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.

Remembering the Battle of Lewisham and the involvement of youth and community workers

lewisham

It’s perhaps revealing that in the preparations for the demonstration and on the day itself local authority and voluntary sector youth and community workers, alongside young people, were to the fore. With all its tensions and contradictions, being involved was seen as the ABC of political education.  Forty years later, in working environments where talk of politics is seen at best as a distraction, at worst as a disciplinary issue, how many practitioners would see matters in the same way? Whilst circumstances have changed, racism remains at the heart of our present political turmoil and remains a burning issue in our work with young people.

 

Remembering the Battle of Lewisham 40 years on: Weekend of events 12-13 August

Lewisham2

This weekend is the 40th anniversary of the Battle of Lewisham, when the Nazi National Front were blocked from marching between New Cross and Lewisham town centre. The first time a national NF march had been stopped from reaching its destination.

It is one of the most significant historical events in Lewisham’s history and for race relations in Britain. There is a weekend of events planned to commemorate this event.

Unite Against Fascism have organised a Commemorative March through Lewisham, Assemble 1pm, Clifton Rise, London, SE14 6JW. Event page: http://bit.ly/2hIWFHY
This will be followed by a Love Music Hate Racism event at New Cross Inn, 323 New Cross Rd SE14 6AS. Hip hop artist Logic will be performing at the event. Event page: http://bit.ly/2sGWs90
Remembering the “Battle of Lewisham” community festival: Sunday 13th August

On Sunday 13th August Love Music Hate Racism, Goldsmiths, Lewisham Council and the Albany Theatre are running a community festival commemorating the “Battle of Lewisham”. The free event will include live music, screenings, panel discussions, exhibitions, stalls, food and an evening gig.

The event will begin with the unveiling of a plaque 12.15pm Clifton Rise, London SE14 6JW followed by a festival at The Albany from 1 pm full details here.

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?

 

“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

 

Which way for the arts in youth work? Frances Howard explores

 

Given the constant pressure for youth work to prove itself, I’ve often found myself thinking, ‘never mind youth work, how do you ever prove that the arts in schools are worth doing?’  Faith in the oft hidden benefits of the creative process is required, hence, given their instrumental view of the human condition, the neoliberals’ disregard for music education in schools or their hostility to the humanities in Higher Education. In this light, the latest piece in the revamped Youth and Policy by Frances Howard is revealing.

arts award

Drawing on findings from an ethnographic study of three youth projects, which used the young people’s Arts Award, her article, ‘The arts in youth work: A spectrum of instrumentality?’, explores the tension between the instrumental and the expressive in our practice.

She begins:

The current emphasis on structured activities, achievable measurable outputs and providing value for money for both youth and arts projects are situating them in risky terrain. Public-funding and evidence-based policy-making since New Labour have meant that arts and youth work programmes have become increasingly instrumentalised. The arts are frequently referred to in youth work as a ‘tool’, vehicle, medium or means, however we should be highly critical of any relationship between cause and effect that may ignore the often unaccountable complexities within young people’s lives.

She concludes:

We need to be more critical about informal and arts education’s claims of impact and consider that an emphasis on achievable measurable outputs and value for money can endanger the sustainability and future funding of both youth and arts projects. It is important that we interrogate key assumptions about the arts and young people as a ‘social project’ and that we consider how to influence future policy, so that it begins to value more human factors in its measurements. But, how can the academic field influence these measurements and weave new pathways towards demonstrating the value of young people’s journeys rather than outcomes? It might be that engaging with the expressive arts is an ideal way of doing just this.

As ever it would be smashing to get some responses to this analysis, especially from workers, for whom the arts are an integral part of their practice.

 

Celebrating Youth & Policy 4 – Positive for Youth: Is policy meeting practice? Pat Kielty explores.

Y&P

In the last of the first four pieces on the revamped Y&P website, with a new youth policy evidently in the offing, Pat Kielty subjects the past Coalition’s ‘Positive for Youth’ rhetoric to critical scrutiny.

posfor youth

Beginning:

As we await the release of a new youth policy, this article considers Positive for Youth and explores how political rhetoric relates to practice. This is done by considering three key policy concepts; respect, empowerment and belonging. These notions are complex, contested and clearly not restricted to the field of youth work. As such, a complete analysis is beyond the scope of the piece but there will be a commitment to view them from the paradigm of youth work and young people.

All quotes within this article are taken directly from current youth policy or from young people. Focus group research was conducted with members of the Thurrock Youth Cabinet (TYC) and Riverside Youth Club (RYC) in Tilbury. Research participants were asked to consider the identified notions in the context of their lives and the youth work provision they attend.

Concluding:

This article aims to give some critical consideration to a selection of values contained within youth policy. It was suggested earlier, there is a discourse in Positive for Youth around the young person undergoing individual transformation. As such, they are to become ‘empowered’, to develop and receive ‘respect’ and obtain a ‘sense of belonging’. The fundamental concern here is the lack of attention given to these complex notions. Policy does also not take account of the wider political and social factors, the environment of the young person and the understated role of association.

From a practical perspective, I would support the view that respect, empowerment and belonging do have relevance to youth work. However, I believe these need careful deliberation, exploration and application both from the worker and the young person. Claims without dialogue and rhetoric based on assumption need to be avoided. Freire (1972) states that dialogue involves respect. It should not involve one person acting on another, but rather people working with each other. Youth policy appears to place a number of requests on young people, but perhaps policy makers should reflect on a simple but powerful message:

They should listen to us more. (Member RYC)

Voice of Youth co-op looking for volunteers

Message from Tania de St Croix

Hello friends,
We need some new volunteers for our fantastic youth workers’ co-op in Hackney, London. We are writing to you because we think you might be interested yourself or know somebody who might be interested – if so, please see below, forward this email to anyone who might be interested, and put up the attached PDF or Word poster version if you have anywhere to put it. Ideally we would love to hear back before mid-August as we would like to organise a volunteer induction session before the autumn.
Thanks so much!

voy-logo

S.O.S. Voice of Youth!!!
Volunteers needed for youth work co-op in Hackney

Be part of something amazing!
No bosses, great mutually supportive team including local young people – experience genuine co-operative working!
We are looking for experienced youth workers who want to support our way of working…
… and for people who want to gain experience in open-access youth work!

Voice of Youth is a special organisation. We do things differently: we work cooperatively, our work is rooted in young people’s needs and wishes, and we avoid funding that involves meeting targets or defining young people as problems. We were set up in 2011 by local young people and youth workers. We are a committed group of volunteers, we have around 30 fantastic young people aged 8-18 taking part each week, and funding for a project using creative activities to get young people talking about social issues. But we need more volunteers to help us stay open!

Interested? You would need to be available all or most Wednesday evenings, 5:30-9:30 pm, term-time from Autumn 2017. Our work relies on trusting relationships with young people and within the staff team, so we ask you to commit to 6 to 12 months if at all possible. Have a look at our website to find out more about us: http://www.voice-of-youth.org

Still interested? Send us an email and we’ll have an informal chat and tell you more! Please contact tania1.voy@gmail.com or any VOY volunteers or youth workers you know, preferably by mid-August ‘17.

Who can be a VOY volunteer? Anyone aged 16+. We aim to reflect the community we work in, and we particularly welcome Black and Minority Ethnic applicants, local young people, and EVERYONE of ANY background who is keen to work with young people on their terms, valuing their views and perspectives. All volunteers need a DBS (criminal record) check – an unrelated criminal record is no problem, but please discuss this with us in advance. Travel expenses available, please ask for details.