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


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]

Youth Social Action : A Question of Politics

A few of us are thinking about submitting a possible paper to this conference with the working title, ‘Taking the Politics out of Social Action’, drawing on our own histories and a different interpretation of what Social Action might mean –  Their Social Action and Ours – social change or social control? Your thoughts welcomed.


Voluntary Sector Studies Network – VSSN – Day Seminar, Birmingham, 22 November 2016

Youth social action: What do we know about young people’s participation?

The next VSSN Day Seminar will take place at the University of Birmingham on Tuesday 22 November: 10.30am – 4.00pm.
Please put the date in your diary now!
And consider submitting a paper….

The next VSSN day seminar is hosted by the Third Sector Research Centre at the University of Birmingham in association with the #iwill campaign. The seminar will explore the broad theme of youth social action, which includes activities such as volunteering, fundraising, campaigning, political participation, democratic engagement and activism that young people do to help others and the environment. The landscape of provision for young people in the UK has changed in recent decades, particularly at a local authority level for out-of-school services. On a national level, the last 15 years have seen various social action initiatives promoted by Labour, Coalition and Conservative governments, including the introduction of Citizenship to the National Curriculum; the introduction of the government-backed National Citizen Service, and recently-announced plans to inject further funding; and cross-party support for the #iwill campaign. The #iwill campaign is a cross-sector, collective impact campaign aiming to increase the involvement of 10-20 year olds in the UK in social action by 2020. It is coordinated by the charity Step Up To Serve.

A recent survey of participation in youth social action shows that in 2015 42% of young people participated in social action at least every few months, or did a one-off activity lasting more than a day, and recognised the benefits it had for themselves and for the community or cause they were helping. Yet, similar to some of the patterns we see in adults’ participation, there are socio-demographic differences in participation. Significantly, those from less affluent backgrounds (C2DE) are participating less than those from most affluent backgrounds (ABC1) – 45% compared to 39% respectively. The same study found that the majority (68%) of young people who weren’t involved could think of at least one factor that would motivate them to take part, namely, ivolvement with friends or family, or if it was close to where they live.

This broad context raises several questions, including for example:
· What barriers do young people face to participating in youth social action? What are the costs of participation for young people (financial and otherwise)?
· What difference does taking part in youth social action make to young people’s lives, and/or to society?
· Are government programmes and/or wider societal factors changing how young people can participate?
· What types of participation are being encouraged within youth social action initiatives? Are some forms of participation seen as more legitimate than others?
· How does social action relate to the formation of identities amongst young people?
· In a wider political context, to what extent is youth social action being constructed around the idea of a responsible citizen?
· How do we research young people’s participation? How are young people getting involved in the research process?

Presenters and delegates are invited to consider how their research and experience relates to youth social action, and in particular to the questions listed above. The theme ‘youth social action’ is deliberately broad to encompass work on volunteering, campaigning, citizenship and fundraising, as well as activism and participation of young people in civil society more widely.

Submitting an abstract
We welcome presentations from researchers, academics, doctoral students and practitioners in voluntary organisations who are doing research that can shine a light on the issues raised in this call. We will be pleased to consider papers that provide empirical, theoretical, methodological, practice or policy insights associated with our theme. Papers are usually based on completed or ongoing research (qualitative or quantitative) or a review of the evidence or literature in an area of interest to voluntary sector researchers.

If you would like to propose a paper for the day, please submit an abstract of around 250 words and a brief biography by email to Emma Taylor at e.taylor.2@bham.ac.uk no later than 3 August 2016. Your abstract should contain a question, problem or dilemma arising from practice, theory or research findings, the argument you intend to make, and how this contributes to the theme for the day. PLEASE DO NOT HIT THE ‘REPLY’ BUTTON to this message or you will be replying to everyone on this VSSN list. Please note that, if selected, your abstract will be posted on VSSN website and you will need to book and pay to attend the Seminar.

For any other queries, or if you wish to discuss a proposed paper’s suitability, please email e.taylor.2@bham.ac.uk.

Attending the event
VSSN aims to promote an understanding of the UK voluntary sector through research. The event is aimed at researchers, academics, doctoral students and practitioners in voluntary organisations or foundations interested in the UK voluntary sector. We also welcome policy makers engaged in the voluntary sector. We are also keen to meet and receive contributions from, colleagues in other countries who are involved in research on civil society organisations. The working language is English.
Booking will open once the programme is finalised. We look forward to welcoming you to Birmingham on 22 November.

Two Fingers to Youth Service as NCS put on Statutory Footing

Even as late as a year ago with ChooseYouth in the lead pressure was being put on Labour to hold to its pledge to make the Youth Service statutory. The party reneged. It was hardly a surprise. For many it seemed to be the last throw of the dice in a decades long battle with successive governments around Youth Service, Youth Work and its status. Some compared this struggle to the search for the Holy Grail. Indeed with the election of the Tories the drive to undermine the last vestiges of open access, year round youth work  continued, forcing almost everyone to reconsider where we are up to and what might be the next step.

