NCS coming under increasing political pressure from local government

REVIVING YOUTH WORK AND REIMAGINING A YOUTH SERVICE: IDYW STARTING POINTS

15. The National Citizen Service ought to be closed or curtailed, its funding transferred into all-year round provision, of which summer activities will be a part.

We won’t get above ourselves, but perhaps the Local Government Association has seen the leaflet containing our proposals. Be that as it may, the National Citizen Service is coming under increasing pressure as this Guardian piece reveals.

 

cameron

Ta to dailysquat.com

Councils have urged ministers to shift funds from David Cameron’s residential youth scheme to their own year-round schemes after it emerged his project used 95% of all government spending on youth services despite reaching relatively few teenagers.

The Local Government Association said some of the £634m allocated to the National Citizen Service (NCS) over the past few years would make up for some of the cuts to council schemes. More than 600 youth centres had closed.

The NCS was one of Cameron’s early announcements as prime minister in 2010 – part of his “big society” policy. It offers three to four-week programmes where 15- to 17-year-olds work in teams on projects connected to skills and the community.

The scheme, which was allocated £1.5bn in funding overall, has faced criticism for lax spending controls and poor management.

Last month a parliamentary answer from Tracey Crouch, the culture minister, revealed the NCS had, in 2016 alone, spent almost £10m on places which were never filled.

Other questions from Labour to Crouch found that companies working with the NHS were permitted to make profits from the service and that two local partners delivering the scheme had hit serious financial difficulties.

You must forgive me for raising an eyebrow at the sweeping reply from the Department for Digital, Culture Media and Sport [DCMS].

A spokeswoman for the Department for DCMS said the NCS had “improved the lives of 400,000 young people in disadvantaged areas across the country”.

Given the emphasis nowadays on what we are told is sophisticated data collection in the youth sector I might have expected a more revealing sense of what improvement and disadvantage mean. Then again perhaps not.

The response from such as the National Youth Agency, who have actively and uncritically supported Cameron’s increasingly discredited vanity project, will be significant. What price now the absurd claim that NCS is the fastest growing youth movement in the UK since the Scouts started a century ago? As if a grassroots youth movement could be created from above by government diktat.

Let’s keep the pressure on to revive and reimagine via the Labour Party consultation and NYA’s National Youth Work Week.

 

‘Crouch dismisses call for NCS to be evaluated against traditional youth services’ reports CYPN

Joe Lepper in Children and Young People Now [CYPN] reports that:

 

Crouch

Tracy Crouch – thanks to womenofrubies.com

 

Youth minister Tracey Crouch has rejected calls for the effectiveness of the government’s flagship National Citizen Service (NCS) to be compared with traditional youth services.

Speaking in parliament, Labour’s shadow youth minister Steve Reed asked whether the government would “widen the scope” of the annual independent evaluation of the National Citizen Service (NCS) in order to “make comparisons with other youth programmes with similar aims to NCS”.

But Crouch rejected the idea, adding that the government is already supporting efforts to improve evaluation of wider youth work.

This includes funding for the Centre for Youth Impact, a social enterprise that aims to improve how the youth sector measures its effectiveness.

“The youth sector evidence base is not yet sufficiently developed to enable robust comparison between different programmes,” she said.

In a riposte, Joe quotes yours truly.

20170317-_DSC1346

Tony Taylor, co-ordinator of campaign group In Defence of Youth Work, said it is “absurd” to scrutinise the National Citizen Service in isolation from the diversity of continuing youth provision.

“Contrary to the claim that there is no evidence base to inform a thorough-going evaluation of practice, a range of insightful research is available, the latest being the 2017 Anu Gretschel report on the impact of International Youth Work,” Taylor said.

“However, this body of knowledge has been wilfully ignored. Its qualitative perspective is utterly at odds with the government’s neoliberal obsession with measuring the immeasurable.

“Though we do not think the way forward lies in some sort of crude, comparative exercise. As of now, we see a strong case for using the funding – some £400m – that could be saved from a reduction by a third in NCS’s recruitment target up to 2020/21 to reinstate the nearly £390m cut in youth service spending since 2010.

“The urgent longer-term need is for an independent inquiry into the present state of youth work in its entirety, premised on a renewed understanding of youth work as a distinctive educational practice rooted in voluntary relationships with young people forged outside of formal institutions and agencies.”

Read in full at Crouch dismisses call

 

Youth & Policy on Feminism resurgent, Worklessness and the NCS Money-Tree

Having been out of action for a week and with loads happening I can’t sadly do justice to the latest trio of articles from the new-style Youth & Policy. However, they are all worth your time and contribute significantly to our understanding of the fluctuating scenario, within which we find ourselves.

