Standards for Youth Workers : Far too instrumental and behavioural? Have your say.

Personally, I read these ‘standards’ with a heavy heart – the underlying instrumental character of the whole exercise, the very telling and problematic use of the notion of ‘behaviours’ throughout and the absence of a feel for an improvised conversational youth work practice that is not programmed or activity-based. And it might be water under the bridge, but the title of ‘Youth Support Worker’ still gets my goat. These folk are youth workers. However, I probably protest too much. Certainly, I hope people might find the time and energy to respond.

NYA_No_Background

NYA’s ETS committee has been supporting the Youth Work Trailblazer to develop apprenticeship standards for Youth Workers, Support Youth Workers and Assistant Youth Support Workers.

Each apprenticeship standard has to be expressed as the knowledge, skills and behaviours required for an occupation.

Standards for the three apprenticeships are attached, and the NYA have launched an open invitation for interested parties to complete a short survey for whichever is the most appropriate standard for your context: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/ApprenticeshipStandards
Additionally, you are invited to forward the standards and survey link to your contacts so that we can reach the widest contribution to the content of these draft standards.

The assessment plan for each of these standards is due to be circulated in the not too distant future, so your input into the development of the content of each standard is requested before 25th December.

In the meantime, if there you have any queries or additional comments, please contact Veena Chauhan via: VeenaC@nya.org.uk

 

Standard for Assistant youth support worker Dec 2017

Standard for youth support worker Dec 2017

Standard for youth worker Dec 2017

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.

 

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

 

 

 

 

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

Perhaps the tide is turning, but the struggle to stay afloat continues

I’ll resist sliding into what seems the standard ‘youth sector’ account of anything it does, namely somehow that it’s always overwhelmingly new, innovative and inspiring. My caution aside the reports from the medley of ‘Is the tide turning’ events and discussions held in the last week or so do give grounds for a measure of hope and optimism. Here are a few quotes and photos to back up a collective sense that the struggle to reclaim and reimagine a youth work freed from the shackles of neoliberal dogma is alive and even flourishing.

 

Chris Warren leading off the Derby debate

 

A great IDYW Turning the Tide Event hosted by the D2N2 Youth Work Alliance at the University of Derby today. Over 65 practitioners and youth work students in attendance. A constructive discussion took place about the political responsibility for valuing young people and professional youth work… ideas for what youth work needs to address and look like in the future.

 

Part of the audience in Derby

 

Is The Tide Turning? Event in Birmingham today. Should Youth Work be statutory is a question being asked a lot at the moment!

 

Much pondering in Birmingham

 

Thank you In Defence of Youth Work and to Bernard Davies who led our discussions on the future of youth work. Brilliant to get together and imagine what we want from the future. We’re inspired and motivated to make it happen. The young people enjoyed it and said they were proud to contribute to making change happen 😃

 

Bernard Davies still going strong

 

At this moment we are in the middle of receiving feedback from events/workshops in Brighton, Cardiff, Cumbria, Derby, Doncaster, London, Northampton and Manchester. The task now is to draft a discussion paper based on the rich range of material emerging from the gatherings. Given that the Christmas midwinter break is relatively close we’ll aim to circulate this early in the New Year. From there all being well we’d like to put what we might call a position paper to our national conference on March 9 in Birmingham.

In the meantime, we must pay tribute to everyone for their part in making happen the ‘Is the tide turning’ debate. Thanks collectively for raising all our spirits.

Reflection: Dialogue: Action: – “Expressions of faith in Youth Work”, November 18 in Derby

D2N2

Reflection: Dialogue: Action: – “Expressions of faith in Youth Work”

18 November from 9:30–14:30 in the Britannia Mill, DE22 3BL Derby

 

An opportunity and reflective space for youth work practitioners of all faiths and none, to gather in exploration, dialogue and recognition of the positive & diverse contribution that faith makes to working with young people in their communities of faith and place.

Through workshops, group discussion, reflective activities and keynote input we will explore key themes including:

The importance of interfaith dialogue with young people in their communities

The spiritual development of young people & practitioners

The tensions and opportunities faith values in professional practice

 

It is our hope that as delegates we will commit to learning from each other through sharing our journeys and narratives, recognising our blockages and thinking beyond our own known faith communities and reference points.

The day will be facilitated by members of the D2N2 Youth Work Alliance Core Group, including Ian Tannahill, ‘Director of Young People’s Services’ at Blend Youth Project and Angela Brymer, ‘Youth Ministry Adviser’ for the Diocese of Southwell & Nottingham.

Workshop Facilitators

We are pleased to welcome the following workshop facilitators, whose knowledge and experience will help to root our reflections and discussion firmly in models of practice:

Jill Appleton: – ‘Development Worker, Birmingham & Schools Consultant’ for ‘The Feast’.

The Feast is a Christian charity based in Birmingham, working to promote community cohesion between young people of different faiths and cultures. http://www.thefeast.org.uk

 

Ruth Richardson: – ‘Director’ at the Multi-Faith Centre in Derby.

The Multi-Faith Centre exists to promote mutual understanding between people of different faiths/beliefs and none and to build respect between people as fellow human beings across cultures. http://www.multifaithcentre.org

 

Additional useful Information

On-site parking is available.

The event will be held in Rooms: BM 115/116

Lunch will be provided

 

A short D2N2 Youth Work Alliance AGM will be held during the lunch break.

Book your free place at https://www.facebook.com/events/119896412033269/

 

Tim Caley reviews ‘Grassroots Youth Work – policy, passion and resistance in practice’

The latest Youth & Policy features Tim Caley’s generous review of Tania de St Croix’s book, ‘Grassroots Youth Work – policy, passion and resistance in practice’ 

grassroots

Invoking from the 1960’s the literary critic, Richard Hoggart and the ‘on the side of the underdog’ youth worker, Ray Gosling he argues that ‘the critical achievement of her writing is that it gets to the heart of good youth work practice, it digs deep into how practitioners – especially the part-timers – feel about teenagers, how strongly they love their work and how resilient they are proving in the face of political and financial adversity. Based on three years of research and two years of writing, she weaves together the voices of part-time youth workers and young people with a concise (yet coruscating) analysis of the corrosive impact of government policies on youth work and youth services in the last ten years. What’s more, she does it with an eloquent passion and resistance of her own, reflecting the book’s primary themes’.

Nevertheless, he chides Tania for sometimes being overzealously simplistic in her critique. Somewhat defensively he points out that even in the midst of neoliberal constraint there are empathetic managers.  I suppose I’d like to think so too, given I was once mistakenly a Chief Youth Officer. More problematically, in my opinion, he suggests that OFSTED inspections were an accurate arbiter of what constitute the highest standards of youth work practice. He suggests rightly that we should treat seriously the efforts of some charities to chart a positive course through the troubled waters of a shifting economy of youth work. Less persuasively he repeats the tired charge that youth workers fail to provide evidence to funders. From my conversations with workers, they feel they do little else nowadays except furnish data upon data to their bosses. And as for Tania, having devoured its contents, my sense is that her coverage of these issues is nuanced rather than naive.

No matter, books and book reviews, such as Tim’s, ought to stimulate argument and debate. As it is I find myself close to agreeing with the fulsome praise, with which he concludes.

Tania de St Croix has written the best book on youth work since Mark K. Smith’s seminal Creators not Consumers, published in 1980′.

Read Tim’s review in full and, do yourself a favour, beg, steal, borrow, even buy the book itself.  There are few books in the youth work canon that can be said to be a bloody good read. Tania’s is the exception.