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.

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?

 

FIGHT ELITISM: Stand With Community Development & Youth Work At Goldsmiths College

goldsmiths

Background

  • The management team of the Social, Therapeutic and Community Studies Department (STaCS), have launched an unprecedented attack on the part time staff of its highly successful BA Degree in Applied Social Science, Community Development and Youth Work (BAASSCD&YW) – the only remaining full-time community and youth work degree in London 2016-17.
  • Over the past two years the programme has recruited increased numbers of students and as a result, has generated a substantial increase in levels of income.
  • Under the guise of a ‘staff restructure’ management is proposing to use these resources to replace a diverse group of up to 6 part-time staff with 2-3 full-time staff who are either engaged in doctoral level research or who have completed a PhD, in order to meet departmental research priorities, in particular, to improve grant capture and REF ratings.
  • The BAASSCD&YW course, which has a student cohort of 81% BME students, is being singled out as these departmental research priorities are not being applied across the department.
  • The students are outraged, as they are already challenging management for cutting their contact hours from over 200 hours to 120 hours per year.

 BA programme strengths – values and ethos

The Programme was thoroughly revised last year and has also undergone internal reviews and external National Youth Agency reviews this year – all have highlighted that academic rigour, equality and social justice and relevant professional practice are embedded in the programme and praised the existing diverse staff team, for example;

  • ..changes will strengthen what is already a well-regarded BA Programme…The continued commitment of the teaching staff will be vital in ensuring its future (BA Review Final Report, 2016)
  • The programme team were praised for their academic, community engagement, current practice (NYA Validation Report 2016 section 7, p9)

Both past and present students, also appreciate the diversity of the current staff team’s academic expertise and interests along with their up to date and relevant professional practice.

  • NSS results in 2016 showoverall satisfaction (95%); the course is intellectually stimulating (95%); staff are enthusiastic about what they are teaching (95%); staff have made subject interesting (100%).

Students comments about the programme:

‘I have enjoyed the passion the lecturers have shown for their subjects and the support they have offered. Intellectually prompting lectures,…would recommend this course to everyone and anyone.

The group training has helped me to develop both personally and practically. Lecturers are passionate about teaching and about their own continued work within youth and community.

The CD&YW course has really challenged me to think differently and equipped me with skills to be an effective practitioner.

The tutors have been very supportive.’ (NSS, 2016)

Potential impact

STaCS restructure proposal departs from Goldsmiths’ organisational change policy – management refuses to job match as staff are not on teaching and research contracts and they are not trying meaningfully to mitigate against redundancy. The restructuring is being vigorously challenged by academic staff, students (via the college Student Union) and Goldsmiths University and College Union (GUCU) members – industrial action is likely.

  • Management has presented a flawed rationale and no evidence that the recruitment of such staff on this professionally endorsed degree programme will improve the quality of teaching and learning, or enhance students’ overall experience.
  • The imposition of this untimely and totally unexpected management proposal will disrupt the progress of existing students and those students entering the revised programme
  • It will have an overwhelmingly negative impact on BME staff and BME students who comprise 81%
  • It disregards long-standing, highly regarded academic and professional skills and expertise of existing staff
  • It represents a trend in HE which must be resisted.

Support Requested from Stakeholders

We urge the BAASSCDYW wider community of stakeholders, who have supported the programme over several years, to write to the Warden, (Patrick Loughrey, email: warden@ gold.ac.uk) expressing concern that part time staff are unnecessarily under the threat of redundancies and the potential impact on the programme, recommending that the existing staff (who have been repeatedly refused time to pursue research activities), should be supported to pursue research activities and should be valued and retained. We would also ask that you send a copy and messages of support to gucu-admin@gold.ac.uk.

Keep up to date with news and further actions:

https://goldsmiths.org @Goldsmithsucu #fightelitism #standwithcdyw

Campaign Materials:

PDF copies of this campaign letter are available here

Fight Elitism Campaign flyers are also available – email gucu-admin@gold.ac.uk if you would like us to send you some

Youth work in Japan: Why does storytelling matter? IDYW Seminar, September 1

_doorway1jethro

Ta to Jethro Brice

Colin Brent sends news re the fascinating prospect of hearing about youth work in Japan and the influence of IDYW’s Story-Telling approach upon the Japanese scrutiny of practice.

In Defence of Youth Work’s Engaging Critically Seminars

Youth work in Japan: Why does storytelling matter?

story telling 2

Friday, September 1 from 11:00 –14:00

Bollo Brook Youth Centre, 272 Osborne Road, W3 8SR, London

Programme 

· Creating spaces to write and read about practice – creating the Japanese version of ‘This is Youth Work’ (Maki Hiratsuka)

· Two stories from youth work practice in Japan

· Discussion

Background

Maki Hiratsuka is working with researchers and youth work practitioners from Japan to undertake international research in youth work that focuses on the creation of ‘the space’ for ‘writing down the practice and reading it together’. Inspired by the In Defence of Youth Work publication ‘This is Youth Work: Stories from Practice’ , they are aiming to publish the Japanese version online by the end of 2017. It is also hoped to make it into a series. As in England, ‘numerical’ evaluation has prevailed in Japan. As a counter-measure, the research group propose story-telling.

In Defence of Youth Work is a forum for critical discussion on youth work. We are committed to encouraging an open and pluralist debate at a time of limited opportunities for collective discussion. We are looking forward to welcoming researchers and youth workers from Japan to share and discuss the similarities and differences in the practice and governance of youth work in our two countries.

See also Facebook events page to indicate interest/to say you’re going.

Youth Work in Japan

 

Post-Seminars, Post-Steering group, Post-Election reimaginings – awakening from the deep slumber of decided opinion

The dates for the IDYW seminars on the question of state-funded youth work/National Citizen Service plus our steering group meeting were in the diary long before Teresa May’s opportunist blunder in calling a General Election. Little did she know, but her snap decision and its fallout influenced significantly the nature of the discussions at all our gatherings. In essence, an important and far-reaching question was posed for our consideration.

Despite losing, does the unexpected support for a Corbyn-led Labour Party, riding on an explicit social-democratic manifesto, signal a promising break from the suffocating grip of neoliberal ideas upon society at large and youth work in particular?

 

In wondering thus, we are minded that the Open Letter, which launched IDYW, first drafted in late 2008, exuded what might be seen as a naive optimism.

 

deepslumber

Ta to theatlantic.com

 

Capitalism is revealed yet again as a system of crisis: ‘all that is solid melts into air’. Society is shocked into waking from ‘the deep slumber of decided opinion’. The arrogant confidence of those embracing the so-called ‘new managerialism’, which has so afflicted Youth Work, is severely dented. Against this tumultuous background, alternatives across the board are being sought. We believe this is a moment to be seized. Our contention is that we need to reaffirm our belief in an emancipatory and democratic Youth Work.

In 2017, suitably sobered, our meetings displayed a cautious optimism towards the turn of events, declaring no more than this is a moment not to be missed. In this spirit, we are in the midst of preparing a discussion paper for your perusal and criticism, which will also be the basis for a range of IDYW gatherings in the late Summer/early Autumn, which will hopefully include young people as well as ourselves.

Contrary to the stereotype of IDYW as a haven of nostalgia for a post-Albemarle Golden Age, still peddled recently at a national conference, the paper will seek to reimagine the possibility of state-funded, open-access, pluralist youth provision, which learns from both past and present, good and bad practice, not least in terms of hierarchical and horizontal management approaches; which engages with the often disjointed relationship between the so-called statutory and voluntary sectors; which weighs up recent developments, such as the emergence of social enterprise initiatives and the spectre of the National Citizen Service; which revisits the issue of what sort of training and development might inform the renaissance of youth work as a distinctive educational setting; and which explores tentatively what local and national structures might be congruent with our vision.

Looking down the road we hope that our discussions will lead to the creation of a policy statement aimed without apology at those political parties seeking to break from austerity and neoliberalism.

Watch this space and muck in as the argument flowers.

 

Community Engagement: A Critical Guide for Practitioners

 

commengagement

Ta to sustaining community

 

As ever we are more than pleased to draw your attention to this excellent resource, courtesy of CONCEPT, produced by those stalwarts of critical practice, Mae Shaw and Jim Crowther. Speaking personally it highlights the common ground occupied by youth workers, community workers and community educators; underlines our shared values, skills and knowledge base; and crucially faces up to the contradictions of our interventions into the lives of young people and the community. To whet your appetite, find below the introduction.

