Is the tide turning? UK Youth certainly doesn’t think so. Bernard Davies responds.

 

neobroken

Ta to transcripts.org

 

The CYPN headline says it all, UK Youth sets out plans to attract investment in sector. Neoliberal to the core UK Youth, positioning itself to be the voice of the youth sector, argues in its State of the membership 2018 that ‘the sector needs to diversify how it is funded and work more closely with the private sector to ensure it can provide a long-term sustainable service amid cuts in local authority spending’. The report goes on to express its desire ‘to see social entrepreneurial approaches, including social investment, embedded in the sector and is particularly keen to see the formation of long-term partnerships between youth groups and businesses’.

logoUKY

In the first of our responses, ahead of this Friday’s In Defence of Youth Work conference, Bernard Davies expresses sharply his concern about UK Youth’s direction of travel.

The future for youth work – as seen by UK Youth

 

In only two or three years the world of the ‘traditional’ national voluntary youth organisation has changed beyond recognition. It was in November 2012 that a senior DfE official told a conference whose organisers included UK Youth and the National Council for Voluntary Youth Services (NCVYS) that, at a time when the sector was expected increasingly ‘to do more with less’, it needed to consider mergers as a way of protecting itself. Whether as a direct response or not, in 2015 Ambition – once the National Association of Boys Clubs – merged with the Confederation of Heads of Young People’s Services. Then in March 2016, after absorbing NCVYS, in September last year Ambition itself became a ‘subsidiary’ of – that is, it merged into – UK Youth. whose own many previous titles had included the National Association of Youth Clubs.

 

These high level decisions were not always welcomed by these organisations’ grassroots. In part as a reaction to the 2012 decision by Ambition – by then known as Clubs for Young People – to adopt its new PR-friendly title, a new and independent National Association of Boys and Girls Clubs emerged. This is now providing a range of national sporting, arts and other events as well as infrastructure support for ‘1000 youth clubs in the most deprived communities’ and for over twenty county associations. To fill a perceived gap left by NCVYS’s disappearance, moves are also now detectable to create a new national network for the many local and regional councils of voluntary youth service which are still operating.

 

UK Youth has now published ‘an overview of its membership data as a merged organisation’, based on a careful sampling of the 230 organisations now directly affiliated to it. When partners’ figures in Scotland, Ireland and Wales are added, these cater for approximately four million young people across the UK. Drawing on the government’s own returns and on two Unison reports, its analysis is set starkly in the wider, especially financial, national contexts: the 41 per cent reduction in ‘universal spending’ between 2010-15 and 2017-18; the loss between 2012 and 2016 of over 3600 post, mostly part-timers; and evidence that ‘at local authority level, the most deprived areas have seen the greatest cuts’. With provision now increasingly dependent on volunteers, UK Youth’s conclusion is that ‘the youth sector has transitioned from a largely statutory provision to a largely voluntary sector-led service’.

 

In response to this devastation, in its penultimate paragraph, the report slips in a suggestion that, in order ‘to take full advantage of existing finance’, one possibility to be ‘explored’ is ‘redirecting reduced NCS funding (circa £400 million). Overall, however, such expectations of the state are noticeable mainly by their absence. So too is any analysis of the deeper structural causes of the current crisis for open access youth work, and indeed even more importantly for today’s younger generation. That ‘ideologies’ are shaping these policies is mentioned, as part of ‘the political make-up … of councils’ which has driven ‘the restructuring of statutory youth services’. The comment, however, appears in passing and without any critical explanation of what those ideologies are or how and why they have been so damaging both for a practice like youth work and for young people.

This uncritical stance on the dominant ideas of our times and the power relations underpinning them is signalled on the first page of the UK Youth paper by the inclusion. without comment, of a boxed quote from the minister currently holding the ‘youth’ brief as part of her role as Minister for Sport and Civil Society. In this, as at points elsewhere in the report, youth work in the shape of the youth club – ‘for many young people … their only safe place’ – is immediately conflated with the ‘youth services’ through which they get ‘access (to) mental health services, citizenship education, social mixing and training’. It is perhaps therefore not surprising that another of the factors driving that ‘re-structuring of statutory youth services’ – what are evasively called ‘overall financial challenges in local authorities’ – are never explained as stemming from the minister’s own and previous governments’ policies which, under the cloak of ‘austerity’, have been designed to get the state out of as many public services as possible. Indeed the government seems to garner at least implied praise for what I can only call forms of ‘gesture’ funding in support of the character-building, resilience-developing outcomes on which it insists: £50 million here for cadet forces, £40 million there for young people’s ‘social action’, another £16 million for a Youth Engagement Fund based on ‘social investment funds’ and ‘payment by results’.  

