IDYW Response to the APPG Inquiry – What is the role of youth work in addressing the needs and opportunities for young people?

 

 

YWalive

Ta to andyclow.com

The first question asked by the NYA on behalf of the All Party Parliamentary Group.

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What is the role of youth work in addressing the needs and opportunities for young people?

There are many different versions of youth work and it is highly likely the Committee will hear about many of them.  It is a term much used and much abused, reduced in recent times to mean more or less any form of work with young people. In contrast ‘In Defence of Youth Work’  argues that youth work takes place in a distinctive, open and free setting outside of the formal and imposed institutions of society, for example, schools, social services and youth justice. It starts from young people’s identification of their needs. It is holistic in intent, rooted in meaningful association and challenging conversation. Above all, it is based on the building of relationships with young people, which can be neither prescribed nor imposed. So often now, youth workers are directed to work with young people because they are perceived by others to have a problem, or to be causing a problem, or to be deficient in some way. This work demands predetermined outcomes, to be achieved within a set timescale. It may well be appropriate in other settings, but it contravenes an essential ingredient in the youth work process.  The rhythm and pace of our interaction with young people are under their control.

 

Thus we reaffirm our belief in an emancipatory and democratic Youth Work, founded on cornerstones of a practice, which:

  • works in non-stigmatising  with young people as young people who choose to be involved;
  • takes place in open-access settings – physical, social and cultural spaces which young people can ‘own’ and experience as safe;
  • is rooted in mutually respectful and trusting relationships amongst young people and between young person and adults;
  • offers young people informal educational opportunities and challenges which recognise their strengths and potential and start from their concerns and interests;
  • within boundaries of consistency and reliability, responds flexibly and creatively to young people in their here-and-now  as well as to their ‘transitions’;
  • works with and through their peer networks and wider shared identities, in the process identifying and responding as appropriate to individual needs and concerns;
  • at times deliberately blurs personal and professional boundaries  in order to communicate as openly and honestly as possible with young people;
  • uses activities both as vehicles for young people’s personal development and as opportunities in their own right for individual and group achievement and affirmation.

If youth work is to be renewed in the interests of young people and the common good, it is essential that state and voluntary sector policy-makers and providers start from this kind of positive definition of the practice, its purpose and role – as an educational and developmental provision for a wide range of young people who choose to engage in their own leisure time. On the other hand, if in the present political, media and funding climate the Committee makes the case primarily on the grounds that youth work could help reduce knife crime or drug-taking or school drop-outs, important as these issues are, what will almost certainly get ‘revived’ are ‘youth services’ that once again are ‘targeted’. As a result, most of those up-to-a-million young people who have been most directly affected by the systematic deconstruction of local Youth Services will get little if any benefit.

APPG Inquiry into Youth Work

IDYW encourages everyone to reply to this inquiry. We will submit a response grounded in the IDYW cornerstones and in our REVIVING YOUTH WORK AND REIMAGINING A YOUTH SERVICE : STARTING POINTS paper, which grew out of the series of ‘Is the Tide Turning?’ events and discussions at our 2018 national conference.

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NYA is pleased to open this All Party Parliamentary Group inquiry into Youth Work

 

The National Youth Agency (NYA) is delighted to support the All Party Parliamentary Group for Youth Affairs (APPG) to lead a full national inquiry into youth work. The APPG Members of Parliament are inviting organisations from across England to submit evidence to the inquiry team, led by the NYA, to inform the analysis and findings of the inquiry. We aim to gather as much evidence as possible, from as many youth work projects, settings and practitioners as we can, as well as young people themselves. The NYA is grateful to the cross-party group of MP’s who will lead this inquiry and special thanks also to the APPG secretariat British Youth Council and YMCA England & Wales for supporting this endeavour.

Please promote this inquiry to help us gather a strong and robust evidence base for youth work and the impact it makes. This is a rare opportunity for the sector and we encourage all organisations and individuals in the sector to contribute.

Youth work can make a crucial difference to young people’s lives in their personal and social development. It can build their confidence and skills, promote equality, challenge discrimination, and champion the positive place for young people in society.

Please click here to download a printable brief.

Call for Evidence

NYA is collecting evidence from the sector to inform the following four questions until the 20th June 2018.

