Tackling the causes of mental illness is the only way we’re really going to help people get better

psysocial change

Further to our last post, What future in mind? Critical Perspectives on Youth Wellbeing and Mental Health Psychologists for Social Change argue powerfully that Tackling the causes of mental illness is the only way we’re really going to help people get better.

If we don’t examine the wider context of why and how someone develops their distress, the problem can end up being situated inside the person. It is a person’s brain that is the problem and not these wider factors. This individualisation of psychological distress not only puts the onus for recovery squarely on the individual’s shoulders, but it shifts the focus away from the societal, cultural and political factors which contribute to people being in these positions in the first place.

Thinking about mental health as something that starts and stops with the individual is never going to lead to a healthier and more connected society. We need to see the bigger picture, to consider how things like social disadvantage and inequality tug at the very fabric of what makes society functional. We need to draw on other approaches, like community psychology, public health and mental health impact assessments of policies. Policymakers are not blind to this. NHS England, for example, uses a formula that takes into account health inequalities when it assigns resources to local health authorities. But it needs to go much further than this. Tackling the social root causes needs to be at the core of all policy.

 
One current example that may turn out to be a missed opportunity is the government’s recent proposals for child and adolescent mental health. This is vital to get right as the association between social disadvantage and mental health starts young – in the UK, family income has been found to be inversely related to socioemotional difficulties in children as young as three.

With its narrow focus on the role that schools and colleges can play, the government’s proposal is actually a huge diversion away from the real issues, which we would argue is rising poverty and poor educational policies. And we are not the only ones to think so – last week a joint report from the Education and Health and Social Care Select Committees found that “it lacks any ambition and fails to consider how to prevent child and adolescent mental ill health in the first place”. Their report also revealed that the connection between social disadvantage and youth mental health was not part of the brief that the researchers, providing the evidence to underpin the proposals, were given. In short, it wasn’t part of the conversation from the get-go.

This needs to change. It is time to start a more sophisticated conversation around mental health that leads to more sophisticated action.

Note on the authors:

Annabel Head is a clinical psychologist and Jessica Bond is a writer. Both are members of Psychologists for Social Change, a group established to highlight the social determinants of psychological distress

What future in mind? Critical Perspectives on Youth Wellbeing and Mental Health

I’m not sure if any of our London folk are going to this conference, which is being held today, but it would be excellent to get feedback. The questions being raised need answering by all those wedded seemingly uncritically to notions of wellbeing and the rise of a mentally unhealthy younger generation. Somewhere, gathering dust, I’ve got the notes of contribution I made to a conference on wellbeing. I should blow off the cobwebs and post it sometime.

wellbeing

What future in mind? Critical Perspectives on Youth Wellbeing and Mental Health.

DATE AND TIME: Fri 18 May 2018 from 10:00 to 16:00 

LOCATION: 152-153 – Cayley Room, University of Westminster, 309 Regent Street, London, W1B 2HW
Amidst mounting concern over wellbeing and mental health, improving the state of mind of the young has become a preoccupation of Western economies. In the UK politicians, celebrities and even key members of the British monarchy have campaigned on the issue, demanding earlier intervention to support wellbeing, resilience and positive mental health in schools. More critical voices have drawn attention to the social and structural conditions shaping wellbeing, arguing that the problematization of personal development deflects from the politics of distress in a context of brutal austerity and rising levels of poverty and inequality.

Yet enthusiasm for classroom-based social and emotional training and mental health education is evident in many other national contexts, spanning a range of political and economic frameworks.

This day seminar will examine how concepts of wellbeing and mental health are being applied to children and young people, and will critically explore how positive minds and futures are being envisaged by policymakers. Questions to be discussed include:

Why is state intervention in the social and emotional lives of children and young people increasing in these regions? Can it improve lives and increase happiness or does it instead seek to foreclose the future for the next generation, securing a problematic (unhappy) status quo?

 
As late capitalism is buffeted by global economic crises are the minds of the young increasingly coveted as key sites to anchor and stabilize market based rationality?

 
Can the concept of wellbeing be reclaimed as a socially located experience or is it necessarily a personalised, psychological variable?

 
What alternative ways are there to understand and support the best interests and wellbeing of young people?

 

 

 

Arguing and organising for a Statutory Youth Service continued

Article: Winning a Statutory Youth Service

Doug-Nicholls

Doug Nicholls reflects on the momentous Roundtable event which took place at the Palace of Westminster on 23rd April 2018. He posits that there are shifts towards a new Youth Service with support from key politicians, youth organisations and young people. Setting the political and economic context, Nicholls suggests how a new youth service if both needed and affordable.

