IDYW response to the APPG Inquiry – What are the training and workforce development needs to secure and sustain youth work?

YWalive

The fourth question asked by the NYA on behalf of the All Party Parliamentary Group.

What are the training and workforce development needs to secure and sustain youth work?

Recent evidence has indicated that the number of courses leading to JNC-recognised youth and community work qualifications has fallen substantially since 2012, with only 36 undergraduate degree courses still operating in 2014-15. Structures for training and qualifying part-time and volunteer youth workers have also become much more fragmented and indeed privatised, leaving participants often having to fund themselves on the routes that are available.

The main route now for ‘professional qualification’ is a degree course although there are still courses up to Level 3 that are delivered ‘locally’ through various training providers. In the past workers would often start working either as a paid worker or volunteer in their local youth centre/project. However the significant change in funding arrangements for delivering part-time training (now the NVQ), together with the severe cuts in Local Authority Youth Services, the dominance of the outsourcing and commissioning culture,, means that we have lost an underpinning foundation for the planning and delivery of professional development for the workforce. In particular, we have lost an authentically local character to training and staff development. Training isn’t commissioned to meet need, but is ‘provided’ by organisations that can procure funding to offer a Level 2 qualification.  Those going through training frequently have no work or volunteer experience.

The collapse of Local Authority Youth Services and the demise of open access youth work has posed enormous problems for universities offering youth work degrees. Inevitably they have had to adjust to a fast-changing workscape, within which many of their graduates find employment in Schools, Youth Social Work, Youth Justice and beyond. The pressure is to produce students, who are employable in a diversity of settings, which in itself is no bad thing. However, from our perspective, the casualty in this blurring of the boundaries is the improvisatory and autonomous youth work we sacrifice at our peril. Addressing this concern is far from easy. Clearly, a renewal of open youth work on the ground is vital, alongside revisiting alternative routes to qualification, the extension of a reimagined NVQ qualification beyond Level 3 and the reinvigoration of Level 1/2 part-time training.

If open access, process-led youth work is, in any substantial and effective form, to again be made available to those thousands of young people who no longer have any access to it, dedicated and state funded action will be needed to provide sufficient and appropriate training opportunities for both full-time and part-time paid and volunteer youth workers, not forgetting students in Higher Education.

 

IDYW response to the APPG Inquiry – Are there sufficient youth workers to support youth services and other delivery models for good quality youth work?

YWalive

The third question asked by the NYA on behalf of the All Party Parliamentary Group.

Are there sufficient youth workers to support youth services and other delivery models for good quality youth work?

Our starting point is necessarily young people, their interests and concerns, For instance, the National Council for Voluntary Youth Services [2013] research found that up to 35% of 10-15 year olds were then using a youth club either most days or at least one day a week. Yet, as the Committee will know, some of the Cabinet Office’s own returns, together with research carried out by Unison and more recently by the YMCA all reveal that state funding for youth work facilities has been cut so heavily since 2010 that many local authority Youth Services have disappeared completely and others decimated. As a result across the country up to one million young people have lost their easily accessible, ‘safe place’, all-year-round leisure-time facilities – open access youth clubs and centres, detached work projects and provision for groups such as LGBT young people.

Hence the straightforward response to the question posed is negative. There is also a tension in that phrase “good quality youth work’.  The drive or requirements for evidence and impact assessment to demonstrate value for money are not the only ways to gauge ‘quality’. In many cases, it could be said that they lead to a distortion in the work in order to fulfil the requirements to provide the figures and the audit trails. However, that apart, because of the cuts in services there is a marked change in the number of workers delivering open access services on the ground.  One significant, oft-hidden, result of this is the diminishing number of workers, lost through redundancy and retirement, able to meet the supervision requirements specified by the NYA and JNC. The circle is vicious as both open access provision and staff experienced in this field disappear.

