IDYW 9th Conference – ‘buzzy’, critical and collaborative



Bernard Davies had sent this report on Friday’s conference in Birmingham, bashed out in his own words to give a flavour of what one Facebook message called a ‘buzzy’ experience.



Matthew Hill, Centre for Youth Impact in full flow


Though it mostly it felt a good news day, the bad news was that not only could Tony Taylor not be with us at the conference because of his broken foot. Even the advanced tech skills of two of our most ‘tecky’ Steering Group members couldn’t quite connect him to us via Skype. A great disappointment given how much work he’d put into the 16-point draft position paper, which acted as the main focus for the day and the other preparation he’d done.


Quite a lot of more positive news did seem to come out of the day, however – attended by 50+ people. As a much-needed reminder that youth work can and does have a future, these included a group of ‘Young Ambassadors’ from the Wakefield Youth Association and a number of current youth and community work students, together with their tutors.


The day began with a minute’s silence to honour three highly respected colleagues who have died recently, namely Peter Duke, John Parr and Kevin Morris. Poignantly Kevin’s funeral was taking place at the very same moment.  The conference proceeded with a brief input setting out the background and development so far of the IDYW ‘Is the Tide Turning?’ initiative since it was launched in the aftermath of last year’s General Election. Work throughout the day took place then in five groups, chosen initially by people for its focus in the first session on one of five more specific issues running through the position paper’s 16 bullet points: outcomes; practice; purposes and values; structuring and funding provision; and training and employment. The lively and indeed often clearly passionate discussions generated many sheets of paper recording key points for IDYW to take away and use in any future work on the paper.



Leigh Middleton, NYA, responds to the debate


The two panel sessions which followed allowed brief inputs from organisations which are pretty key at this point in the youth work struggle – the Centre for Youth Impact, the Institute for Youth Work, NYA, the Training Agencies Group, Unison and Unite. These again prompted exchanges within the groups as well as with some of the speakers directly. A final session in groups and plenary gave people a chance to give voice to some of the main messages to IDYW from the groups – some strongly supportive of points on the draft paper, others pointing to need for further thinking, such as the need not to be defensive in our struggle for youth work but to make the case positively on the basis of its strengths and potential.



Paul Fenton, PALYCW,  puts in his pennyworth


Amidst all this hard work, the café-style arrangement, the availability throughout the day of drinks and bits to snack on and the regular brief breaks clearly opened the way not just for many other searching (if unrecorded) informal discussion and exchanges but also for much personal catching-up and for new encounters.


One individual feedback comment at the end of the day: ‘This is my first time at an IDYW event and I found it really interesting and stimulating’. And on Facebook: ‘an…excellent conference … both informative and inspiring and great to catch up with people that I don’t bump into very often’ – prompting a ‘Hear, hear’ response from someone else.


All very gratifying, though still leaving lots of thinking to do about where next to take all the day’s interest, debates and energy – so further reactions and comments certainly welcome.

Thanks to Kevin Jones for the photos.


Is the tide turning? UK Youth certainly doesn’t think so. Bernard Davies responds.



Ta to


The CYPN headline says it all, UK Youth sets out plans to attract investment in sector. Neoliberal to the core UK Youth, positioning itself to be the voice of the youth sector, argues in its State of the membership 2018 that ‘the sector needs to diversify how it is funded and work more closely with the private sector to ensure it can provide a long-term sustainable service amid cuts in local authority spending’. The report goes on to express its desire ‘to see social entrepreneurial approaches, including social investment, embedded in the sector and is particularly keen to see the formation of long-term partnerships between youth groups and businesses’.


In the first of our responses, ahead of this Friday’s In Defence of Youth Work conference, Bernard Davies expresses sharply his concern about UK Youth’s direction of travel.