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CHOOSEYOUTH EVENT:

CREATING A STATUTORY YOUTH SERVICE – TEN MINUTE BILL

6 June at 10:00–14:00 at Portcullis House (The MacMillan Room), SW1A 2JR London

Tenminutebill

June 6th is an important day for the future of youth work and youth services.

On that day Lloyd Russell Moyle will speak to a Bill in Parliament seeking to introduce a statutory youth service to enhance open access provision and secure resourcing for our essential work.

It is vital that young people and youth workers are in Parliament on that day to meet their MPs.

We, therefore, ask you to consider coming to Parliament where we have booked a large room in Portcullis House (The MacMillan Room).

The idea is to invite your MP to meet you there at a specific time between 10.00-14.00pm.

If you are not able to meet your MP for any reason please consider coming along yourself and supporting the day and keep the great momentum going and meet people from all over the country.

Because of Parliamentary security and access arrangements, you will need to sign up for this event. Once you have done this then we will be in touch to find out the times of your arrival and departure on the day.

This could be a day that really changes things just before the All Party Parliamentary Group enquiry into the youth service over the summer so please get in touch with your MPs as soon as possible.

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REVIVING YOUTH WORK AND REIMAGINING A YOUTH SERVICE : IDYW STARTING POINTS

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Find below the 16 Starting Points, which reflect our IDYW interpretation of the rich debates held both under the ‘Is the tide turning?’ banner and at our March national conference. We hope that you will find them useful as a reference point, as an aide-memoire, in the diversity of meetings you’ll find yourself in during the coming, perhaps turbulent months. The Starting Points leaflet, available in Word, was well received at Monday’s Chooseyouth event. Obviously, given the pluralist character of IDYW, we’re not expecting anyone to slavishly follow these to the letter. Indeed initial critical reaction focused on point 11 and the issue of appropriate pay and conditions.

 

IN DEFENCE OF YOUTH WORK – STARTING POINTS*

REVIVING YOUTH WORK AND REIMAGINING A YOUTH SERVICE

  1. Youth Work’s fundamental aspiration is profoundly educational, political and universal. It seeks to nurture the questioning, compassionate young citizen committed to the development of a socially just and democratic society. It is not a soft-policing instrument of social control.
  2. YouthWork as an integral element in education from cradle to grave should be situated in the Department for Education.
  3. The rejuvenation of a distinctive, state-supported Youth Work focused on inclusive, open access provision needs to be based on a radically different and complementary relationship between the Local Authority and a pluralist, independent voluntary sector.
  4. The renewed practice needs to be sustained by statutory and consistent funding, the purpose and allocation of which ought to be determined locally via accountable mechanisms, such as a democratic Youth Work ‘council’ made up of young people, youth workers, voluntary sector representatives, managers and politicians.
  5. Collaborative work across agencies is vital, but youth workers need to retain their identity and autonomy rather than be absorbed into multi-disciplinary teams.
  6. Youth Work should be associational and conversational, opposed to oppression and exploitation, collective rather than just individual in its intent, unfolding at a pace in tune with the forging of authentic and trusting relationships with young people.
  7. Cornerstones of practice should include the primacy of the voluntary relationship; a critical dialogue starting from young people’s agendas; support for young people’s autonomous activity, for example, work with young women, Black and Minority Ethnic and LGBTQ+ young people; an engagement with the ‘here and now’; the nurturing of young people-led democracy; and the significance of the skilled, improvisatory worker.
  8. The informed focus on young people’s needs flowing from open access provision is more effective than imposed, targeted work in reaching ‘vulnerable’ youth.
  9. Youth Work does not write a script of prescribed outcomes in advance of meeting a young person. It trusts in a person-centred, process-led practice that is positive and unique, producing outcomes that are sometimes simple, sometimes complex, often unexpected and often longitudinal. Practice must be evaluated and accountable, but not distorted by the drive for data, the desire to measure the intangible.
  10. Training and continuous professional development, particularly through the discipline of supervision, via the HE institutions and local providers is essential for full-time, part-time and volunteer workers in ensuring the quality of practice.
  11. JNC and other nationally agreed pay scales and conditions need to be defended and extended. However, a respectful engagement with the differing cultures and employment practices of voluntary and faith organisations, with the contradictions of professionalisation, is required. The emergence of independent social enterprise initiatives cannot be ignored.
  12. Closer links need to be renewed and created between the Youth Work training agencies, regional Youth Work units and research centres.
  13. Youth Work needs advocates at a national level, such as the NYA and Institute for Youth Work, but these must be prepared to be voices of criticism and dissent.
  14. Irrespective of Brexit, Youth Work ought to embrace the Declaration of the 2nd European Youth Work Convention [2015] and be internationalist in outlook.
  15. The National Citizen Service ought to be closed or curtailed, its funding transferred into all-year round provision, of which summer activities will be a part.
  16. The renaissance we urge hinges on a break from the competitive market and the self-centred individualism of neoliberalism and the [re]creation of a Youth Work dedicated to cooperation and the common good.