 

Nor does the UK Youth paper address in any direct way how such policies have affected the lives of young people. It notes for example that ‘only 13 per cent of young people in former industrial areas and 14 per cent in remote rural coldspots progress to university compared with 27 per cent in hotspots’. These blockages, however, conceived in the report as ‘challenges of adolescence’, apparently result simply from the ‘lack of aspiration to peer pressures or issues at home’. None of these, of course, are insignificant matters for young people themselves. What they do not do, however, is explain the glaring educational inequalities spelt out earlier. As a result, for tackling the problems of its members, the youth club, as well as providing that safe space, ends up confined it to ‘enabling young people to lead happier, more fulfilling lives’ and ‘empowering young people to make a positive contribution to their community’.

 

So how, positively, is UK Youth planning to deal with this ‘new context’? Certainly not, it seems, by starting from the proposition that the up to one million young people who have used or tried youth work facilities in the past are citizens now and so entitled to a fair slice of the collective cake. For UK Youth, the answer largely remains ‘to embed social entrepreneurial approaches and secure additional income for the sector, for example through supporting access to social investment opportunities’. (Though these are to include ‘collaborative work with … the private sector’, UK Youth gives no indication of what ethical risks tests it thinks should be applied here).

 

Even as – post-Carillion and the rest – the neo-liberal shibboleths come under renewed searching scrutiny, this paper makes clear that these remain deeply and uncritically embedded in the thinking of our youth sector ‘leaders’. Still not apparently worth any serious consideration, therefore, is an alternative possibility: that the state – albeit in re-imagined more bottom-up forms – might and indeed should again find and allocate resources for open access, informal educational facilities which its young citizens can use by choice in their leisure time.  

Bernard Davies

 

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.

 

Celebrating Youth & Policy 3 – Bernard Davies on ‘youth volunteering – the new panacea’

 

Y&P

There are few people better placed to put today’s interpretations of  volunteering and social action under the microscope than Bernard Davies, author of a trilogy of ‘Histories of the Youth Service in England.’ Drawing on his extensive historical research Bernard seeks to interrogate policy and practice in an arena, which has come to be seen as simply ‘a good thing’.

Youth volunteering: the new panacea?

 

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Bernard in discussion with Jon Ord- Ta to Justin Wyllie for the image

 

He begins:

Governments of all parties have long been keen to get young people to volunteer – that is, to give some of their time freely to a worthy cause or activity. Papers and reports going back at least fifty years have been urging them to offer themselves for what was at the time often called ‘community service’. One of these, from the Youth Service Development Council entitled Service by Youth and dated December 1965, prompted me even then to ask: So – is this another attempt to tame the young? (Davies, 1967).

At one point he poses these questions:

How far, for example, are young people engaging on a genuinely voluntary basis – that is, outside adult authority pressures – given that one survey has suggested that in 2015 nearly 75 percent of the participants found their way into volunteering via their school or college? (Offord, 2015b; 2016b).
How far are the programmes’ educational interventions building from and on the interests and concerns brought to them by the young people who are actually participating?
How far are the programmes starting from the process-focused presumption that, in their own right, relationship-building and interpersonal responsiveness – young person to young person and young person to adult – require at least as much dedicated attention as task- and programme-completion?

I hope Bernard’s piece gets the attention and response it deserves, not least from those, for whom youth volunteering is without contradiction.

 

 

Cor Blimey! A first chance to reflect on what the Mayhem might mean for youth work – Manchester June 14 and London, June 23

 

mayhem

Ta to the Liverpool Echo

 

Given the shockwave created by the General Election result, the possible implications will now feed into the discussion at our forthcoming seminars, which will be one of the first opportunities to take a breath about what’s happening. Bernard and Tania will attempt at short notice to take the present mayhem, chaos and promise into account in their opening contributions!

WHAT FUTURE FOR STATE-FUNDED YOUTH WORK?

Manchester seminar: Wednesday 14th June 1-4pm at M13 Youth Project

Brunswick Parish Church Centre, Brunswick St, Manchester, M13 9TQ

A short walk or bus ride from Manchester Piccadilly. See map and directions: http://www.brunswickchurch.org.uk/contact–location.html

London seminar: Friday 23rd June, 1-4pm at King’s College London

School of Education, Communication & Society, Rm 2/21, Waterloo Bridge Wing, Waterloo Road, SE1 9NH.

