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

 

 

 

 

Naomi Thompson – Woman of the Present and the Future

I’ve got many a reservation about the ‘Awards’ culture in today’s society – cue more cries about my continuing slide into miserabilism. However, I did manage a genuine smile at the news that this week Naomi Thompson was the recipient of the Woman of the Future Professions Award. I’m not sure about the notion of the future as in the here and now Naomi has contributed significantly to the world of youth work as a youth worker and lecturer, as a writer, her latest book being ‘Young People and Church since 1900: Engagement and Exclusion’ and, not least from our point of view, as a passionate and committed member of the IDYW steering group.

naomi

The Professions Award recognises women who are making a significant contribution in sectors such as legal, medicine, accounting and education, and who are tipped to reach the top of their field.

The judges described her as ‘an ambitious role model for students, especially with her mixed methods research experience and focus on youth work, religion and crime’.

Naomi Thompson said: “I was humbled and delighted to win the Women of the Future Award after being short-listed alongside some incredible women. The judges commended my research in many areas and my journey from becoming a young parent at aged 20.

“However, the award is a recognition not just of my journey but of the people who have supported me along the way, including the academics and students who supported my nomination – proving no woman is an island.”

 

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.

Renewing the independence of the voluntary youth sector : Reload CVYS, Friday, November 15

 

NCVYS

The former logo of the defunct NCVYS, once a proud, independent voice in the youth work arena

 

During our existence we have expressed on many occasions the concern that the voluntary youth sector is relinquishing its vital independence – see The NCVYS closure: Whither the voluntary youth sector’s independent voice? 

Thus it is fascinating to hear about the following initiative.

RELOAD NCVYS MEETING FOR LOCAL & REGIONAL CVYS’s

Charles W. Shaw informs that the further meeting of Councils for Voluntary Youth Services Network is to be held from 11am to 2pm Friday 17th November 2017 for the purposes of continuing the work started in Wolverhampton at the beginning of 2017.

Network CVYS will continue to examine how NCVYS lost its way, learn from this and plan a way to take positive steps forward and share with the sector.

Meeting will be held at The Royal Society of Arts, 8 John Adam Street,
London, WC2N 6EZ.
For further meeting details telephone 07818 434346 or email: england@cvys.org.uk

We hope to hear more about this promising development.

 

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.

 

It’s communication isn’t it? Using theatre to bring people together

Youth Work has a rich history of using theatre/drama to stimulate critical conversations about personal, social and political issues. I’m out of touch with how much it features in today’s practice. Meanwhile thanks to James Ballantyne for this link to an excellent piece by theatre director, Toby Ealden.

What Once Was Ours

National Tour Autumn 2017

Created against the background of Brexit, What Once Was Ours uses beautiful imagery, striking original music and immersive design to create this powerful new production, which asks why we’ve become so fearful of anyone who is different from us.

★★★★★
“Stuns the audience into silence”

LondonTheatre1

★★★★
“What the play achieves best is fluidity – between moments, emotions, politics”

Hiive

It’s communication isn’t it? Using theatre to bring people together

There’s an assumption in some corners of the theatre sector that creating work for young people is somehow a soft or easy option. Our experience is the opposite. Young audiences seek authenticity and honesty. They want drama that tells it how it is and keeps them engaged. If you don’t tick these boxes then the audience will soon let you know. Young people can handle abstraction better than most adults, and they aren’t afraid of being challenged by big ideas or difficult questions. In short, they don’t take any bullshit.

This kind of immediacy is why we create productions for this age range in the first place. Most of our audiences are first time arts attenders, so they don’t enter the theatre with any preconceived ideas or norms of behaviour. We respond by creating immersive worlds in our shows, removing the seating and placing the audience in the centre of the action for a 360-degree experience in which they can actively feel the show rather then passively spectate.

Armed with hours of interview recordings from our tours, we set about boiling all the noise and conversation into a coherent narrative—using these voices to inspire the production but also littering the script with verbatim quotes from the interviews. The resulting show, What Once Was Ours, aims to illustrate the effects of global and national politics on one family—the macro panorama of the bigger story boiled down into the life of a pair of estranged half siblings called Katie and Callum.

Read in full to find out more.