*These starting points are developed from the themes of the extensive Is the Tide Turning consultation IDYW engaged in over the last year, and discussions at our Annual Conference in March 2018

REVIVING YOUTH WORK AND REIMAGINING A YOUTH SERVICE2 – Word version.

Please photocopy and circulate as you think fit. Thanks.

Towards a Statutory Youth Service – Chooseyouth Action Points

 

CYouthRound1

Thanks to Anam Hoque

 

Further to Monday’s packed and animated Roundtable event held in the Houses of Parliament Doug Nicholls, Chair of Chooseyouth, has written as follows:

 

Just a big thank you to all those who were able to attend the Chooseyouth event in Parliament on Monday. Thanks also to those who were with us in spirit but unable to attend.

We are going to have to be focused and organised over the coming year to win. We will send out some briefings to assist with campaigning.

 

CyRound2

Ta to Sue Atkins for the montage

 

In the meantime here are the action points we suggested at the meeting that would really help.

1. Declare your individual and or organisational support for Chooseyouth if you have not already done so by writing simply to Kerry Jenkins at kerry.jenkins@unitetheunion.org. It doesn’t cost anything and your name will simply be listed as a supporter.

2. As soon as you can write to your MP whoever they are and ask them if they support a statutory Youth Service. Let Chooseyouth know what they say.

3 In May write to your MP and ask them if they will be supporting the Ten Minute Bill on the Youth Service.

4 Immediately write to Angela Raynor MP requesting that the Youth Service be made statutory and put within the National Education Service that Labour is proposing.

5 Get ready to lobby your MP again and get busy on Social Media when the Ten Minute Rule Bill is put on June 6th by Lloyd Russell Moyle MP.

6 Write immediately to Cat Smith MP who is consulting on the implementation of a statutory youth service, saying you support a statutory youth service and giving any reasons why and what it might look like.

All of this will make a difference at this critical time.

Thanks very much.

Doug Nicholls,

General Secretary,

General Federation of Trade Unions.

Sustenance for the Senses 3 – hope not anxiety, roadshows, education acts, grooming and serious violence

In the last fortnight, Youth Work or Youth Services have been in the limelight, as evidenced by Tuesday’s two posts featuring Seema Chandwani’s passionate twitter threads, one specifically aimed at Sadiq Khan’s Crime Summit. Once more the classic tension as to the relationship between the educative and preventative in youth work is revisited or as James Ballantyne puts it in the most recent of his always thoughtful blogs between a provision that is driven by hope rather than anxiety.


Following on from the announced commitment to a statutory Youth Service, the Labour Party seeks help to shape its education policy, declaring:

labour logoTogether, we can create an education system that works for the many, not the few, and your voice matters to us. That’s why we have launched the National Education Service Roadshow (NES) as part of our National Policy Consultation.

Over three months, the Roadshow will visit our nations and regions to meet with and speak to members and supporters who want to help shape the future of education policy.

The Roadshow will build on the work we have done so far and the final principles will underpin the NES for generations to come.

To get involved, you can attend a Roadshow event in person, or you can submit your thoughts online via the Labour Policy Forum.

The diary of Roadshow events has yet to be announced. What are your views on prioritising a contribution to this process?

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An immediate opportunity is provided by ChooseYouth to discuss the situation further.

chooseyouth

CREATING A STATUTORY YOUTH SERVICE – ROUND TABLE EVENT

Mon 23 April 2018 16:00 – 18:00  at the Palace of Westminster, London, SW1A 0AA

Register for free at Statutory Youth Service

Following the successful parliamentary event earlier this year, we are pleased to announce a roundtable discussion on the importance of youth services and creation of a statutory youth service.

Youth services are an essential part of a lifelong learning and civil society and act as the bedrock to many young peoples lives. Over recent years we’ve seen youth service provision decline across the country with parts going completely without.

ChooseYouth which represents over 30 voluntary youth sector organisations has long championed a universal, open access statutory youth service and now in partnership with MP’s in parliament we plan to introduce a bill to create such a service.

This roundtable event in parliament will act as the beginning of that legislative process, bringing together key stakeholders to give their input, not only on the current state of youth services but how best we can advance the cause of a statutory service.


