Towards a Statutory Youth Service – Chooseyouth Action Points



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.



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 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.

Sharing Stories to Defend the Work – Sympathetic media coverage


Sympathetic and supportive coverage by Laura Kearns in the Leamington Observer

Youth workers share their stories

REAL-life stories are being used to highlight the importance of youth work in the face of cuts.

Youth workers from various organisations have teamed up to produce a booklet filled with examples of how youth workers have helped young people in the district.

The youth workers explain how through various projects they have helped people deal with issues including homelessness, mental health, family and fear of revealing their sexuality.

The online booklet ‘Youth Work Stories’ tries to show how the worker helped the young person and what the outcome was.

It has been compiled by staff from The Gap, Warwickshire Clubs for Young People, Lillington Youth Centre, Warwickshire Association of Youth Clubs, Wellsbourne Youth Services and The Sydni Centre.

A spokesman said: “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. Nationally thousands of youth worker posts have disappeared and local government spending on young people’s services has on average decreased by 25 per cent.

“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.”

Visit and search for Warwick to read the booklet.

Apologies that a gremlin has prevented the above link appearing in the side bar. Will sort out asap.

Blurring the Boundaries conference : Immediate Reflections 1

Much to my delight, heeding my plea for thoughts on Friday’s conference, Jon Ord and Fiona Factor filed these instant reflections before their trains even reached their destinations. Much appreciated and more to come on a stimulating and sometimes disconcerting event. Just to send too a message of thanks to Martin and the staff at the Birmingham Settlement, who could not have been more helpful or welcoming and to Kev Jones, pressed at the last minute into being unofficial photographer.


Today, Jon  : Tomorrow, Fiona

Making the most of the opportunity of being able to attend this year’s annual IDYW conference – thanks for making the venue at bit more geographically central – at the Birmingham Settlement, I have to be honest I wasn’t quite sure what to expect… Leaving Plymouth at the crack of dawn I wondered whether the gathering would be much more than Tony Taylor, Bernard Davies and a couple of their mates. What I found however was a very pleasant surprise – one of the largest gatherings of youth workers and youth work educators I have been a part of for quite a while….
The event began with an excellent discussion of the principle of voluntary participation facilitated by presentations from Annette Coburn and Sinead Gormally who advocated a cogent argument for embracing  the new settings that youth workers find themselves working in, where young people may not have chosen to attend and an impassioned reply by Tania De St Croix.  She reminded everyone that we turn our backs on traditional open access settings at our peril as they provide a unique set of dynamics which can’t be easily replicated, as young people have very few places where they are not either under surveillance or being coerced into some outcome or another.
This was followed by an informative input from Paul Fenton from PALYCW / TAG who shared the findings from 6 consultation events – Shaping the Future – across England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland. He concluded that whilst he was heartened by the degree of integrity at the heart of youth work in the UK – however challenges do remain around the need to be more innovative. Overall though he was optimistic about the future.
After eating our ‘butties’ as Tony euphemistically referred to our sandwich lunch, we took the opportunity to continue some of the stimulating conversations from the morning session. The afternoon began with an input from Kirsty and Amina from Aspire Arts, and Malcolm Ball from Lewisham, who shared innovative responses to the changing contexts of practice. This continued in smaller groups, where some of the accounts of the swinging and brutal cuts were difficult to hear…

Coming together at the end of the day to share our experiences of the conference and offer suggestions as to a way forward we all felt it was a resounding success – providing a unique opportunity to bring youth workers together in difficult times – sharing our experiences , providing invaluable support and going some small way to ‘defending our unique practice’.

Jon Ord


This is lousy timing. In the midst of a contemporary quasi-Elizabethan melodrama, wherein the courtiers-cum-politicians plot and back-stab  in their pursuit of an illusory power, within which politics is reduced to personality, we’re asking you to consider these thoughts on the character and purpose of IDYW. Hardly earth-shattering, we know. However, if you can spare a moment from watching or indeed desiring to expose the post-Brexit spectacle of incompetence and hypocrisy, your responses would be much appreciated. Thanks in anticipation.



It’s well over seven years since In Defence of Youth Work [IDYW] saw the light of a gloomy day in Durham. Contrary to our expectations and of those, who dismissed us as romantics, we have emerged as a voice of some consequence. Through our seminars and conferences, our Story-Telling workshops and publications, supplemented by regular outpourings on our blog and Facebook page, we have sought to reveal the corrosive influence of an instrumental neo-liberal ideology upon an open-ended, process-led youth work. Indeed, at a superficial glance, with over 2,500 Facebook followers and in 2015 over 27,500 blog visits from across the globe, we seem to have been a success.

However we are not inclined to indulge in the self-congratulatory culture dominant nowadays, wherein we are invited to believe that everything is going swimmingly, even absolutely, awesomely well. Our existence is haunted by contradictions and concerns. On a practical level the IDYW show is kept on the road through the efforts of a small group of volunteers. Of course this is neither a surprise nor a slight on those unable to be more involved. These remain difficult times. Workers, paid or unpaid, have little time on their hands. Whether disillusioned and weary or optimistic and energetic, it’s a stressful place to be. In this forbidding climate we have failed to become the campaign group of our imagination. Unable to encourage our followers to meet even locally we have failed to forge the forces on the ground to fulfil this dream. Whilst we have done our best to support any flicker of resistance, symbolised by the 2011 Choose Youth lobby of Parliament and our willingness to be involved in a diversity of youth work gatherings, we’ve not lived up to our title.

