Reviving Youth Work as Soft-Policing: Labour Party Policy?

Spare me the lecture on pragmatism, but my heart sinks. To resuscitate the youth service as primarily a ‘soft-policing’ agency with crime reduction ‘targets’ flies in the face of our history and philosophy, whatever its own contradictions.

The first of our Starting Points for REVIVING YOUTH WORK AND REIMAGINING A YOUTH SERVICE  published a few months ago declared:

Youth Work’s fundamental aspiration is profoundly educational, political and universal. It seeks to nurture the questioning, compassionate young citizen committed to the development of a socially just and democratic society. It is not a soft-policing instrument of social control.


Labour announces plans to make provision of youth services compulsory to tackle violent crime


Ta to the


Announcing Labour’s plans for youth services, Mr Khan said: “As violent crime continues to rise across the country, it’s more vital than ever that we get tough on the causes of crime, as well as crime.

Of course, I protest too much the writing was on the wall at Prime Minister’s Questions back in early June.

Lloyd Russell-Moyle (Brighton, Kemptown) (Lab/Co-op)

Q7. Last year, a quarter of young people thought about suicide, and one in nine attempted suicide. Young people are three times more likely to be lonely than older people. Knife crime is up, and gang crime is up. There are fewer opportunities for young people than ever before—68% of our youth services ​have been cut since 2010—with young people having nowhere to go, nothing to do and no one to speak to. Is it now time for a statutory youth service, and will the Prime Minister support my ten-minute rule Bill after Prime Minister’s questions? [905633]

At the time I commented:

I’m probably illustrating how out of touch I am, but I continue to disagree with the line taken by Lloyd in his question to Teresa May. Arguing for a Youth Service on the grounds that an alarming number of young people have felt suicidal or that knife and gang crime is rising does not offer, in my opinion, a convincing and sustainable basis for renewing universal, open access, informal education provision, which remains valuable in its own right, whilst being humble about its part in tackling social dilemmas rooted deeply in an alienating and exploitative society.

Out of touch indeed!



Is the tide turning? John McDonnell commits Labour to a statutory Youth Service.

In recent months we have been asking if the tide is turning for youth work? Our question is given fresh impetus by the welcome news that John McDonnell has registered his desire to see the inclusion of a commitment to a statutory Youth Service in the Labour Party’s Manifesto. Particularly encouraging is his insistence that this should happen as an integral element of a ‘New Education Service creating lifelong learning from cradle to grave’.  See below the full text of his contribution to the GFTU Union Building Conference 2018 plus video.

McDonnell’s intervention is all the more timely as next week’s IDYW national conference on March 9 in Birmingham will be exploring a set of proposals that might inform the re-emergence of open youth work and a democratised Youth Service. Watch this space.

John McDonnell:  Contribution to GFTU Union Building Conference 2018.

The General Federation of Trade Unions has an important and distinct role to play in the British trade union movement.

As it approaches its 120th year it is fitting to see that it is still dynamic and leading the way in terms of the transformative power of trade union and community education.

The GFTU’s education programme is the biggest and most imaginative in the Movement and supports trade unionists in developing the practical skills, political and economic understanding and sense of history that are so vital today.

But it is also good to see that the GFTU is consciously reaching out to the wider public to keep the flag of trade unionism flying and reaching out through exciting events such as its youth festival to the next generation of younger trade unionists.

I recognise that trade union work to re-engage the younger generation will also be assisted by the rebuilding of the Youth Service so callously pulled apart by the Conservatives. This is why I am supporting the inclusion in the next Labour Party Manifesto the commitment to create a statutory Youth Service as part of the New Education Service creating lifelong learning from cradle to grave.

I am very impressed that the GFTU is offering new training courses for trade union trainers with Leeds Beckett University and Newman University. This is pioneering work indeed and will create a new generation of fully trained and qualified trade union trainers.

Such tremendous commitment to education within the GFTU is also reflected in its commitment to the Shout Out Project. This is greatly appreciated and we hope that together through my office, the GFTU and affiliated unions to bring greatly needed civic and personal and social education back to our communities.

The GFTU Education in Action programme is well worth a visit.



Unite calls for youth affairs minister to coordinate policies for young people

Video of the presentation plus Q&A from yesterday’s fringe meeting at the Labour Party conference. Thanks to Nick Robinson

A call has been made for a youth affairs minister to coordinate services for young people across government by Unite, the country’s largest union. 

The demand for a minister with a seat in the cabinet will come in a new research report to be launched by the union at the Labour party conference on Sunday (24 September).

The need for a senior minister to knock heads together across Whitehall comes after a period which has seen youth and community services in England seriously eroded by the Tories’ austerity policies since 2010.

In the foreword to the report, Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “Alongside these devastating cuts, youth workers have simultaneously faced attacks on their very profession itself.

“The research findings confirm our fears that the imposition of austerity
measures have devastated the sector. Employers are engaged in a divide-and-rule exercise which feeds ‘a race to the bottom’ and increasingly imposed a ‘one size fits all’ culture on the sector.”