NCS logo

And now to add insult to injury the following is announced in today’s Queen’s Speech  (page 40).

National Citizen Service Bill

“National Citizen Service will be placed on a permanent statutory footing.”
The purpose of the Bill is to:
 To support the manifesto commitment to expand National Citizen Service by
encouraging thousands more young people to take advantage of the skillsbuilding
programmes offered (p.45).
 Put the National Citizen Service (NCS) on a statutory footing.
 Strengthen links between young people and schools, local governments and
central governments to promote participation in the programme.
The main benefits of the Bill would be:
 Using schools to reach every eligible young person and their parents to raise
awareness of NCS and give every young person the chance to participate.
 Using local authorities to inform young people and parents about NCS,
particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds.
 Using government’s existing contact points with young people and parents to
promote the programme and support other government policy through doing
 Providing the right level of accountability for the NCS delivery body and
improving the administrative and funding arrangements between government
and the body.
The main elements of the Bill are:
● Creating a new statutory framework to deliver the NCS.
● Putting a duty on all secondary schools, including academies, sixth-form
colleges and independent schools to promote the NCS to young people and
their parents.
● Putting a duty on local authorities to promote the NCS to young people and
their parents.
● Putting a duty on relevant Secretaries of State to report annually on how they
have promoted the NCS to eligible young people and parents.

Devolution: We are in discussions with the devolved administrations about extending the Bill to their jurisdictions by legislative consent motion. Key facts:  Since NCS began, over 200,000 young people have taken part in this life changing opportunity. NCS is the fastest growing youth movement in this country for a century with a 46% increase in the number of participants between 2013 and 2014.  7 in 10 participants felt more confident about getting a job as a result of NCS in 2014. NCS is now recognised by UCAS.  21% of NCS participants were eligible for free school meals, compared with around 8% of young people of the same age in the general population and 27% from non-white backgrounds compared to 19% of the general population.

As you know we are lectured constantly about our failure to make the case for youth work, our failure to be robust and rigorous, our failure to measure what we do. Hence many have seen no option, but to embrace the ideologically led outcomes and impact agenda. If you want evidence that the claim to be robust and rigorous and evidence-based,  is all smoke and mirrors, read the  NCS evaluations, which support this bill.  Evidently there is to be 1.2 billion pounds of investment in  Cameron’s pet project. Enough for now………forget the alcohol-free resolution… I need a drink.

In Praise of Social Mixing : Pandering to a traditional class-ridden Conservative agenda

This last week has witnessed further evidence of the decimation of open access youth work, symbolised by the demise of the Wokingham Youth Service, news of which sparked further depressing information on our Facebook and the Choose Youth page – the end of Bolton Youth Service as a distinct entity, 60% cuts in Gateshead, decommissioning chaos in Sunderland…….

Meanwhile, in a parallel universe, where spineless youth, benefits claimants and immigrants are the source of the country’s economic problems, Charlotte Hill, the Chief Executive of London Youth, takes the platform at a Conservative Party conference fringe event. Pandering to the prejudices of her audience she declares that the Party’s less than innovative summer activities programme, National Citizens Service, is ‘widening the reach of youth services’ [or what is left of them, we might add]. Evidently, as a result, young people from a wider range of backgrounds are turning up to the local youth club [ providing of course it is open, we might conjecture].

All this is a touch too much for Tim Loughton, the former children’s minister, who cannot believe his luck. Given permission to regress to the common-sense crap of yesteryear he  talks of youth clubs as the dumping ground of problem kids. Encouraged he chances that most weary of traditional apologetics for social inequality. He tells us that:

I’ve been on NCS courses where at one end of a rope there’s a public schoolboy, and at the other end there’s a kid in care, someone from the youth justice system, or somebody from the local state school.

“It’s difficult to work out which is which, and that’s absolutely as it should be.”

Difficult to work out which is which, Loughton is clearly  on illegal substances. Come the next day, the next week, does he believe that the life chances of the public school boy and the kid in care have been squared up!? Of course not, his old-fashioned neo-Victorian line is that the lumpen elements of the young working class, the ‘disengaged’, will be civilised by their contact with their private school superiors. In exchange, as the myth goes, the young Etonian will have a few pretentious edges sanded down. None of which will have the slightest impact on the growing inequalities in today’s society.

No matter, now in full flight, Loughton reveals yet another deep-seated prejudice about the lower classes. It’s dangerous to let them gather together on their own terms with their own agendas. Hence he continues, “there are still too many youth clubs that even now with universal provision are ghettoised in some respects. You only get a certain type of person from a certain locality going there.”

Thus forget the government’s deeply divisive social and economic policies the problem lies within doubtful ‘types’ of people and doubtful ‘types’ of localities. Evidently social harmony will be restored if we arrange to socially mix every now and again. After all, as George Osborne says, ‘we are all in this together’.