Five minutes from Waterloo station (but slightly confusing to find!) See map and directions: https://www.kcl.

In the light of the general election campaign and results, we are looking forward to meeting to discuss its possible implications for youth work – and in particular, on this occasion, for state-funded and state-organised youth work. The slightly tweaked programme is below. Please note that there is no lunch break. You are welcome to bring your lunch and eat during the session. Please arrive on time – or feel free to arrive early, anytime from 12:30 pm. Bookings are still open: please email Rachel@yasy.co.uk or indeed turn up on the day.

1- 1.10: Introduction to the proceedings.

1:10-1:30: Views from the field: Reflections from participants on the general election campaign and results. What does it mean for young people and for youth work?

1.30 – 2.30: Bernard Davies re-imagines how youth work might be supported and provided by the state – beyond the neoliberal mindset (15 min talk followed by discussion).

2.30 – 2.45 Break.

2.45 – 3.45: Tania de St Croix argues that the National Citizen Service is top-down, prescriptive, and pro-neoliberal, and should be replaced (15 min talk followed by discussion).

3.45 – 4.00: Feedback on the session and ideas for future seminars and action.

Hope to see you at either of these gatherings.

What future for state-funded youth work? Manchester and London seminars on June 14 and 23

A REMINDER ABOUT THESE FORTHCOMING SEMINARS

STILL PLACES – SO FAR DISAPPOINTING LEVEL OF INTEREST

newlogo

In Defence of Youth Work

Engaging Critically Seminars

What future for state-funded youth work?

Manchester, Wednesday 14th June 1-4pm

London, Friday 23rd June, 1-4pm

  • What is the current role of government in providing or funding open access youth work?
  • What does this mean for young people, youth workers, and youth organisations?
  • What might we expect to see in the future, and what should we be fighting for?

Bernard Davies will start from the proposition that the local authority youth service may well have disappeared by 2020 as the model for supporting and providing open access youth work. Recognising that ‘the state’ is a complex and contested concept whose past intrusions into this form of practice with young people have not always been helpful, his recently published article in Youth and Policy 116 on which his talk will draw seeks to break out of the neo-liberal mind-set to re-imagine, for youth work, more appropriate state responses. Bernard is a widely published author on youth work and is a retired youth worker, Youth Officer, and lecturer who has been active in IDYW since it was created.

Tania de St Croix will critically discuss the government’s primary vehicle for investment in a universal youth service – the National Citizen Service. What does state support for the National Citizen Service tell us about how young people – and services for young people – are perceived in policy? Does the National Citizen Service ‘count’ as youth work, and does that matter? Six years on, is Tania’s critique of NCS in Youth and Policy 106 still relevant? Tania is a Lecturer in the Sociology of Youth and Childhood at King’s College London, a volunteer youth worker/co-op member at Voice of Youth, and has been involved in IDYW since the early days.

These short talks will be followed by open discussion on the questions above. We particularly welcome youth workers and other youth practitioners (paid or unpaid), managers, voluntary sector and local authority employees, policy makers, students, tutors/lecturers, researchers, and anyone else who is interested. The seminar is offered an opportunity to take time out from the hurly-burly of practice to think about where we are, where we are going, and what we might do differently.

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.

Manchester seminar: Wednesday 14th June 1-4pm at M13 Youth Project

Brunswick Parish Church Centre, Brunswick St, Manchester, M13 9TQ

A short walk or bus ride from Manchester Piccadilly. See map and directions: http://www.brunswickchurch.org.uk/contact–location.html

London seminar: Friday 23rd June, 1-4pm at King’s College London

School of Education, Communication & Society, Rm 2/21, Waterloo Bridge Wing, Waterloo Road, SE1 9NH.

Five minutes from Waterloo station (but slightly confusing to find!) See map and directions: https://www.kcl.ac.uk/sspp/departments/education/WTKings/Finding-WBW.aspx

Suggested donation to IDYW: £2-5 (students/volunteers/unwaged) / £5-10 (waged). Tea/coffee provided.

To register, email Rachel@yasy.co.uk

Please circulate around your networks the flyer for this event.

YS NCS flyer [Word]

YS NCS flyer [pdf]

What future for state-funded youth work? Manchester and London seminars in June

newlogo

In Defence of Youth Work
Engaging Critically Seminars

What future for state-funded youth work?