With all this in mind we’ve been discussing within the IDYW Steering Group ‘who we are?’, ‘where we’re up to?’ and ‘where we might be going?’ The following marks our best thinking up to this point, to which we would welcome responses.

On reflection our most important contribution across our lifespan has been to provide a space, increasingly denied elsewhere, for a collective and thoughtful discussion about the state of youth work. We have sought to provide information, commentary, analysis and research to support this process. To do so is in the best tradition of a practice, which aspires to be reflective. Thus we propose that in the present period, given our resources, it is most fruitful to see IDYW, to view ourselves, as a forum, a meeting place of minds, whose raison d’etre is to question and challenge received assumptions.

In making this case we are not claiming to be neutral. Our desire is to defend and extend the emancipatory youth work practice expressed in the cornerstones outlined in our original Open Letter and the 2014 Statement of Purpose.

Our tentative feeling is that, if anything, we have been less sharp in recent times re developments in the youth sector than we should have been. We have held back for fear of being accused of undermining attempts to forge a refreshed consensus about the work. Meanwhile leading youth organisations don’t seem to give an inch in their continued allegiance both to the outcomes agenda and market forces. We will not hold our breath as we wait for for their disapproving response to the Cabinet Office’s Life Chances Fund, which introduces inappropriately payment-by-results into the complex and contradictory world of social welfare and social education. Hence we need to deal openly with the inevitable tensions created by being an outspoken and dissenting voice, not least by encouraging argument within our own ranks.

Finally, and very much linked to the previous point about our own relationships with each other, making plain that our primary function is to act as a forum of critical dialogue attends to our long-running anxiety about the democratic and accountable character of IDYW or rather the lack of structured democracy and accountability. Whilst we have always striven to be open, we have never established a form of membership, adopted a constitution, elected officers and the like. Clarifying our present character and purpose suggests that IDYW’s constituency is made up in reality of contributors and what we might call a readership. Obviously we hope, if we can end on a personal note, that you will be both contributor and reader, actively engaged, in the light of your own energy and resources. Whatever we deem ourselves to be, we need one another in a struggle to defend not only youth work, but a belief in a holistic education from cradle to grave, a commitment to a radical praxis and the common good. In this context IDYW still has a useful role to play.

Where is IDYW going? Where is the UK going?

EU referendum

It’s been a turbulent week. There’s been an IDW Steering Group meeting and a certain referendum. In the next day or two we’ll post a statement from the Steering Group, inviting criticisms and comments. As to the referendum and its unexpected outcome we’ll post a diversity of responses, enquiring in particular as to the content and character of your conversations with young people.

Watch this space.

Youth Work in the new 'marketised' landscape : the wider context

Find below Bernard’s challenging contribution to the Y&P conference. It represents a backcloth to the two joint IDYW/NCIA workshops on ‘The Drive to the Market’, which will take place on Thursday, April 26 and Friday, April 27 in London and Manchester respectively. More details asap.

Thinking Seriously About Youth Work and Policy

YMCA George Williams College, London

March 15th 2012

Youth work in the new ‘marketised’ landscape: the wider context

Presentation by Bernard Davies on behalf of the In Defence of Youth Work campaign

Given the title of the conference, key focuses over the day have understandably been on the government’s Positive for Youth paper, the Select Committee report and the DfE’s response to it, and the recent DfE draft guidance on the 2006 Education Act. Taking these documents as my starting point, I could point to the occasional crumb of support offered to youth work – for example to Positive for Youth’s recognition that youth workers … can make a crucial difference to young people’s lives (Para 3.12) and its assertion that quality in youth services needs to be judged … by good outcomes as well as reductions in bad outcomes. (Para 5.37). However, in contrast to the view taken in his presentation to the conference by Paul Oginsky [the government’s advisor on the National Citizen Service], for me these fine words are overwhelmed in this as in all the government’s recent policy statements by a preoccupation, rooted in a deficiency model of young people, with dealing with bad outcomes.

Thus, Positive for Youth’s one substantive ‘youth work’ case study focuses on ‘the most vulnerable students … at risk of permanent exclusion’ [from college]. (Page 25), while it returns time and time again to:

The needs of young people from socially excluded groups (Para 3.12)

Those young people who don’t get the support or opportunities they need from their family or community (Para 4.73)

[Youth work as] an important form of early intervention for young people at risk of poor outcomes. (Para 5.20)

Positive for Youth does suggest a need ‘to consider the balance of targeted services and open access services (Para 5.20). However it is not only saying this at the very moment that open access provision is fast disappearing across the country. By suggesting that this shift is the result of decisions which are the local authorities alone, disingenuously if not downright dishonestly it is ignoring the fact that this year’s £200M-worth of cuts in Youth Service budgets is the direct result of government decisions to massively reduce central government support for local authorities and freeze council tax. With some 3000 full-time youth worker posts going as a result, whole swathes of professional skills are also being lost – the very skills which Paul Oginsky highlighted as essential for achieving the consistency in young people’s personal and social development to which, he claimed, the government aspires.

Though these are all crucial issues, there is however another which has received too little attention at the conference and which I see as even more significant: the overall policy framework within which government youth policy is located and which is radically refiguring the landscape for providing and especially funding all public services. With the so-called ‘big society’ as its cover, this is driven by a government aim, in the words of Professor Peter Taylor-Gooby of the University of Kent:

to change fundamentally how the welfare state works, so that private capital and the market are embedded at the heart of public provision’.

Continue reading