Youth Work Cuts, Bits & Pieces and a touch of Christmas Cheer


Head done in, as usual, so simply sending seasonal greetings to all our readers and supporters- Ta to Justin Wyllie for photo

It’s always difficult to know what and how much to post across the holidays period, particularly the Christmas and New Year festive season. Thus this will be the last post of 2017 and inevitably a mix of gloom and hope, of contradiction and tension. It does contain links to articles/reports and blogs that you might read over a warming drink on a dark winter’s night in Macclesfield or indeed a cooling beverage on the beach in Mozambique.

CYPN reports that Youth service cuts ‘deeper than predicted’Spending on youth services by local authorities last year fell by £42m more than initially predicted, government figures have revealed. Statistics published by the Department for Education show that total expenditure by local authorities on youth services in 2016/17 came to £447.5m. This is £41.99m less than the £489.5m councils had told the DfE they were intending to spend and a 15.2 per cent cut on actual spending in 2015/16 of £527.9m.Separate figures published in September for predicted, as opposed to actual, spending show that funding is set to fall further, with councils saying they intend to spend £415.8m on youth services in 2017/18.

I think some IDYW followers were involved in CIRCUIT, a national programme for 15– 25 year-olds, led by Tate and funded by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation. From 2013-17, ten galleries worked in partnership with youth organisations, aiming to create opportunities for a more diverse range of young people to engage with art in galleries and to steer their own learning. Circuit highlighted the importance of the arts and youth sectors working as allies to champion positive change for young people. A number of reports are now available at

The latest Youth & Policy article sees Gus John composing ‘a searing critique of policy in relation to youth violence – Youth Work and Apprehending Youth Violence. Gus focuses in particular on black young people and calls for a renewed role for youth work and education’. As he notes in the piece Gus trained as a youth worker in the late 1960s and was a practitioner and youth service manager for twenty years before becoming a director of education and leisure services. Significantly, he was one of only two directors of education / chief education officers who had attained that position through a youth work / social education route. See also Fifty Years of Struggle: Gus John at 70 and Reflections on the 1981 Moss Side ‘Riots’ : Gus John.

Mention of the National Citizen Service raises the hackles amongst many of our readers. Nevertheless, Graeme Tiffany, philosophical as ever, attended a recent seminar, ‘Next steps for the National Citizen Service and priorities for Character Education in England’. His incisive reflection on the experience is contained in his thoughts on meaning and value and observations such as ‘I remember Sheffield University’s Emeritus Professor of Philosophy of Education, Wilf Carr once asking me: “why do we always ask what education is for, and never what education is?” This is fertile territory, and I suspect Wilf would have acknowledged the progress we made in our attempts to answer his question. Indeed, given the testimony of many at the conference, it seems reasonable to argue that education is implicitly about drawing out character, and particularly that related to good (and democratic) citizenship, perhaps even that it is implicitly philosophical too’.

There’s a lot more going on, but coverage will wait until the New Year. What’s the rush, even if we’re always rushing.


To close I recommend for your enjoyment James Ballantyne’s ‘Albermarleys were dead to begin with…’ A Youthwork Christmas carol in which Justine ‘Scrooge’ Greening is visited by Lady Albemarle, the NCS, followed by Jeffs and Smith, the outcome being that to this reader’s delight Tiny Tony Taylor didn’t die and grew up to be a youth worker.




More from POYWE – Maurice Devlin and Graeme Tiffany explore professionalism, ambivalence and the ‘contested’

In the second input of day 1 at the reflections seminar, Maurice Devlin from Maynooth University in Ireland analysed the status and practice of professional open youth work from the perspective of “official” youth policy.

Ta to poywe

Ta to poywe

Youth work is not just a vocation but also a profession. – slide presentation

Maurice was soon followed by Graeme Tiffany of the Federation for Detached Youth Work and IDYW.

ta tp poywe

ta tp poywe

 “Contesting ‘youth work’: can young people’s expectations marry with those of other ‘stakeholders’?” – slide presentation


A Muddy Mess : British Values, Extremism and Education

british values

The tragic events of recent weeks across the globe have once again fuelled the problematic rhetoric of values, be they British or Western, rendered simple a grasp of what extremism is and intensified the debate about the role of education in engaging with these issues.

In this context we are drawing your attention to a number of questioning blogs, which have seen the light in the last few months.

The first two of these are the work of Gus John, the prominent educationalist and activist, whose roots in youth work go back to the late 1960’s.

Although the first, Patriotism in Black and White, refers to the Rochester tweet of Emily Thornbeer, it retains all its pertinence. Particularly, given the coming election, it challenges the Labour Party’s understanding of class.

What Ed Miliband should understand is that his view of Labour’s traditional heartland, the working class, does not consist of whites only, with or without white vans.