  1. What is the role of youth work in addressing the needs and opportunities for young people?
  2. Are the key issues and challenges faced by young people being addressed by current youth service provisions?
  3. Are there sufficient youth workers to support youth services and other delivery models for good quality youth work?
  4. What are the training and workforce development needs to secure and sustain youth work?

Nominate your youth work for a visit from MPs

As part of the consultation process, MPs will be visiting youth sector organisations/services nationwide.

IMPORTANT – to submit your evidence or to arrange a possible MP’s visit you will need to register with NYA and open an account – sort this out via https://nya.org.uk/appg-inquiry/

Neoliberal Norms see UK Youth and NYA competing and individualising

At the end of last week, I was involved in a debate at the Youth&Policy conference about where youth work has come from, where it’s up to and where it might be going? Within this discussion, it was impossible to escape the impact of neoliberal assumptions on our practice, such as the rule of the market, the necessity of competition and the individualising of our experience. But wasn’t it all a bit abstract?

 

Within hours of getting home reality responded, ‘not at all’.

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The CYPN reports that ‘UK Youth and NYA in running for £1.8m grant.’

Youth work organisations UK Youth and the National Youth Agency (NYA) are to compete for £1.8m of funding to deliver projects to support girls and young women.

Funding charity Spirit of 2012 and the government-backed #iwill campaign have agreed to provide funding of £10,000 to each organisation to develop respective projects intended to empower girls and young women to change their communities for the benefit of other girls.

Either the NYA project called Fire and Wire, which will work with girls and young women in former mining communities or a UK Youth project to offer volunteering opportunities for girls with the British Red Cross will be awarded the full £1.8m.

The Fire and Wire project is being run jointly by the NYA and social action company Platform Thirty1. It focuses on helping girls and young women in former mining communities better understand their potential through neuroscience, psychology and physiology training.

Further information on Fire and Wire is to be found on the Platform Thirty1 website.

Every girl should know her worth and that she is valued for her individuality. Fire & Wire works with girls in former mining communities teaching the basics of neuroscience, developing an understanding of how their brains work and how best they can utilise their physiology and psychology. The project also equips participants with leadership and creative skills, helping them develop their own projects for change at both an individual and community level with younger peers.

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Is it just me, who wants to ask a few questions about all of this?

  1. Forgive my naivete, but why are these two leading youth work organisations in competition for the funding, even being pump-primed for the showdown? Would it not have been possible to negotiate a cooperative compromise, in which each took half of the finance available? Or are we to deduce that both outfits desperately need the cash to survive and will fight to the death to win, irrespective of the cost to the loser?
  2.  As for youth workers teaching the basics of neuroscience to young women I’m bound to ask, ‘what are these agreed and accepted basics?’ As best I understand the continuing neuroscience research into how brains work, including, of course, what gets called ‘the teen brain’ [and I do follow it closely] remains full of possibilities, full of contradictions. It remains a contested arena.  And, many, if not most neuroscientists, regret how their provisional, often speculative findings become popularised and hardened into supposed truths about the human condition. In particular, concern is expressed at the prevalence and influence of ‘neuromyths’ in schools. As an example,  the idea of hemispheric dominance (whether you are “left-brained” or “right-brained”) determines how you learn. Some educators split young people simplistically into visualisers and verbalisers, even though this division does not stand up to serious scrutiny. Neuroscience does not float free from ideology. Thus in neoliberal times, it can all too easily be used to confirm an ‘individualist’ agenda, in which young people are assured if they pull their socks up, they can make it, whatever the social constraints. They can even express their individuality, provided it conforms to neoliberal expectation.
  3. Thus Katy Fielding, assistant director of operations at the National Youth Agency announces that “Our Fire and Wire project will support practitioners to enable young women to belong, develop and thrive in some of the most disadvantaged areas of the UK and we are extremely excited to get started.” The dilemma is that the area of Derbyshire, where the project will be based, has not been disadvantaged by chance or natural causes. The disadvantage remains the consequence of the conscious and vicious assault by the Thatcher government on the mining communities of this area in the 1980’s.  I lived through this period directly as I was the District Youth and Community Education Officer for Bolsover and my office was in Shirebrook. The women, young and old, were at the heart of resistance to the violence wreaked on their communities. Indeed through the efforts of the Miners’ Wives Support Group, the abandoned Shirebrook Primary School was converted into a Women’s Centre, complete with a nursery and creche, essential to freeing up the women to pursue the educational courses on offer. Supportive work was pursued with girls and young women through the youth club, a detached project and a specific young women’s project in Bolsover. Obviously, in the long run, these initiatives failed to prevent the tragic degeneration of these communities. Indeed, as I write, thirty years on, the Bolsover District Council is implementing yet another Regeneration Scheme.
  4. None of this is to suggest that a project such as Wire and Fire is a waste of time.  However a few years ago I returned to Shirebrook, home now of the infamous Sports Direct company. Disillusionment, even despair filled the smokeless air. The young people were not struggling because they didn’t know how their brains worked. Rather they were struggling because of a lack of opportunities, choices and meaningful jobs. Surely, any intervention has both to build individual and collective confidence, at one and the same time as challenging the stifling circumstances. Perhaps I’m not seeing the coal for the coke, but the immediate publicity for the competition and its entrants does feel decidedly up neoliberalism’s street.  The social problems created by neoliberal policies are always outsourced to us as ‘our’ problems and, whilst we run around trying to fix things, the neoliberals smirk.