Weighing up the number of youth workers available is rendered all the more difficult as the breakdown of the local authority youth service has led to the fragmentation of what are recognised as appropriate qualifications. Many national and local voluntary organisations, including faith groups and uniformed organisations, the police, private companies, sports clubs and associations and even the military now seek to deliver their own versions of work with young people.  There is little in the way of collaboration and no clear picture of exactly what is being provided, and what the qualifications are of the people employed. For example, many NCS programmes recruit both volunteers and paid workers who are university students following all manner of degrees from languages to science . Other organisations recognise military service as appropriate experience or, less controversially, the completion of an NVQ certificate or diploma.

Certainly, it seems indisputable that, compared with 2010, there are now far too few youth workers (paid or voluntary) and far too few open access youth work  facilities within which those workers can practice in their distinctive ways.

IDYW Response to the APPG Inquiry – What are the key issues and challenges faced by young people being addressed by current youth service provisions?

YWalive

The second question asked by the NYA on behalf of the All Party Parliamentary Group.

What are the key issues and challenges faced by young people being addressed by current youth service provisions?

‘Have we got a vision of the future that is optimistic and democratic?’ This fundamental question facing society at large is one most keenly felt by young people, for whom life is increasingly precarious. After four decades of the neoliberal emphasis on the self-sufficient individual and the rule of the market young people are to be found in the mire of its contradictions, not least the the consequences of the policy of austerity upon families and communities. The impact of cuts in Public Services have been particularly disproportionate on what we once knew as the Youth Service, The figures of these cuts are now well known, so we don’t need to repeat them here, suffice to say there is a dearth of places for the free association of young people, of spaces to explore and create for themselves collectively visions of their future, to struggle with the issues they experience whether this be lack of meaningful employment, concerns about climate change, dilemmas in their personal and home life, sexual choices, opportunities for arts, music or sport or needing somewhere to live. In short there is a lack of provision, wherein young people explore self-critically the purpose and direction of their lives

Currently, we are all aware of the increase in concern over the mental health of young people – their anxiety,, their loneliness, their failure to be happy or well. The overwhelming political and professional response is to individualise, making the young person responsible for their alleged condition. If the isolation and fragmentation of young people’s lives are not seen as a collective or community issue, the tendency is to move to a case-work deficit model at odds with a young people-centred, process-led youth work. In this context we would argue that present youth services provision is losing its identity, shifting towards behavioural modification programmes, which focus on compliance with rather than criticism of the status quo. Young people need spaces, which are not experienced as being about regulation and surveillance.

The emphasis on conformity is at odds with a commitment to the nurturing of the questioning and informed young citizen, essential to the defence and extension of democracy in these increasingly authoritarian times. We believe that youth work can play a significant part in this struggle for democracy, provided it is granted a level of autonomy, which allows it to be responsive and improvisatory. To take the classic question of young people’s participation impressive work has been done through the mediums of youth councils and parliaments but in many ways these only scratch the surface. As the important PARTiSPACE research argues there is a fundamental flaw in many efforts to get young people to participate – ‘young people are being seen as not knowing or not wanting to participate and therefore needing education. There is little attention paid to structures of inequality and dominance or to young people’s competences and ideas. Rather than through teaching and training, participation is learned by ‘doing’. In our view, youth workers, operating outside of the formal structures of schooling, training, social services and youth justice, can support young people’s self-determination in a distinctive manner and thus enhance the democratic character of society as a whole.

IDYW Response to the APPG Inquiry – What is the role of youth work in addressing the needs and opportunities for young people?

 

 

YWalive

Ta to andyclow.com

The first question asked by the NYA on behalf of the All Party Parliamentary Group.

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What is the role of youth work in addressing the needs and opportunities for young people?