Of course this strand of either naivete or profound cynicism – the notion that social mixing would heal class divisions without in any way disturbing them – is part of the youth work tradition. Certainly Baden-Powell advocated this line. However youth work’s pluralism has meant that an emphasis on working with young people in their own peer groups, in autonomous creations of their own, has also a long history.

As things stand it is this respect for young people on their own ground, this respect for their cultures as a starting point for dialogue that is being undermined by the shift to targeting and the manufacturing of artificial groups. Of course there is a place for young folk from differing backgrounds coming together, but the daily encounter, the unfolding process if it is to be authentic begins ‘where they’re at’.

Meanwhile as a leading figure in the increasingly co-opted voluntary sector waxes lyrical about the National Citizen Service, oblivious apparently to the wider scenario, youth services continue to disappear. Just as I am about to put this scribble on the site I’ve received the following note from the indefatigable David Ricketts in Oxfordshire.

Hi Tony – serious cuts again in Tory Oxfordshire. 38 children centres to close leaving 5! along with 4 Hub, leaving 3. 700 jobs from 1800 in our sector- carnage in Camerons backyard!
Enough said – words are beginning to fail me.


Engaging Critically with NCS continued – Are we imposing our Politics?


Following a recent post National Citizen Service : Federation for Detached Youth Work initiate critical forum the following interesting and challenging exchange took place on our Facebook page. With the permission of the participants I’ve pasted here.

In response to the suggestion that the move might be controversial, Heike Horsburgh disagreed.

Heike : No. Young people have the right to make choices about what they are involved in. Youth workers shouldn’t stand in the way of opportunities (or mock) because they may have a political perspective on a source of funding or the philosophical intention. We’ve danced around and courted controversial funding for years. It’s not just likes of SERCO involved. Evaluation and learning lessons is all part of hearing often unheard voices: particularly in this context. There have been some very meaningful experiences through NCS, much as it pains me to acknowledge considering the investment paralleled with the cuts to 52 week services . NCS is supposed to be planned alongside young people, and done well, some of the cringe-worthy aims and objectives of the scheme can be blatantly ignored . Young people from all backgrounds and abilities are currently eating, sleeping, laughing, planning, working and experiencing new challenges together. Lets wait and see what an evaluation with those most marginalised tells us.



Kev Jones : Some background – The Fed were contacted by Cabinet Office who were inquiring about how the Fed and NCS could work together. Reading between the lines my feeling is that this initial contact was made with a view to using the Fed’s contacts to boost recruitment to NCS which, as providers will tell you, is one of the main drivers from Cabinet Office. There is, of course, politics here and I’ll leave it to you all to decide how much of this recruitment drive is to ensure that young people have access to a “life-changing” opportunity, and how much is driven by the huge embarrassment which would ensue were NCS to fail, or (maybe worse) be greeted with apathy.


Anyway – we dispatched Graeme, who had a long conversation with Cabinet Office about the values of the Fed, and Youth Work in general, the content and working methods of NCS, the limitations and biases of evaluations to date etc etc. It was decided that in a spirit of critical inquiry we pull together a small event to examine NCS in this context, and with reference to the young people Detached Youth Workers often work with and their engagement with / disdain of / indifference to the programme – and the programme’s engagement with / disdain of / indifference to them. All contributions to stimulate the conversation will be most welcome – it should be good ;o)



Tony Taylor :Heike/Kev Many thanks for the responses and clarification. Would it be OK to copy and paste them into a follow up post for the web site? I’ve no doubt many young people are having a cracking time – the recipe of outdoor residential and groupwork is often a winner if decently organised. And of course I know the FED is acting in a spirit of critical inquiry. So I’ll definitely encourage involvement in the process. This said I think there will be folk, who do see the move as problematic and in a sense controversial. Just from a trade union point of view there are issues around pay and conditions etc.. Let’s hope the critical conversation flowers. Thanks again.



Kev : Course you can fella – The event’s hanging in the balance anyway, but some of the info Graeme’s collected already is pretty illuminating, it’ll be good to see what else turns up including anything about pay / training etc etc. Catch up soon.



Heike :No problem with that. The issue you raise ref pay is confusing to me. My experience is not that govt or our partners set our pay for our staff that are involved we did. I have now moved out of the org that is involved in NCS, and it is still reputationally well respected for honouring, campaigning for and promoting positive staff terms. Staff in my org were paid JNC terms and conditions (and still are). I wonder if those subcontracted are trying to make payments to staff with a squeezed and unrealistic budget, and that maybe those with the contract management role are taking a huge cut, and then asking delivery agencies to deliver unrealistically? Again not in my experience, and I am a strong supporter of union membership and investing in youth workers according to rates of pay and terms and conditions negotiated through national agreements. There is not one size fits all methodology to delivering NCS. I suppose that’s where I am coming from. That’s why I find sweeping critiques difficult when I feel they don’t represent how some good 3rd sector orgs have delivered.