Certainly, though, my anxiety, probably due to an overreliance upon my amygdala, can be dispelled if the detailed rationale for both bids as a result of the pump-primed development stage is placed in the public arena. As you will suspect I’ll be especially interested in what constitutes the basic neuroscience to be taught to young women.

 

 

 

LGA/NYA Conference: Proposing a vision from above – a failure of the imagination?

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Tomorrow the Local Government Association [LGA] and the National Youth Agency [NYA] are hosting a conference entitled, A New Vision for Youth Services. With such a quest we have no problem. Indeed we have just held a series of ‘Is the tide turning? events, within which the LGA/NYA desire ‘to consider what the youth services landscape looks like both now and in the future’ would have been appreciated.

However, leave aside the usual standard failure to recognise that the changing landscape is not the result of natural causes, but the consequence of almost four decades of neoliberalism, there is a glaring gap in terms of contributors and, almost certainly, of those attending. Whilst young people are given rightly a platform, youth workers and their organisations are nowhere to be seen.  Where are the youth work trade unions or the Institute of Youth Work? Voices from the grassroots will be absent, not least because it costs £345 plus VAT to attend.

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I hardly need to spell out the irony accompanying the location of this top-down event, dominated by senior management in one guise or another. It is being held in Transport House, the former headquarters of the Transport and General Workers’ Union (T&G), and also originally of the Labour Party and the Trades Union Congress. Although I must temper my sardonic tone, knowing that the building was ever the home of bureaucrats rather than workers.

Imagining a future beyond the instrumental and marketised agenda imposed on youth work, reflected uncritically in the day’s programme, for example, the National Citizen Service gets a slot of its own, will require the serious involvement of everyone involved in what has always been at its best a pluralist adventure. Perhaps tomorrow’s conference is a step on the way, but the early signs are not promising. We will be happy to be proved wrong.

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Who should attend:
Lead members for children’s services, deputy directors of children’s services, youth work team leaders, organisations delivering youth work

Programme

    9.30 Registration and refreshments
  10.15 Welcome and introduction

Cllr Roy Perry, Vice-Chair, LGA Children and Young People Board and Leader of Hampshire County Council

  10.25 Launch of the LGA’s vision for local government’s role in youth services

Cllr Ryan Brent, LGA Representative on the National Youth Agency Board and Cabinet Member for Children and Families, Portsmouth City Council

  10.40 National Youth Agency

Leigh Middleton, Managing Director, National Youth Agency

  10.55 The role of local government in delivering youth services: panel discussion session

Cllr Ryan Brent, Local Government Association

Michael Bracey, Corporate Director – Children, Milton Keynes Council

Leigh Middleton, National Youth Agency

Matt Lent, Director of Partnerships and Policy, UK Youth

  11.40 Refreshments
  11.55 Keynote speech

Helen Judge, Director General for Performance and Strategy, Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

Questions and discussion

  12.40 National Citizen Service

Jonathan Freeman, NCS Localities Lead

Questions and discussion

  1.10 Lunch and networking
  1.50 The voice of young people

Bernadette Killeen, Youth Involvement Team Manager, Leicester City Council

Brahmpreet Gulati, Leicester City Young People’s Council

Katie Walker, Leicester City Young People’s Council

Elizabeth Harding, Chief Executive, Youth Focus NW

  2.30 Chair’s closing remarks and introduction to workshops
  2.40 Workshops

W1. Delivery models
Aileen Wilson, Head of Early Help Services, Nottingham City Council
Shelley Nicholls, Strategic Lead for Youth Justice and Family Intervention Services, Nottingham City Council
Sandra Richardson, Chief Executive Officer, Knowsley Youth Mutual
Erik Mesel, Senior Grants and Public Policy Manager, John Lyons Charity