The key demand in the report is for a specific minister for youth affairs to be an advocate for young people in government. The role would straddle Whitehall departments and assess government policy on the aspirations and lives of young people.

This ministerial appointment should be accompanied by a statutory youth services bill that places new legal duties on local authorities to provide a professional youth service and consult young people on changes, such as cuts, closures and removal of services.

Unite national officer for community and youth workers Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe said: “What this research identifies is the systematic erosion of youth services in England since 2010. This report is a blueprint for action and a key recommendation is the appointment of a cabinet-level youth affairs minister.

“He/she would have the ministerial clout to cut through across departments to ensure coherent and joined-up policies that benefit young people, often with serious personal problems, and the staff that provide those services.

“We strongly support the Joint Negotiating Committee for Youth and Community Workers as the quality benchmark to maintain the pay and employment conditions, status and professionalism of youth workers in these challenging times.”

The report also contains the results of a snapshot survey which revealed that 55 per cent of youth workers had experienced change to the services that they deliver; with 73 per cent of those replying that these changes had a negative impact on the provision of services for young people.

The report Youth Work: Professionals Valued was launched at a fringe meeting at the Labour party conference entitled: Moving forward: Rebuilding Youth Services under a Labour Government in hall 4, Hilton Brighton Metropole on Sunday (24 September) at 16.00.

The Youth Work Unit Yorkshire and the Humber was commissioned in April 2017 by Unite to conduct this research. It was a direct response to an attempt by the Local Government Association (LGA) to remove the national collective bargaining agreement called the Joint Negotiating Committee for Youth and Community Workers (JNC) in 2015-2016. 

‘Labour will fund youth clubs properly’ – NME exclusive?


Back in the era of punk the Wigan Youth Service subscribed to the New Musical Express [NME]. As the Service’s training officer I urged youth workers to scour or, at least skim, its pages. I argued that knowing something about the Clash or Siouxie and the Banshees opened up the chance to chat with young people about all manner of things. Whilst the NME is no longer the cultural force it was in those days, Jeremy Corbyn shares perhaps some of my nostalgia. Hence he has given the paper a major interview, which will appear in the June 2nd edition.

Of immediate interest is the following response to a NME reader’s question about young people appearing to support Labour.

 “I think they’re engaged because our manifesto offers them hope. It offers them hope that their schools will be properly funded, that their youth clubs will be properly funded, that they’ll get maintenance grants, they’ll get an opportunity to go to university without incurring massive debts at the end of it.” [my emphasis]

Evidently NME is often given away for free on the streets. If you can grab a copy, it would be good to see the interview in full.

Thanks to Ray Kinsey for this NME distribution map showing where you can pick up a copy and read the full interview.


And thanks to RajYouthworker the full interview online.

Parties, Social Movements and Communities in CONCEPT, the Community Education journal

This summer’s issue of CONCEPT leads off with an optimistic and prescient piece by the late and much missed Doreen Massey. Written a year ago she explores the traumatic tumult within the Labour Party, the unexpected election of Jeremy Corbyn and whether these herald the emergence of a radical politics from below, which challenges the creed of TINA. Interestingly we have not said much about these developments on our blog, even though a number of our readers are very involved in the internal struggle to shift the Labour Party to the Left, to some renewed version of social-democracy. However at our recent national conference it was agreed that we should approach  Corbyn with a view to discussing his understanding of youth work and its place in an educational ‘cradle to grave’, holistic commitment.


At conference too we touched briefly once more on the relationship between youth and community, stimulated by the critical perspective from Annette Coburn and Sinead Gormally, both now working in Scotland, and concerns arising from the ‘Shaping the Future’ exercise undertaken by the UK-wide Professional Association of Youth and Community Lecturers. In this context the article on the Community Development Projects [CDP] of the 1970’s offers much food for thought, hopefully not just for those of us, for whom CDP was and remains an inspiration.

Neil Saddington writes:

The latest issue of Concept is now available free on line. Please see below for the contents of this issue and a link to the journal.

Please also feel free to comment on the latest issue and any of the articles or book reviews within it. It would be good to have some debate and dialogue on the page. Thanks

The journal can be found here:

Vol 7, No 2 (2016): Summer
Table of Contents


Exhilarating Times
Doreen Massey

A General Theory of Everything
Mike Newman

Solidarity Activism, Campaigning and Knowledge Production: Challenging Refugee Inc. The Case of G4S and Corporate Asylum Markets.
John Grayson

Re-visiting the Community Development Projects of the 1970s in the UK
Mae Shaw, Andrea Armstrong, Gary Craig

Book Review: Paterson, L. (2015) Social Radicalism and Liberal Education
Jim Crowther

Book Review: Meade, R. & Dukelow, F. (2015). Defining Events: Power, Resistance and Identity in Twenty-First-Century Ireland,
Liam Kane

Book Review: Ismail, S. (2015) The Victoria Mxenge Housing Project: Women Building Communities Through Social Activism and Informal Learning
Jane Jones