Manchester, Wednesday 14th June 1-4pm
London, Friday 23rd June, 1-4pm

  • What is the current role of government in providing or funding open access youth work?
  • What does this mean for young people, youth workers, and youth organisations?
  • What might we expect to see in the future, and what should we be fighting for?

Bernard Davies will start from the proposition that the local authority youth service may well have disappeared by 2020 as the model for supporting and providing open access youth work. Recognising that ‘the state’ is a complex and contested concept whose past intrusions into this form of practice with young people have not always been helpful, his recently published article in Youth and Policy 116 on which his talk will draw seeks to break out of the neo-liberal mind-set to re-imagine, for youth work, more appropriate state responses. Bernard is a widely published author on youth work and is a retired youth worker, Youth Officer, and lecturer who has been active in IDYW since it was created.

Tania de St Croix will critically discuss the government’s primary vehicle for investment in a universal youth service – the National Citizen Service. What does state support for the National Citizen Service tell us about how young people – and services for young people – are perceived in policy? Does the National Citizen Service ‘count’ as youth work, and does that matter? Six years on, is Tania’s critique of NCS in Youth and Policy 106 still relevant? Tania is a Lecturer in the Sociology of Youth and Childhood at King’s College London, a volunteer youth worker/co-op member at Voice of Youth, and has been involved in IDYW since the early days.

These short talks will be followed by open discussion on the questions above. We particularly welcome youth workers and other youth practitioners (paid or unpaid), managers, voluntary sector and local authority employees, policy makers, students, tutors/lecturers, researchers, and anyone else who is interested. The seminar is offered an opportunity to take time out from the hurly-burly of practice to think about where we are, where we are going, and what we might do differently.

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.

Manchester seminar: Wednesday 14th June 1-4pm at M13 Youth Project
Brunswick Parish Church Centre, Brunswick St, Manchester, M13 9TQ
A short walk or bus ride from Manchester Piccadilly. See map and directions: http://www.brunswickchurch.org.uk/contact–location.html

London seminar: Friday 23rd June, 1-4pm at King’s College London
School of Education, Communication & Society, Rm 2/21, Waterloo Bridge Wing, Waterloo Road, SE1 9NH.
Five minutes from Waterloo station (but slightly confusing to find!) See map and directions: https://www.kcl.ac.uk/sspp/departments/education/WTKings/Finding-WBW.aspx

Suggested donation to IDYW: £2-5 (students/volunteers/unwaged) / £5-10 (waged). Tea/coffee provided.

To register, email Rachel@yasy.co.uk

Please circulate around your networks the flyer for this event.

YS NCS flyer [Word]

YS NCS flyer [pdf]

Using Stories in Warwick to make the Youth Work case

Over the last few months the Warwick Workers’Forum, inspired by its involvement in an IDYW Story-Telling workshop and supported by Bernard Davies, has been working on its own collection of Stories in Practice. The process has now come to fruition and the Forum has produced an attractive and compelling booklet, ‘Youth Work Stories’. The intention is to use the booklet as a campaigning tool with both politicians and the wider community.

illustrations-2

Ta to Jethro Brice from the original IDYW Stories book

storiesbookfinal – download the pdf via this link.

The booklet begins,

These youth work stories are just a small number of examples of the challenging but ultimately beneficial work that youth workers from Warwick District have delivered. They have been compiled because nationally and locally youth work practice is vanishing.

We want community members, decision makers and influencers to hear these stories so that they can better understand why youth work is so important and so this decline can be halted.
Youth work makes a difference. It changes lives. The way it achieves such success is often
shrouded in mystery and the profession can go unrecognised. Youth workers themselves can find it difficult to promote and celebrate their achievements and the uniqueness of youth work. This needs to change; society should recognise the value and its
uniqueness.
Youth workers take time to build relationships of mutual trust and support with young people, working in their communities, helping them make their own decisions about their own lives, and developing their confidence and resilience.
They work where young people are – in schools, youth and community centres, at home or in the park, offering informal education opportunities starting from young people’s concerns and needs.
Nationally thousands of youth worker posts have disappeared and local government spending on young people’s services has on average decreased by 25%.

The booklet contains 10 stories preceded by an introductory context provided by Bernard Davies. As we go to press the Forum is beginning to formulate its strategy for using the booklet in conversations with councillors at a county, district, town and parish level. We look forward to hearing about how its initiative unfolds and hope it will inspire workers elsewhere to explore how to use narrative as a weapon of resistance, of both defence and offence.

We’ll put a permanent link to the pdf in the sidebar.