Community Engagement: A Critical Guide for Practitioners

Introduction

The motivation for this critical guide to community engagement
comes primarily from our experience over many years as teachers on
undergraduate and postgraduate programmes of community education.
These programmes have historically been validated both by the
university and the appropriate professional body, so they are firmly
located at the interface between academic and vocational standards;
between theory and practice. We have found that these di!erent,
sometimes contradictory, demands create a productive dynamic which
has been at the core of our teaching, our writing and our relationships
with the broader field of practice. We consider that an engagement with
significant theoretical frameworks, an awareness of important historical
traditions and an empathetic identification with the social reality of
marginalized groups are all necessary in order to practise critical
community engagement.

One way in which we sometimes characterise this dynamic relationship
is through the notion of ‘theorising practice’. Except in the most
instrumental of cases, practitioners don’t put theory into practice in
any straightforward way. They put themselves into practice! This
suggests a need to think critically and carefully about what role
community engagement fulfils in particular times and places.

It also means that practitioners need to develop the confidence,
skills and knowledge to apply that understanding in practice.
The role of practitioners in seeking to make creative and critical
connections – between personal experience and political structures;
macro-level decisions and micro-level consequences; the potential
for personal agency within constraints of power – should be a core
feature of professional practice as well as of academic study.
The following chapters have been designed to work as one-o!,
freestanding sessions, or as a relatively coherent educational
programme. It goes without saying that they should be modified to
suit particular situations as required. They are intended to open up
discussion rather than to stifle or close it down. In some cases further
efforts will be required by practitioners to make them accessible and
relevant to specific circumstances or groups. Above all, they are
intended to develop clarity about, and consistency between,
educational values, purposes and roles.

Finally, at the heart of this project is the idea of the practitioner as
an active educational agent, rather than simply as an agent of policy.
This position necessarily creates tensions and dilemmas that need to
be confronted, and some of these are presented here. In particular, it
requires practitioners to engage strategically and creatively with the
politics of policy, whilst also attempting to enlarge the democratic
spaces available to communities. We hope this critical guide will
enable people to do this more systematically and more collectively.

Mae Shaw, University of Edinburgh
Jim Crowther, University of Edinburgh
(jim.crowther@ed.ac.uk)
May 2017

Must read blogs for youth workers includes IDYW

We’re not given to patting ourselves on the back for our endeavours so it’s gratifying to be given this thumbs-up from Aaron Garth over at Ultimate Youth Worker. And we’re very much in agreement with him about his other recommendations. Beware sycophancy we tell ourselves.

annualcheese-fest

Youth work is a strange beast. We aren’t great at tooting our own horn. Even worse at sharing what we do. So when people step into the gap and share their thoughts, dreams, aspirations, research and their passion it is a fantastic sight to see. There have been many youth work blogs that have come and gone over the years (a testament to our sectors difficulties). With this in mind here are a few of the blogs for youth workers we read regularly that keep us up to date and get our creative juices flowing.

IN DEFENCE OF YOUTH WORK

We have been keen followers of the crew at In Defence for the last six years. The mix of news and thoughts on where the sector is at in the UK always keep us interested and informed. Tony Taylor does a great job bringing it all together with the occasional guest post from others throughout the sector. In Defence have a great open letter to the sector which states their view on youth work and how it should run. This is a must read for anyone who wants to stay in the youth sector for the long haul.

DETACHED YOUTH WORK – LEARNING FROM THE STREET

Over the past year we have got to know the writing of James Ballantyne really well. James writes at the intersection of Youth Work and Youth Ministry and brings a detached youth work perspective to his writings. James has a depth of knowledge and wisdom that shows through in pretty much every post he does. Another UK Native James brings a strong dose of detached youth work to his readers, a concept we should all get our head around. This blog is a fantastic resource for youth ministers who are looking to develop their skills and knowledge, and is a fantastic read for the rest of the sector to see what youth ministry could be like with a bit of youth work injected into it.

Exploring Youth Issues

Alan Mackie is a PhD student at the University of Edinburgh who’s areas of interest include education and youth work. His blog brings articles o politics, young people, youth work and education together to give us a smorgasbord of thoughts. Alan’s blog is one of those We go to if we want to challenge our thinking and the way the world sees young people.

Radical Youth Practice

A New blog on the block is Radical Youth Practice from Rys Farthing. Rys was a lecturer of Aaron’s at RMIT over a decade ago and is now based in the UK. We expect a lot from this blog and it delivers in spades. Challenging the way youth services see political action as they worry about biting the hand that feeds them is an early taste of what’s to come from this powerhouse author. Its early days but we expect to see Rys around for a long time yet.

We can’t recommend these blogs for youth workers enough.

Go and check them out.