Even as he seeks to placate the white working class, the British African and Asian working class could justifiably resent his failure to acknowledge that they experience painfully the flags which the Far Right elements of that patriotic section of Labour’s supporters have a right to fly. In the hands of that section of the white working class, the Union Flag and the St George’s flag have replaced the famous black shirts and brown shirts that once represented the ugliest face of the ‘Keep Britain White’ and Christian brigade.

The danger in the Labour Party allowing UKIP to set the agenda on immigration and then running around to woo the electorate away from them is that Miliband and his Party get engulfed in the same racist discourse and end up projecting a ‘white Britain’ mindset.

In the second, After Trojan Horse : Ofsted on the gallop, in a sweeping and incisive critique he exposes the bankruptcy of Ofsted and the dangers inherent in the ‘Prevent’ agenda, not only for teachers, but for all educators.

The fact remains that that protection of our nation that the government seeks to guarantee through its ‘prevent’ and safeguarding agenda is not afforded to all citizens and some citizens are not placed under surveillance or made subject to indiscriminate police stops and searches on account of the ‘terror’ they unleash upon sections of their own community. They therefore feel emboldened to sow fear, cause mayhem and engage in racist attacks and (sometimes) murders, while proudly and defiantly carrying the Union and St George’s Flags, in the full knowledge that the police and the state have never seen their predecessors, including the National Front, Column 88 and the BNP as ‘terrorists’, or as a threat to the nation and its security.

As an educator, I consider these legitimate matters for building and delivering curriculum, in order, especially, to encourage school (and college) students of all ethnicities to examine what this means for them all as they forge an identity as young British people, what the role of schooling and education should be in relation to it all and how they can work together to make sure that they, collectively, are building a future with the hallmark of racial justice and human rights, rather than one of chaos, racial conflict and the lack of a guarantee of state protection for all citizens.

In ‘Charlie Hebdo,Ofsted and British Values: time to pause for thought’ Graeme Tiffany, Vice-Chair of the Federation for Detached Youth Work, expresses similar concerns, arguing that engaging with the meaning of values demands process not instruction. He quotes Jacqueline Baxter’s concern about ‘new values police’.

“the apparent appropriation of values by the state is a worrying trend. More worrying still is how Ofsted is being used to police these values. It also risks transforming schools from being trusted institutions at the heart of their communities into organisations undermined by suspicion, doubt and a panopticon-like scrutiny. This is more likely to give rise to the very activities that both government and inspectorate are so eager to expunge. To avoid this we need a public debate about the human values that form the core of our society. Until this happens, the grey area around these “British values” is open to mis-interpretation, political manipulation and false assumptions. That may well cause repercussions which could fundamentally undermine our system of education.”

Finally, in Exploring Extremism, Elizabeth Harding of the North-West Regional Youth Work Unit worries about the extent to which youth workers are responding to the dilemmas posed by the ‘Prevent’ agenda and the notion of ‘British’ values.

More than ever, young people need the opportunity to explore ideas, to learn about each other and to be challenged, and supported, to question. The world’s changed so much in those intervening five years; not least the infrastructure of youth services. It’s shrunk and is disappearing. Who’s providing the challenge, who’s bringing young people together to learn about each other’s cultures and religions?

I do hope someone will let me know that there IS great work going on out there. I suspect there is, but there’s no co-ordination and no learning from each other.



Working with or doing to? Graeme Tiffany on childism, exploitation and youth work


As we move into an Autumn of propaganda by such as New Philanthropy Capital [NPC], within which a fait accompli of outcomes, impact and data looms large, it’s vital to listen to critical voices. Whilst the chair of a forthcoming NPC conference talks of  “the power of Big Data and our capacity to harness it to analyse needs and assess interventions,” Graeme Tiffany, following Rotherham, speaks eloquently about the ‘relational’, about trust, about a world of engagement with young people that can never be reduced to the collection of generalised data, to needs identified from on high and the imposition of interventions from above.

In this exploration he draws on the notion of ‘childism’.

Childism is the automatic presumption of superiority of any adult over any child; it results in adult’s needs, desires, hopes, and fears taking unquestioned precedence over those of the child. It goes beyond the biologic necessity that requires adults to sustain the species by means of authoritative, unilateral decisions.  (Pierce, 1975: 266)

He concludes his exploration of the inevitable contradictions of practice.

As the man said: “you’ve got to get a handle on that child’s circumstances”. And the best way to do that is to talk to them, and listen, properly. Of course, as he says also, these conversations can take us into uncharted waters, where we might be inclined both to doubt (“did that really happen?”) or grasp quickly for the tiller of control.

But these are not the instincts of all, nor are they ones we cannot supersede; this guy is among many who know that its engagement and relationships that matter, and that they are worth going out on a limb for. And can only be secured by actively adopting an anti-childist position. This way of working rejects instrumentalism, and by implication, ‘best practice’ (as if a technical response can be rolled out here, there and everywhere – as if context doesn’t matter). Which makes it anathema to the policy meisters who believe everything can be reduced to the numbers.