W2. Youth Services in Wales
Tim Opie
, Lifelong Learning Policy Officer (Youth), Welsh Local Government Association

  3.25 Comfort break with refreshments
  3.35 Workshops

W3. Youth Services and Social Cohesion
Elaine Morrison, Head of Youth Strategy, Manchester City Council

W4. Mental Health and Wellbeing
Aaron Mansfield
, Health and Wellbeing Project Manager (Young People), Royal Society for Public Health

  4.20 Conference close

 

 

 

Kicking off National Youth Work Week without a selfie, but with a Corbyn eulogy

There I was wondering whether I’d get stick for political bias if I posted this paean of praise to youth work by Jeremy Coburn, when along comes a National Youth Agency newsletter recommending its message. So without further ado.

 

Certainly, his avowed stance lends weight to the argument that we should be focusing our attention on winning the support of the anti-austerity parties, led by Labour, for a reimagined Youth Service as an integral part of a National Education Service. It will be fascinating to see the feedback from our ‘Is the tide turning?’ events being held this week.

 

 

However, I’ve failed miserably to respond to the NYA’s request to be part of the Support youth services with a selfie in #YWW17 – details on the link. I could summon up neither the courage nor conceit to comply. I know I’m a curmudgeon. In an attempt to save face, as I reckoned they owed me a favour or two, I tried the idea out on Glyka, our rescue dog and Leonidas, our rescue racehorse.  My line was that Glyka would look cute and Leo aristocratic with the bonus I could post the pics on Facebook and generate huge numbers of ‘likes’ and giddily appreciative comments. Both of them were scathing in the face of my embarrassing ignorance. Me taking a picture of them did not count as a ‘selfie. With a bark and a neigh I was dismissed from their presence. Anyway if you feel so inclined, you can make up for my abashed surliness. Cheers.

 

UK Youth and NYA initiate shared services talks

UK Youth

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The inexorable pressure upon the leading voluntary youth organisations/charities to rationalise continues apace. This year we’ve already lost the National Council for Voluntary Youth Services [NCVYS], once the proudly independent voice of a host of voluntary youth groups across the country, often organised into local councils. Ambition absorbed its membership services, whilst UK Youth stepped in to protect other functions such as  the management of Muslim Council of Britain partnership. At the time UK Youth indicated that it would be leading on the youth sector Chair’s Taskforce to explore opportunities for further sector partnership and consolidation.  It looks as if the next stage in a process of ‘consolidation’ has been reached as UK Youth and NYA announce they are entering talks on shared services. We recognise and support the sincere desire to protect jobs and provide services in an artificially induced climate of austerity. We remain deeply committed to the necessity of a critical and independent voluntary youth sector voice. In particular those of us, for whom the old National Youth Bureau and thence the National Youth Agency were in their finest hours ambassadors of radical youth work practice, fear for the future.

UK Youth and NYA have initiated discussions to explore the benefits of a shared services model that will enable both organisations to sustain high quality services for young people in the most cost effective way. Our charities are united in their aim to achieve the best possible outcomes for young people and recognise there are a range of innovative ways in which this can be achieved.

The discussions are at a preliminary stage. The Chairs and CEOs of UK Youth and NYA have met to look at the options available. Their initial recommendations have been presented to Trustees of both charities, who are supportive and have each appointed representatives to a small working group which will convene over the next few months to explore a range of possible options, including the sharing of HR and Finance.

Both parties hope these discussions will lead to a positive result that will strengthen each of our respective charities. However, we are also clear that this is a complex process and it may be that we are unable to achieve our vision. If that is the case, we will share our learnings with the sector in the hopes that others can benefit from our efforts.

Our staff and stakeholders will be vital to the success of these discussions and we hope we can count on your support over the next few months.

Anna Smee CEO UK Youth

Paul Miller CEO NYA

Michael Bracey Chair NYA

Anne Stoneham Chair UK Youth

Thoughts upon this scenario from people in the field would be most welcome.