Putting this into a wider educational context Tim Brighouse argues, perhaps naively for new 2020 Education Act in a Guardian article, Rab Butler revolutionised education in 1944. Let’s do it again

‘In the last 100 years, there have been two defining education acts – Butler’s in 1944 and Baker’s in 1988. They represent two distinct chapters in England’s educational story. The first witnessed new schools, colleges and curriculum innovation, especially in the arts, as well as new youth and career services. Margaret Thatcher’s neoliberalism underpinned Baker’s 1988 reform bill, which meant a prescribed national curriculum and tougher accountability, along with diversity in school provision and autonomy’.

The piece prompted the following response from Tom Wylie, a former Chief Executive of the National Youth Agency.

‘Tim Brighouse makes a compelling case for a new settlement for education in England. Two particular further features should be addressed. First, it should be based on evidence, not politicians’ whims and prejudices. Second, it should reflect the fact that adolescents spend much of their time outside the classroom, and thus urgent attention needs to be paid to rebuilding the role of educational youth work for their leisure time.’


    Thanks to the Rotherham Advertiser

More specifically and highlighting the need for a practice, which can build relationships over time, free from short-term targets as well as posing issues around youth work and casework, Naomi Thompson, drawing on her own experience, argues that ‘Slashing youth worker budgets close a key route out for groomed girls.’

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        Ta to the morningstaronline.com

Continuing the Government’s fondness for short-term public relation interventions Home Secretary Amber Rudd has launched a Serious Violence strategy, which includes a new £11m Early Intervention Youth Fund to support community projects that help steer young people away from crime.

According to CYPN, without a hint of embarrassment, given the Tory onslaught on youth services in recent years and on young people’s futures, Rudd argues“we need to engage with our young people early and to provide the incentives and credible alternatives that will prevent them from being drawn into crime in the first place. This in my view is the best long-term solution”.

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Seema Chandwani: Youth work isn’t sexy nor prescribed – it follows and grows with the young person.

I make no apology for copying again some of Seema Chandwani’s twittering thoughts posted ahead of today’s London City Hall Summit called by Sadiq Khan. Not at all abstract but responses grounded in the reality of day-to-day circumstances they express bluntly and eloquently the argument for a process-led, young people centred youth work, which has time on its side.

 

sadiqkhan

Ta to worldreligionnews.com

 

This event cannot be an opportunity to blame each other for the shambles we find ourselves in, it’s the fault and responsibility of all regardless of party. This event needs to be honest & not pass the buck to absolve responsibility. We’ve no time to watch headline table tennis.

In London (and throughout the UK) young people, campaigners and Trade Unions warned Local Authorities/Council Leaders of the dangers in cutting Youth Services. In Feb 2011 Haringey was informed of consequences and pursued a 75% cut months prior to the riots.

Tomorrow must ask serious questions about why local authorities and council leaders ignored warnings, intel,and young people when they decided to slash Youth Services. Blaming govt cuts can only go so far when money is found for logo changes, propaganda mags etc.

The Mayors £45m Youth Fund has tweeted about is piecemeal, it allows organisations with the best bid writing abilities to be the most successful. It keeps us in gimmick mode. Youth work isn’t sexy nor prescribed – it follows and grows with the young person.

Any youth project applying for 3-year funding that is able to tell you 36-40 mths before the end of the project what the outputs will be is a fantasy. They’ll seek the young people to fit the outcome and the most marginalised will be seen as too much effort to meet the targets.

Youth workers need to be able to work with young people without the pressure of arbitrary targets that some young people cannot achieve. A Youth Worker needs to know they can stay on a journey with young people that could take months or years.

A real effort needs to be made by politicians, especially Cllrs at what Youth Work is. If it doesn’t make sense to you, accept this is your problem and not the service/staff and force yourself to learn rather than adapt the service to meet something you can understand.

This notion of ‘targeted’ support is absolute bullshit. No young person feels they can engage on equal terms with projects called ‘Troubled Families’. It’s degrading, it commences with judgement and it disempowers. Would you engage with things like that?

Youth work works because it attracts young people into activities that make them feel good, maybe that one thing they get praised for in education. It’s delivered in a space they feel comfortable and should have ownership of. They engage with trained adults in an equal way.

When things go wrong at home, on the street or at school. They have that one space, where they go that makes them feel good. They have relationships with adults that over time they’ve trusted with smaller things. They can now go to them with the big things.

If you think young people just get referred to a professional and trust is instantly there you’re insane! They don’t want another adult telling them (or threatening them) what to do. They want the freedom and ability to explore feelings, risks, consequences to make a decision.

So tomorrow must be clear that putting police on the street is a temporary measure. Investing in young people, properly through unrestricted youth work (not gimmick funding grants) is a political responsibility. Youth work ain’t a hobby, it’s a tough profession.