Y&P

Young Women, Youth Work and Spaces: Resurgent Feminist Approaches

Janet Batsleer begins:

There has – in one thread of youth and community work – been a long-standing desire to link our practice in the most excluded and precaritised neighbourhoods with working-class social movements which also seek to turn back and away from sexism, racism and other oppressive forces (Batsleer, 2013). It is in this context – as such movements against neoliberalism are gathering strength again and being reframed – that I was invited in 2017 by two wonderful projects to act as a consultant to their work. The first is based with YouthLink Scotland and has involved an oral history of the links between youth work and the women’s movement in Scotland (www.scotswummin.org). The second is the publication by a Brussels NGO called Childcare Activists of a pamphlet called: Filles et autres minorises….des jeunes comme les autres? Vers un travail de jeunesse accessible a tou(s) (tes) which translated as ‘Girls and other minorities: youth like the others? Towards a youth work accessible to all?’ (www.activistchildcare.org). This study by Eleanor Miller and Mouhad Reghif, highlighted sexism, racism and intersectionality as key issues for street work, all of which have been captured in this pamphlet. In May 2017 I was invited to speak at a Conference for street workers and key figures in Francophone NGO’s from Belgium and France where the pamphlet was launched. What follows is a brief extract from my presentation.

 

Exploring ‘generations and cultures of worklessness’ in contemporary Britain

Despite research which emphasises that the idea of ‘generations of worklessness’ is a myth, the general public, politicians and the mainstream media still suggest that generations and cultures of worklessness exist in contemporary Britain. Kevin Ralston and Vernon Gayle outline evidence that disputes this damaging myth.

Introduction
The concepts of generations and cultures of worklessness have popular, political and international resonance. In politics, high profile figures, such as the UK Government Minister Chris Grayling, are on record as stating there are ‘four generations of families where no-one has ever had a job’ (in MacDonald et al, 2013). Esther McVey, when she was UK Minister for Employment, made reference to the widespread idea that there is a ‘something for nothing culture’ among some of those claiming benefits (DWP, 2013). The general notion, that there is a section of undeserving poor who should receive punishment or correction, is a central concept in neo-liberal politics (Wiggan, 2012; Soss et al, 2011; Wacquant, 2009; de Goede, 1996). Ideas associated with generations and cultures of worklessness also regularly appear in the traditional UK print media and the international press. For example, in 2013, the Daily Mail reported the story of an individual convicted of burning down his house, which resulted in deaths. They reported his status as a benefit claimant and described living on welfare benefits as a ‘lifestyle choice’ for some.

 

The National Citizen Service and The “Magic Money Tree”

This article by Sean Murphy draws on interviews with youth workers to argue that youth citizenship and engagement would be better supported by sustained youth and community work, rather than through the National Citizen Service.

Introduction
We are living in precarious times. Theresa May’s ‘snap election’ has catapulted the United Kingdom into a minority Conservative administration, and a far cry from the ‘strong and stable’ pre-election mantra. The nation is careering towards a Brexit with a limited mandate, its government, the economy and politics are in a state of flux. As Youniss et al. (2002) suggest, these changes can easily reshape concepts such as national identity, nationhood, and multiculturalism within a globalised world; and in such a moment, the meaning of citizenship can no longer be taken for granted. Moreover, the ‘snap election’ has led to the Conservative government devising a political deal with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) reportedly worth over £1.5billion additional public spending for Northern Ireland.

Network of Regional Youth Work Units’ challenging proposals for a would-be Tory strategy for young people

In this week’s Children & Young People Now you will find an article, Youth work network calls for redistribution of NCS cash. It opens:

Money earmarked for the National Citizen Service (NCS) should be redirected to support cash-strapped statutory and voluntary youth services, a group of youth work organisations has said.

The group in question is the long-standing network of Regional Youth Work Units. And the network’s response to the government’s alleged commitment to a 3-year strategy for young people goes far beyond the matter of Cameron’s vanity project. Indeed we think it is a valuable and challenging contribution to the present debate about the future of both youth work and services for young people. At this very moment, we are exploring whether the network and IDYW might join together to catalyse further discussion. In this spirit and ahead of the appearance of an IDYW paper, ‘Reimagining Youth Work’ you will find below the network’s proposals in their entirety.

 

3-Year Strategy for Young People

What should a 3-year government strategy for young people contain?

The Network of Regional Youth Work Units welcomes DCMS commitment to develop a 3-year strategy for young people. We want to work with the government, youth sector colleagues and young people to ensure that the strategy is a genuine cross-departmental initiative that takes into account the many different factors that impact on young people’s lives and does not concern itself simply with the elements that are included in DCMS’s current brief. We want to see a strategy that fully engages education, health, care, arts, sport, transport and aspires to make England a country where young people are encouraged to feel they are a valued part of the community.

election reform

A starting point would be to respond to young people’s demands for voting rights at 16, which would recognise young people as active citizens whose views are as important as other people in the community. Evidence from the Scottish Independence Referendum in 2014 showed that young people used their votes responsibly. There are opportunities coming up in elections for Metro-Mayors where votes at 16 could be piloted and evaluated in England. We urge the government to use these elections to test take-up of votes at 16.

