 2014). In the UK alone, the number of young people who are NEET has fluctuated between 15% in 2002 to 11.5% in 2016 (DfE, 2017). The label NEET has been successively adopted throughout Europe and internationally (Simmons et al, 2014), although there has been great variation in how this policy label has been defined globally (i.e. some countries count unemployed young people who are graduates or in precarious work situations or ‘zero hour’ contracts). The label reflects a growing trend in recognizing young people that have fallen outside the labour market or education. Throughout Europe, the rate of NEET young people remains high, with countries such as Spain, Ireland and Italy recording more than 17% of young people as out of education, employment or training (Eurofund, 2016).

Young Muslims and exclusion – experiences of ‘othering’

 

youngmuslims

Ta to voa.news

 

On the 16th anniversary of 9/11, Stephen Pihlaja and Naomi Thompson explore experiences of exclusion faced by young Muslims in England.

Since 9/11 and the ‘war on terror’ we have seen an increase in terror attacks receiving high-profile media attention in the UK and Europe. In 2017 these have included attacks taking place in London on Westminster Bridge and London Bridge, and at Ariana Grande’s concert in Manchester. At the time of writing, the recent Barcelona attack is the most current example with media coverage ongoing. There is a strong sense of solidarity after such events that has seen people come together in often positive ways to respond, grieve and build community with each other. However, such events are also followed by increased levels of hate crime towards Muslim individuals and communities, and the aftermath of these events impacts on the everyday lives of young Muslims. In addition, both the fact that most ‘Islamist’ terror attacks take place in Muslim countries against Muslims and the hate crime that is levelled against Muslim communities in the UK and elsewhere following terrorist events, go under-reported.