There are many different versions of youth work and it is highly likely the Committee will hear about many of them.  It is a term much used and much abused, reduced in recent times to mean more or less any form of work with young people. In contrast ‘In Defence of Youth Work’  argues that youth work takes place in a distinctive, open and free setting outside of the formal and imposed institutions of society, for example, schools, social services and youth justice. It starts from young people’s identification of their needs. It is holistic in intent, rooted in meaningful association and challenging conversation. Above all, it is based on the building of relationships with young people, which can be neither prescribed nor imposed. So often now, youth workers are directed to work with young people because they are perceived by others to have a problem, or to be causing a problem, or to be deficient in some way. This work demands predetermined outcomes, to be achieved within a set timescale. It may well be appropriate in other settings, but it contravenes an essential ingredient in the youth work process.  The rhythm and pace of our interaction with young people are under their control.

 

Thus we reaffirm our belief in an emancipatory and democratic Youth Work, founded on cornerstones of a practice, which:

  • works in non-stigmatising  with young people as young people who choose to be involved;
  • takes place in open-access settings – physical, social and cultural spaces which young people can ‘own’ and experience as safe;
  • is rooted in mutually respectful and trusting relationships amongst young people and between young person and adults;
  • offers young people informal educational opportunities and challenges which recognise their strengths and potential and start from their concerns and interests;
  • within boundaries of consistency and reliability, responds flexibly and creatively to young people in their here-and-now  as well as to their ‘transitions’;
  • works with and through their peer networks and wider shared identities, in the process identifying and responding as appropriate to individual needs and concerns;
  • at times deliberately blurs personal and professional boundaries  in order to communicate as openly and honestly as possible with young people;
  • uses activities both as vehicles for young people’s personal development and as opportunities in their own right for individual and group achievement and affirmation.

If youth work is to be renewed in the interests of young people and the common good, it is essential that state and voluntary sector policy-makers and providers start from this kind of positive definition of the practice, its purpose and role – as an educational and developmental provision for a wide range of young people who choose to engage in their own leisure time. On the other hand, if in the present political, media and funding climate the Committee makes the case primarily on the grounds that youth work could help reduce knife crime or drug-taking or school drop-outs, important as these issues are, what will almost certainly get ‘revived’ are ‘youth services’ that once again are ‘targeted’. As a result, most of those up-to-a-million young people who have been most directly affected by the systematic deconstruction of local Youth Services will get little if any benefit.

Issues in Youth Work: Intersectionality and Identity Politics

no singleissues

Ta to pinklarkin.com

Further to my recent post on the return of patriarchy I’ve had a couple of conversations about the how far the concept of intersectionality is influencing youth work practice. A  thread in these chats was the relationship between intersectionality and the notion of identity politics. Were they the same, different, even at odds with one another? Of course, much depended on our definitions of these ideas. For what it’s worth our rough and ready understandings were that intersectionality speaks to the crucial interconnectedness of who you are in terms of relations of power – your class, gender, race, sexuality, disability and faith, whereas identity politics focused on a specific sense of who you are can fail to speak to the connections. Perhaps it needs to be said that we weren’t talking about identity politics as caricatured in a Daily Mail editorial.

intersect

Our tentative conclusion was that youth work practice, where it does engage with relations of power, leans towards identity politics rather than intersectionality. We presumed this tension is present in discussions about power on  Youth Work and allied courses in Higher Education and wondered if any lecturers and students might chip in their thoughts. Then, lo and behold, I tripped over a challenging piece by Sincere Kirabo on Open Democracy, entitled, Why criticisms of identity politics sound ridiculous to me.

Naysayers associate intersectionality with their favorite bogey monster: “identity politics.”

The phrase “identity politics” is merely a pejorative blanket term that invokes a variety of ambiguous, cherry-picked ideas of political failings.

Declaring something is “identity politics” is often a measure taken to trivialize identity-based issues that make many members of dominant social groups uncomfortable (e.g., Black Lives Matter critiquing anti-black racism, feminists critiquing sexism, LGBTQ activists critiquing cis-heteronormativity, etc.).

Basically, “identity politics” is used as an expression to identify political deviance — to describe political actions defying imbalanced political structures we’ve been conditioned to accept.

I hope you might read the piece in full as it poses many important questions and offers a useful historical backcloth to the emergence of intersectionality as an analytic tool.