The future for youth work – as seen by UK Youth


In only two or three years the world of the ‘traditional’ national voluntary youth organisation has changed beyond recognition. It was in November 2012 that a senior DfE official told a conference whose organisers included UK Youth and the National Council for Voluntary Youth Services (NCVYS) that, at a time when the sector was expected increasingly ‘to do more with less’, it needed to consider mergers as a way of protecting itself. Whether as a direct response or not, in 2015 Ambition – once the National Association of Boys Clubs – merged with the Confederation of Heads of Young People’s Services. Then in March 2016, after absorbing NCVYS, in September last year Ambition itself became a ‘subsidiary’ of – that is, it merged into – UK Youth. whose own many previous titles had included the National Association of Youth Clubs.


These high level decisions were not always welcomed by these organisations’ grassroots. In part as a reaction to the 2012 decision by Ambition – by then known as Clubs for Young People – to adopt its new PR-friendly title, a new and independent National Association of Boys and Girls Clubs emerged. This is now providing a range of national sporting, arts and other events as well as infrastructure support for ‘1000 youth clubs in the most deprived communities’ and for over twenty county associations. To fill a perceived gap left by NCVYS’s disappearance, moves are also now detectable to create a new national network for the many local and regional councils of voluntary youth service which are still operating.


UK Youth has now published ‘an overview of its membership data as a merged organisation’, based on a careful sampling of the 230 organisations now directly affiliated to it. When partners’ figures in Scotland, Ireland and Wales are added, these cater for approximately four million young people across the UK. Drawing on the government’s own returns and on two Unison reports, its analysis is set starkly in the wider, especially financial, national contexts: the 41 per cent reduction in ‘universal spending’ between 2010-15 and 2017-18; the loss between 2012 and 2016 of over 3600 post, mostly part-timers; and evidence that ‘at local authority level, the most deprived areas have seen the greatest cuts’. With provision now increasingly dependent on volunteers, UK Youth’s conclusion is that ‘the youth sector has transitioned from a largely statutory provision to a largely voluntary sector-led service’.


In response to this devastation, in its penultimate paragraph, the report slips in a suggestion that, in order ‘to take full advantage of existing finance’, one possibility to be ‘explored’ is ‘redirecting reduced NCS funding (circa £400 million). Overall, however, such expectations of the state are noticeable mainly by their absence. So too is any analysis of the deeper structural causes of the current crisis for open access youth work, and indeed even more importantly for today’s younger generation. That ‘ideologies’ are shaping these policies is mentioned, as part of ‘the political make-up … of councils’ which has driven ‘the restructuring of statutory youth services’. The comment, however, appears in passing and without any critical explanation of what those ideologies are or how and why they have been so damaging both for a practice like youth work and for young people.

This uncritical stance on the dominant ideas of our times and the power relations underpinning them is signalled on the first page of the UK Youth paper by the inclusion. without comment, of a boxed quote from the minister currently holding the ‘youth’ brief as part of her role as Minister for Sport and Civil Society. In this, as at points elsewhere in the report, youth work in the shape of the youth club – ‘for many young people … their only safe place’ – is immediately conflated with the ‘youth services’ through which they get ‘access (to) mental health services, citizenship education, social mixing and training’. It is perhaps therefore not surprising that another of the factors driving that ‘re-structuring of statutory youth services’ – what are evasively called ‘overall financial challenges in local authorities’ – are never explained as stemming from the minister’s own and previous governments’ policies which, under the cloak of ‘austerity’, have been designed to get the state out of as many public services as possible. Indeed the government seems to garner at least implied praise for what I can only call forms of ‘gesture’ funding in support of the character-building, resilience-developing outcomes on which it insists: £50 million here for cadet forces, £40 million there for young people’s ‘social action’, another £16 million for a Youth Engagement Fund based on ‘social investment funds’ and ‘payment by results’.  