We believe there are some important issues to address for the youth sector itself and want to see these emphasised in the strategy.

  • Young people and their parents believe that the people who work with them in youth organisations are trained and qualified in what they do. Increasingly this is not the case as the infrastructure and funding for training youth workers has withered during the austerity years since 2010, and most of those working in youth organisations have no or little access to relevant training and qualifications. Young people and communities benefit from a skilled and confident workforce and it is essential that some resources are found to make training and qualifications available, particularly to those working in voluntary sector organisations, whether paid or in a voluntary capacity. The sector has maintained a coherent framework for training and qualifications, including apprenticeships, and this should be extended and made more widely available.
  • There is a strong emphasis on involving young people in social action in the current government approach, and we support this drive. However, the way in which social action is defined should be broadened, to include more youth-led and issue-based campaigning alongside more formal volunteering. Young people become active citizens in a number of ways, and all possible routes should be included in the youth strategy.
  • Youth work and work with young people now happens in a very wide range of settings, both open access and targeted at young people with specific needs and vulnerabilities. The key elements remain the same, however – building long-term trusted relationships between the worker and young people and working in locations, at times and on issues that are chosen by young people. The notion of social pedagogy, widely used in mainland Europe should be given more serious consideration as an effective way of working with young people, and a youth strategy that provided opportunities to pilot the approach with young people in England would be welcome
  • Finally, resources for work with young people have been greatly diminished since 2010 as a result of local authority cuts and fewer specific opportunities for grant aid for youth organisations from trusts and major funders. The government currently makes a very substantial contribution to one flagship project, National Citizens Service, and we question whether this is the right approach in a time when the youth sector and services to young people in general are under enormous pressure. Investing so heavily in NCS, particularly in its current format of a single 4-week programme for 16-year-olds when in many areas there is no provision available for the rest of the year does not seem to us to be an effective way to support young people into active citizenship. We would advocate for a significant reduction in resourcing for this model of NCS in order to free up money for essential infrastructure such as trained staff and support to voluntary organisations to help them improve their offer to young people and become more sustainable.

The Network of Regional Youth Work Units through its members in regions supports the development of a 3-year strategy and will be happy to work with partners to engage young people and the youth sector across the country.

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.

A critical view of NCS and citizenship from the world of political geography

sign up toncs

The National Citizen Service programme has been having a rough ride recently, but its supporters would claim that much of the criticism emanates from the ranks of jealous and prejudiced youth workers. Hence it’s illuminating to ponder the following piece of research undertaken by Sarah Mills and Catherine Waite, published in the journal, ‘Political Geography’.

Highlights

Explores youth citizenship and the politics of scale to propose concept of ‘brands of youth citizenship’.

Examines the imaginative and institutional geographies of learning to be a citizen.

An analysis of National Citizen Service and its scaling of youth citizenship.

Original fieldwork with NCS architects, delivery providers and young people.

Examines ‘Britishness’, devolution and youthful politics in the United Kingdom.

Brands of youth citizenship and the politics of scale: National Citizen Service in the United Kingdom

Abstract
This paper explores the politics of scale in the context of youth citizenship. We propose the concept of ‘brands of youth citizenship’ to understand recent shifts in the state promotion of citizenship formations for young people, and demonstrate how scale is crucial to that agenda. As such, we push forward debates on the scaling of citizenship more broadly through an examination of the imaginative and institutional geographies of learning to be a citizen. The paper’s empirical focus is a state-funded youth programme in the UK – National Citizen Service – launched in 2011 and now reaching tens of thousands of 15–17 year olds. We demonstrate the ‘branding’ of youth citizenship, cast here in terms of social action and designed to create a particular type of citizen-subject. Original research with key architects, delivery providers and young people demonstrates two key points of interest. First, that the scales of youth citizenship embedded in NCS promote engagement at the local scale, as part of a national collective, whilst the global scale is curiously absent. Second, that discourses of youth citizenship are increasingly mobilised alongside ideas of Britishness yet fractured by the geographies of devolution. Overall, the paper explores the scalar politics and performance of youth citizenship, the tensions therein, and the wider implications of this study for both political geographers and society more broadly at a time of heated debate about youthful politics in the United Kingdom and beyond.

If possible don’t be put off by the denseness of the abstract or the profusion of bracketed references demanded by academia, the article explores insightfully the continuing tension about what we mean by citizenship and the particular interpretation advocated via NCS. As ever responses would be most welcome.

Thanks to Lyam Galpin for drawing the article to our attention.