Writer, educator, and social activist Sikivu Hutchinson explains it this way:

Intersectionality is the human condition. It addresses the multiple positions of privilege and disadvantage that human beings occupy and experience in a global context shaped by white supremacy, capitalism, neoliberalism, patriarchy, heterosexism, ableism, segregation and state violence.

Intersectionality upends the single variable politics of being “left” or “right.” It speaks to the very nature of positionality in a world in which it’s impossible to stake a claim on a solitary fixed identity that isn’t informed by one’s relationship to social, political and economic structures of power, authority and control that are themselves rooted in specific histories.

 

A July Pot-Pourri of Youth Work News and Opinion

Perhaps our favourite youth work blogger, James Ballantyne asks, ‘When was the last time you had reflective supervision for your youth work? never?

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Yet good supervision can do a number of things (and supervision is different from management, or at least management can also include supervision, see my other posts on this topic for more) but good supervision as Joan Tash described in ‘Working with the unattached’ deems supervision to be an ‘experimental relationship’ in which the dreams and ideas of the worker have a space to circulate, fester and be talked through.


 

CYPN features a number of developments.

DCMS logo

Give youth work remit back to DfE, children’s services leaders urge

Children’s services leaders have called for the Department for Education (DfE) to be handed back responsibility for youth work policy.

As part of an evidence submission to the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Youth Affairs inquiry into youth work, the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) said youth policy has been “cast adrift” from the rest of children’s services since moving to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

 

Guides and Scouts unite for £2.4m expansion push

It would be interesting to see the funding bid and the accompanying definitions of ‘deprived’ and ‘diverse’.

Girlguiding and the Scout Association are seeking to open 200 new units in deprived areas of England by 2020 as part of a £2.4m joint project between the UK’s two largest youth organisations.

 

Council drops plan for youth services mutual

It would be revealing to hear more from the grass-roots about the Young Foundation model developed by the Lyon’s Charity.

A plan to create a mutual to run youth services at a local authority in the north east of England have been dropped.

Hartlepool Council has confirmed that it had been considering setting up a mutual to deliver youth services but decided not to proceed.

“There had been previous proposals to look at a youth service mutual as part of a review of youth service provision, however, the council has since decided to continue with the existing in-house youth service arrangement,” a spokesman said.

As part of its in-house provision, the council has set up a new partnership organisation, called the Hartlepool Young People’s Foundation, which brings the local authority together with local youth services providers to better co-ordinate support for young people.


 

Y&P

YOUTH & POLICY carries a new article,

How does an international student influence youth work policy in Wales and England?

Ken Ebihara is an international youth and community student studying in Wales. He offers his perspective on youth work policies in Wales and England and suggests ways in which international students can influence both policy and practice.

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The return of patriarchy – implications for youth work?

From time to time as worker, trainer, manager and lecturer I’ve had cause to bemoan what I’ve experienced as the anti-intellectual and anti-theoretical face of youth work. By and large, often understandably as much social theory seeks to impose its template on reality, workers lean to being pragmatic, drawing on what they see as their common-sense. Leave aside that the common-sense of today is neoliberal in its content I’m reminded of an argument I had years ago with a group of workers about my use of the notion of racially structured, patriarchal capitalism. Something of a mouthful, I grant you. However, as best I remember it, the discussion about the relationship between, class, gender, sexuality and race was lively, even if the critical consensus was that I should write like I spoke. In the intervening period, the concept of intersectionality has taken centre stage in explaining relations of oppression.

patriarchy

Ta to mercator.net

And, yet patriarchy is evidently on its way back and I would recommend this week’s Guardian Long Read by Charlotte Higgins, ‘The age of patriarchy: how an unfashionable idea became a rallying cry for feminism today‘. If nothing else it’s a well-written introduction to the history of patriarchy, offering a glimpse too of the 1970’s feminism, which inspired the rise of work with Girls and Young Women. Sensitive to contradiction it feeds more than a few questions into the essential, everyday dialogue between youth workers and young people about the world we live in and how it might be changed for the better.