Nor does the UK Youth paper address in any direct way how such policies have affected the lives of young people. It notes for example that ‘only 13 per cent of young people in former industrial areas and 14 per cent in remote rural coldspots progress to university compared with 27 per cent in hotspots’. These blockages, however, conceived in the report as ‘challenges of adolescence’, apparently result simply from the ‘lack of aspiration to peer pressures or issues at home’. None of these, of course, are insignificant matters for young people themselves. What they do not do, however, is explain the glaring educational inequalities spelt out earlier. As a result, for tackling the problems of its members, the youth club, as well as providing that safe space, ends up confined it to ‘enabling young people to lead happier, more fulfilling lives’ and ‘empowering young people to make a positive contribution to their community’.


So how, positively, is UK Youth planning to deal with this ‘new context’? Certainly not, it seems, by starting from the proposition that the up to one million young people who have used or tried youth work facilities in the past are citizens now and so entitled to a fair slice of the collective cake. For UK Youth, the answer largely remains ‘to embed social entrepreneurial approaches and secure additional income for the sector, for example through supporting access to social investment opportunities’. (Though these are to include ‘collaborative work with … the private sector’, UK Youth gives no indication of what ethical risks tests it thinks should be applied here).


Even as – post-Carillion and the rest – the neo-liberal shibboleths come under renewed searching scrutiny, this paper makes clear that these remain deeply and uncritically embedded in the thinking of our youth sector ‘leaders’. Still not apparently worth any serious consideration, therefore, is an alternative possibility: that the state – albeit in re-imagined more bottom-up forms – might and indeed should again find and allocate resources for open access, informal educational facilities which its young citizens can use by choice in their leisure time.  

Bernard Davies


Turning the Tide in Birmingham, November 8 – Have your say



(In partnership with Birmingham Association of Youth Clubs

and Youth Work Europe)





a BIG CONVERSATION for youth workers


Wednesday 8th November

10.30 – 13.30


581 Pershore Road


                   B29 7EL                      


“Should local authority youth services be re-opened, or are there different ways that state-supported youth work can be organised?”


“What principles should underpin the revival of open youth work?”


“How can these changes be made feasible in terms of funding, infrastructure and staffing?”


Responses will be fed back to In Defence of Youth Work

for analysis and dissemination.


Please RSVP

to John Grace:

or Ed Wright:


In preparation for this event, colleagues may wish to read an article by

Bernard Davies in the May edition of Youth and Policy (pp24-44):


And the paper “Is the tide turning?” by In Defence of Youth Work at:

Youth and Policy: The final issue? Towards a new format

Youth & Policy is about to take a new, positive turn. We have copied below the editorial group’s explanation and hope to play our part in contributing to the journal’s continuing desire to be a critical and challenging voice.


Youth & Policy: The Journal of Critical Analysis was formed 35 years ago in 1982, to address a need for ‘a serious journal of analysis and review which focused its attention upon the whole area of youth policy’. The journal aimed – and continues to aim – to address itself not only to youth work, youth services and education, but also to the wider field of young people and how young people are impacted by (and how they have an impact on) policy. The journal has been highly influential in the field and valued by students, researchers, lecturers, practitioners and activists. Those who set it up, and those who have been involved throughout the last 35 years – editorial group members, reviewers, writers, proof-readers, and others – should be justly proud of what it has achieved. We would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has contributed in any way. However, the time has come for a change. In recent years, Youth & Policy has faced a few challenges, including:

• A steep fall in the numbers of high quality articles submitted. We are always glad to see excellent articles from our valued, committed and regular writers and new contributors, but overall the numbers are falling, and this means we do not have enough quality articles to release the journal on a regular basis. There are a number of factors underlying this decline in quantity and quality. The Research Excellence Framework (REF) and similar processes internationally tend to incentivise academics to submit to journals with high ‘impact factors’ – and while we know that an article in Youth and Policy has more likelihood of being read than one in most ostensibly ‘higher impact’ journals, readership does not count for a great deal. At the same time, academics’ and practitioners’ workloads are increasing exponentially, hence there is reduced time for any of us to write (or, for that matter, to peer review, edit and coordinate journals)! Sadly, it seems that many lecturers in the field of Youth Studies and Youth and Community Work are given negligible time – if any – for research and writing.

• A growing proportion of inappropriate and irrelevant articles are being submitted, which do not meet the remit of our journal and/or are not in any way ready for publication. Presumably this is also due to the ‘publish or perish’ culture. Often it feels as though we are receiving articles that have been rejected elsewhere and have not been adapted for our journal – we are not talking here about articles from the field, but irrelevant articles that do not address the aims of our journal and have often not been proof-read. It takes a great deal of (voluntary) time and energy to read through these submissions and provide helpful feedback.

• Technological challenges and workload pressures amongst some members of the editorial group have conspired to take the journal offline for periods and/or hold up the publication of some issues for an unacceptably long time. We realise that this may feed into the first challenge – the lack of quality submissions – but because the reduction in quality submissions predated our technological challenges, we feel that this is not the main factor.

We know that Youth and Policy continues to be valued, particularly by lecturers, researchers, students and (to some extent) practitioners in the field of youth and community work. We also aim to reach and contribute towards wider youth and policy related networks, beyond ‘youth work’ and its related practices, but it is less clear how successful we have been in regard to this aim in recent years. Overall, we have had a general feeling that Youth & Policy is not responsive enough (we know that we are too slow to publish time-relevant articles), is not reaching a wide enough audience, and is not attracting sufficient high quality submissions to sustain the publication of a journal that is produced regularly enough to contribute in a timely way to present policy debates. As REF-type procedures and heavy workloads are likely to continue to affect the quality and volume of articles received, we feel the time has come to make a change.

The way ahead
We have decided to move towards a more responsive format. The new Youth & Policy will continue to be free, open access and online, yet rather than having ‘issues’ we will instead publish individual articles, which can be published as soon as they have been prepared. Most of these articles will be much shorter – up to 2000 words in length. We are setting up a new website that will be easier for all of us on the editorial group to access and edit. We have now had all our ‘hard copy’ back issues scanned (a garagantuan task!) and will host these on the new website, alongside the full range of our existing electronic editions. We recognise that there will be some disadvantages to the new system, but we are confident that any that arise will be outweighed by the benefits. Needless to say, we will monitor and review the new format closely during the months following the launch. However, there are also clear advantages in terms of a much easier process, which will enable quicker publication. We believe that the new format will be easier for researchers, lecturers, students and practitioners to access and read, and hope that it will be read and shared more widely and attract more high quality contributions. We will still exercise a system of quality control, through a simplified and streamlined peer review process, and those academics who need to be able to say they are submitting to a peer reviewed journal will still be able to do so. We will occasionally invite longer journal-length articles, but these will be the exception rather than the norm.

We will continue to seek articles which provide a critical analysis of current policy issues affecting young people. We are keen to host original articles on a wide range of themes – education, employment, justice, health, identity, equality, youth services, media, campaigning, and many more. We hope existing contributors and new writers will be keen to contribute, so do look out for our guidelines for submissions. Our new format site will be up and running (at the same web address) within a few weeks of the publication of this final edition and we will launch the new format at an event in the autumn. We will also continue to organise conferences and seminars –note the advance date for our forthcoming ‘Youth Policy: Then and Now’ conference, March 9th– 10th 2018, which will draw together historical and present themes and research. We hope to see you all at these or other events in the near future.


Download Y&P 116 at

Youth and Policy: The final issue? Towards a new format

Youth Work and Informal Education: Finding common ground
Tony Jeffs

Beyond the Local Authority Youth Service: Could the state fund open access youth work – and if so, how? A speculative paper for critical discussion
Bernard Davies

Scientism, governance and evaluation: Challenging the ‘good science’ of the UK evaluation agenda for youth work
Deirdre Niamh Duffy

Extending democracy to young people: is it time for youth suffrage?
Kalbir Shukra

Youth and adult perspectives on representation in local child and youth councils in Ireland
Shirley Martin and Catherine Forde

What, no coaching? Challenging the dominance of mentoring in work with young people
Tina Salter

Effective gang policy and practice: how research with ‘Black male youth’ problematizes the official definition of the UK gang
Ian Joseph

Social work with children in the Youth Justice system – messages from practice
Jane Pye and Ian Paylor

Organised Crime, Street Gangs and County Lines
John Pitts

The American news media and youth: distortion, defamation, demographic fear
Mike Males

Finding a better way of protecting young workers
Jim McKechnie, Sandy Hobbs, Emma Littler and Amanda Simpson

Margaret Mead and the ‘Unknown Children’
Mike Males

Young Women, Youth Work and Politics

By chance I tripped over this piece in the Huffington Post written by Sarah Robertson, Politicians meet the People. It begins:

Thanks to The Young Women’s Trust and the Good Youth Forum funded by Trust For London, I had the opportunity to have a tour of the Houses of Parliament in May and then a round table discussion with Labour MP’s. It was part of a piece of work around the development of services for women and girls and why young people don’t vote.

In addition Sarah reflects:

The group wanted to ask questions such as, with huge cuts in government funding out statutory youth service has been demolished with the pressure falling in the voluntary sector, who will support and represent our vulnerable young people and how will you reach and inspire this group to vote? And, was the last discussion just a publicity stunt to show Labour trying to engage with young people? And with cuts to NHS funding who will support the increasing number of young people with mental health? They had prepared lots of interesting questions and statements but lack of structure and time made it difficult to decipher any clear answers or actions at all. Even a straight forward answer to a question posed to an MP asking if she had accessed housing benefit was deflected and went unanswered. This did not fill young women with inspiration or trust only reinforced the view that young women were angry, frustrated and needed something drastic to inspire them and others to engage in the political system.

FMC logo

In my ignorance I’d not heard of the Young Women’s Trust or the Good Youth Forum, but the obligatory Google took me to the Future MOLDS Communities web site. Here is to be found another example of the changing economy of youth work, within which workers set up social enterprise initiatives in a bid to maintain provision for young people. Sarah is revealed to be the the Founder, Managing Director and volunteer of Future MOLDS Communities, a youth and community group and social enterprise run by local people for local people. She provides this eloquent case for the work of the project.

We are from deprived, disadvantaged and vulnerable environments facing issues which affect everyday life. These issues range from financial poverty, mental health, homelessness, unemployment, poor sexual health, teenage pregnancy and criminality. As a group of passionate, motivated and caring individuals we work together with our communities to overcome our barriers and strive for the ‘self-actualisation’ Maslow speaks of. But everyday life is a struggle and the demand for our help is ever increasing with the failure of statutory services to the most vulnerable and the ignorance of the systems which govern them. With £54million cuts to local authority funding it is our vulnerable young people and young adults who are suffering. Cuts are disproportionately hitting our young people the hardest with youth services slashed to a bare minimum of targeted provisions and the voluntary sector are expected to step in and pick up the growing and unacceptable slack.

The struggle for funding for grassroots groups who help the most vulnerable is a tragedy. Funding is eaten up by local authorities and large charities which then ask grassroots groups for voluntary help in engaging the underrepresented groups they are failing. Having a voice on a wider stage seems insignificant if you can’t even be heard in your local community. Local young people have developed a youth forum (The Good Youth Forum) to highlight and discuss local issues affecting their everyday lives after securing funding from Trust For London. It’s a platform for them to explore the world from their perspective, explore changes they would like to happen and developing strategies to affect change. Young people need that space and freedom to explore theirs and others worlds, to express their thoughts, feelings, wants and needs and to feel empowered to contribute towards change.

Although the platform we provide may be small it’s a platform for the effective representation of the views of underrepresented local young women. These views are pretty depressing, saddening, heart breaking, powerful and justified. Current attitudes towards the establishment, politics, the statutory sector and government in general are extremely negative with a sense of being failed, let down and unheard. There is a lack of trust and feelings of dishonesty when it comes to politics and politicians. They feel their needs are not heard, understood and subsequently failed to be addressed adequately.

On discussing voting with a group of young women, their views reflected the anger at not being able to affect or create change for themselves and their peers. They clearly stated they were not the least interested in politics, it is not a priority for them and the only reason they were engaging in such a discussion was because I’d asked them to. If I had not asked them, who would know their views, who would know how they feel, how are these vulnerable young women represented in today’s politics? This is another example, of the importance of funding for quality youth work in order to explore the world we all live in and so that young women are empowered to speak out about their priorities and they are represented.

At a time when there is a drive for the ‘de-professionalisation’ of our roles, a cut in our funding and an increase in demand for our services the same need for resilience, the need to develop coping strategies and the need to adapt in change we hope to see in our young people is something we need to develop as professionals. Keeping the faith is going to be the biggest challenge for all!

Young Women, Youth Work and Politics – Sarah Robertson

In recent months it has become more and more apparent that we are facing something of a crisis in youth work. Although I do need to remind myself that back in 1981 I was involved in organising a conference in Manchester,’Youth Work and the Crisis’! Nevertheless we are facing a qualitative shift in how youth work is funded and provided. In this light it’s great to hear voices from the ground, articulating what’s going on and how it is impacting on young people.


Ta to

In this sharp and revealing blog Sarah Robertson talks about Youth Work, Young Women and Politics – read it in full.

She begins:

I have been a youth worker for over 10 years but for the last six years I’ve had to become a coach, tutor, assessor, youth and community worker, mediator, advocate, administrator, finance office and fundraiser in order to sustain the work we do.

Amongst the points she makes:

The struggle for funding for grassroots groups who help the most vulnerable is a tragedy. Funding is eaten up by local authorities and large charities which then ask grassroots groups for voluntary help in engaging the underrepresented groups they are failing. Having a voice on a wider stage seems insignificant if you can’t even be heard in your local community. Local young people have developed a youth forum (The Good Youth Forum) to highlight and discuss local issues affecting their everyday lives after securing funding from Trust For London. It’s a platform for them to explore the world from their perspective, explore changes they would like to happen and developing strategies to affect change. Young people need that space and freedom to explore theirs and others worlds, to express their thoughts, feelings, wants and needs and to feel empowered to contribute towards change.

She ends:

At a time when there is a drive for the ‘de-professionalisation’ of our roles, a cut in our funding and an increase in demand for our services the same need for resilience, the need to develop coping strategies and the need to adapt in change we hope to see in our young people is something we need to develop as professionals. Keeping the faith is going to be the biggest challenge for all!

Embracing the Passion : Christian Youth Work and Politics



Nigel Pimlott’s new book, ‘Embracing the Passion ; Christian Youth Work and Politics’ is now available. We are informed that:

There are two ways you can buy Embracing the Passion:

1)      You can purchase it online in the normal way at the special offer price of £10 (rrp £19.99) plus £2.60 p&p by clicking here .

2)      Alternatively, you can pay what you would like to pay for it (min £3 plus £2.60 p&p)!

Nigel Pimlott’s book not only equips and inspires youth workers to make a difference in the world, but it also challenges us to live differently. Buying the book in this alternative ‘kingdom’ way reflects the spirit of this challenge.

If you work with or support young people, live in the UK and are short of money at this time, then make us an offer to buy a copy of Embracing the Passion at a price you can afford – don’t be shy. Simply email us your details and your offer and we will process your request.

Equally, we are hoping some people will be willing to pay more than the £10 offer price. Nigel decided not to take any money for writing Embracing the Passion and has requested any profits we make out of selling it be reinvested in the work Frontier Youth Trust does. So, buy Embracing the Passion at a premium price and help support us. Simply email us your details, amount you wish to pay and we will process your request.

Nigel is one of our keynote speakers at IDYW’s  sixth national conference in Leeds on Friday, March 13 – Engaging with Difference, Finding Common Ground : Faith and Secular Youth Work.