And yet, the structural violence of these systems is fought daily by many, knowing as they do that it exacerbates violence rather than mitigates it. That many of these folk are youth workers is perhaps the greatest irony, for it’s their ways of working that the evidence here shows is most effective: a commitment to engagement, a commitment to relationships, and a commitment to working with the uncertainties that all this implies. Youth work is, like teaching, lest we forget, fundamentally a relational practice through which protection is enhanced, not weakened. The fact that youth work, again like teaching, has become more and more a technical operation, with democratic practices cast aside, because power now ‘knows what’s good for young people’ only goes to show how childism is still rife, in politics, in policy, and unfortunately now, in practice. Despite all the challenges, including dealing with the charges that will be levelled against you – of being ‘liberal’, ‘progressive’, and ‘romantic’ – youth workers and those who share these humane, democratic philosophies must keep faith with their beliefs. Good, and effective, practice demands it. But beware, you will be told daily that you are wrong, that what you believe is ludicrous, that your opinions don’t matter; you will become subject to childism also.

Read in full – Working with or Doing to?

Playing the Democratic Cards : Graeme Tiffany in Oslo

The video and slides of the impassioned presentation made by Graeme Tiffany at the European conference on Outreach Youth Work held in Oslo.  Its questioning title : Outreach and detached : tools for participation or forms of democracy in their own right?

Outreach and Democracy presentation slides – Graeme Tiffany

Professional Standards in Youth Work : Graeme Tiffany reflects


Ta to

Ta to

Further to yesterday’s post, The Pitfalls of Professionalisation, we are pleased to add Graeme Tiffany’s intriguing philosophical and practice-based reflections on the ‘professional. He concludes,


Consider then a paradigm shift; one in which the youth worker leads a heightened appreciation of the ‘semi-professional’: someone who acknowledges they don’t know it all; someone who celebrates knowledge on the ground; someone moved by the thoughts and experiences of those that they work with, someone who can value young people’s values (even if they are not necessarily their own) and someone who, in so-doing, ‘tips power’ toward the young in order to create the spaces essential for their autonomy and self-determination to flourish. Consider the youth worker then as the architect of a new vision of professionalism. Perhaps it is this that should be campaigned for: the true professional prize of freedom in judgement-making – and the opportunity then to pass this on to young people. With this we can argue, daily if necessary, that the values, principles and ethics of youth work can endure even in a world of constant change, where the only certainty is of uncertainty. It is this debate, of what youth work values are (and what should be done to live them out) that is implicit in all good social practices. It is this that must be attended to and invested in. Made public this will advocate for youth work in a participatory rather than representative way. Thence it is for the many, rather than the few.

Professional Standards in Youth Work – Philosophical Reflections



Social Street Work, Outreach Work or Detached Youth Work? : Tool-Kit and Conference


FED DYW logo

We’ve just received an intriguing and attractive publication, ‘On The Street : A Practical Guide for new Social Street Workers’, written by Don Irving and Simon Whitmore under the banner of the Dynamo International of Street Workers and the Federation for Detached Youth Work

As the title indicates it’s full of practical suggestions, tips and cues, for the fledgling street worker – down even to the possible contents of a worker’s ‘bag of tricks’! Nevertheless I was struck by a number of concerns, which may well be exaggerated.

1. Whilst I do understand that the notion of ‘social street work’ has global currency,  I wonder if it might have been explored a little more? I venture this, given that in England the label ‘detached youth work’ is better understood. Ironically the booklet does not use the term ‘youth work’ at all.

2. I’m probably being neurotic, but is there an issue with using the idea of ‘social street work’ without proviso at a time when youth work is increasingly being transformed into youth social work?

3. In this context the absence of any reference in the text to the present day ideological and bureaucratic assault on the youth work tradition seems problematic. On a practical level the advice to new workers in terms of their demands upon management is in danger of seeming naive – asking them to go out on the streets, asking them for time off if overtime has been worked, expecting from them regular and reflective supervision sessions.

Perhaps I protest and ask for too much. The tool-kit is undoubtedly recommended reading, but, for all its practicality, it does seem to float free of the particular circumstances created for workers by the neo-liberal policies of successive governments.

Download the pdf ON THE STREET

Euro outreach

However I’m sure there will be passionate and insightful debate about the impact of neo-liberal policies on European youth and youth work at the


European Conference on Outreach Work, 3rd & 4th April 2014, Oslo, Norway.

The UK Federation for Detached Youth Work is a partner in this important conference where you will be able to explore the theme of working with marginalised young people with detached, street and outreach work colleagues from across Europe.

Further details and sign up facilities can be accessed at

Further information and questions to Graeme Tiffany: