Department of Media, Sport and Culture to offer a new narrative, within which young people are passionate, happy and valued………. Suspend your disbelief and have your say?

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Back in November 2016, at the Ambition conference, Rob Wilson, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, closed his self-congratulatory speech with the following announcement.

” There is so much to look forward to in this sector. Indeed, I’m delighted to announce that over the coming months we’ll be developing a new youth policy statement. This statement will bring together a clear narrative and vision for how we best help our young people.

It will highlight the opportunities that come with our move to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport – how we can use our new position to give young people a greater engagement with our sporting and cultural heritage.

We want to benefit from your insights and wisdom. This new statement should draw on your experiences and celebrate the innovative work that is already happening.

I’m keen for it to act as a road map until at least 2020 and to show where this Government is heading with youth policy so you can see where to work with us along the way.

More than anything I want the statement to be a commitment to every young person. That we will help them pursue their passions, lead happy, independent lives and feel an active, engaged and valued part of their communities.”

For the moment we will leave to one side the gulf between the rhetoric of the last paragraph and the precarious reality facing so many young people and report our limited understanding of what’s going on re yet another ‘new’ policy statement. The best I can glean goes as follows:

According to Ambition, alongside sector colleagues, they have been working with the Youth Policy team at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to ensure a wide range of organisations and partners feed into the call for evidence to help inform the youth policy statement.

  1. As is often the case a degree of mystery surrounds the identity of the youth organisations ushered into the corridors of power at the DCMS. Clarification would be welcomed.
  2. As far as the consultation goes the DCMS are holding several regional workshops ‘aiming to engage groups of stakeholders that are representative of organisations involved in designing, delivering and funding youth provision’. One snag might be being recognised as a stakeholder. The events are invitation only.
  3. There is to be an online call for evidence from folk not holding big enough a stake, who can run their own workshops, armed with a facilitator’s brief from the DCMS.
  4. The ‘eagerly awaited’ policy statement will target six themes: a shared understanding of young people’s personal and social development; evidencing the impact of work with young people; developing a coherent local youth offer; making youth social action a habit for life; involving young people in decision-making; and securing an independent and sustainable youth sector.
  5. There’ll be no additional dosh as the state-subsidised, less than independent National Citizen Service has to pay for its adverts and mailshots, whilst missing its targets.

More informed and knowledgeable comments welcomed. And I was going to have an alcohol-free day.

Government set to publish three-year youth strategy : We won’t wait with bated breath

CYPN reports that the AMBITION national conference has been home to contributions from the Conservative government and the Labour Party.

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Rob Wilson – ta to CYPN

The Tories in the person of Rob Wilson, the youth minister, indulged in the tired promise that a clear narrative and vision is to emerge. Thus we might be forgiven for wondering what happened to the July 2011 ‘Positive for Youth discussion paper: Overarching narrative for the youth policy statement, Department for Education’, welcomed at the time by the NYA and the NCVYS. In 2013 Bernard Davies described a supposed report of its progress as deeply dishonest – see Which Planet Are They On? However history has never been an impediment to neoliberal politicians and their sycophants. Another a narrative, or perhaps the previous one warmed up, is on its way. Any road youth work/youth services/the youth sector, call it what you will, is no longer in Education, it falls into the hands of the Department of Culture, Media and Sport. Wilson thus argued, “we can use our new position to give young people greater engagement with our sporting and cultural heritage.” Whither youth work as informal education? With tongue firmly in his cheek, given the government’s record on youth policy, witness the rejection of votes at 16, he declared, “if we work together, if we are innovative, if we keep a relentless focus on the needs of young people we will be successful and make good progress.” Inevitably this disingenuous rhetoric was accompanied by the usual crap about doing more with less and the vital role of the private sector and philanthropy.

Evidently, undeterred by the touch of contradiction here and there in Wilson’s bullshit, CYPN informs us  that “youth work leaders welcomed the announcement as an opportunity to reinvigorate voluntary and statutory youth services.” Indeed, Anna Smee, CEO of UK Youth, is so moved as to venture, “the minister’s commitment to help every young person throughout their transition to adulthood needs to be at the heart of a new youth strategy.” Meanwhile the destruction of the Youth Service continues and is resisted – see Save Kirklees Youth Service.

Steve Reed -Ta to CYPN

As for Steve Reed, MP for Croydon North, Labour’s shadow youth minister, he argued, that if the government continues to fail to invest in young people then in time the country will face the consequences, before going on to mouth the mantra of investment in prevention and early intervention, and for better and stronger partnership working. Shades of New Labour’s policy, described in a forthcoming piece as, “youth work’s integration into multi-disciplinary teams dominated by child-protection concerns weakened its educational commitment as did policies developed ever more systematically to prioritise ‘early intervention’ and the ‘targeting’ of young people ‘at risk’. Increasingly youth workers were saddled with caseloads of referred young people, causing many to describe their practice as ‘social work-lite’.

In the next few days we will post a variety of youth work voices, which continue to challenge the cliches and the spin, etched deep into these supposedly opposed political utterances.

POSTSCRIPT

Thanks to Raj for this evidence of rifts in the Tory ranks. How seriously should we take this as a possibility?

Theresa May under pressure to scrap David Cameron’s ‘Big Society’ and support young jobseekers

The Government’s social mobility adviser will urge Theresa May to replace David Cameron’s flagship “big society” scheme for 16 and 17 year-olds with high quality work experience and careers advice for all teenagers.

Alan Milburn, who chairs the Social Mobility Commission, wants the £400m-a-year budget for National Citizen Service (NCS), which includes summer camps and community projects, switched to boosting the job prospects of all young people.

From Education via Cabinet to Leisure – so much for youth work as informal education

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The graffiti has been scribbled on the youth work wall for some time, F*** Informal Education.  Michael Gove , now a has-been, was fond of the slogan, failing in three years to go near a youth centre or project and true to his disposition moving youth work to the Cabinet Office. As Tony Jeffs observed,  “since 1917, youth work at a national level had unambiguously been viewed as an educational service – residing alongside schools, FE and the universities. Now, it has been unceremoniously transferred to a dustbin department which, apart from co-ordinating the work of inter-departmental committees, undertakes those tasks in which the major spending departments have no interest.” And now we learn that youth policy, if we can take this notion seriously anymore,  is to be rescued from the dustbin and dumped in the Department of Culture, Media and Sport [DCMS].  This shift is not guided by  the robust and rigorous evidence advocated ad nauseam, but the fact that the former youth minister, Rob Wilson, “is taking his previous brief, which is made up of youth policy, the National Citizen Service, social action, social enterprise and investment, the Big Society agenda and civil society sector support, with him to the DCMS.” Basically the bloke’s being shifted sideways at a junior level to become a parliamentary under-secretary of state. On being told by today’s Iron Lady that this was his fate, he is said to have exclaimed, “but what about all this youth and Big Society stuff?” To which she is alleged to have responded tartly, “Not that man, Cameron again, I’ve got bigger things on my Brexit plate than society, if indeed it exists, so take it all with you”.

Hence it has come to pass the remains of youth work are deposited in the 21st century version of Parks and Cemeteries, the forerunner of the local authority Leisure department. I allow only weary old souls of my generation will remember the fierce fight to fend off youth services being moved into Leisure, our desire to be understood as educators not instructors. As it was this battle was largely won and in Wigan, where I often worked, a fruitful relationship was forged between the Youth Service and Leisure, which under the influence of an innovative Director, was awash with a diversity of cultural and sporting opportunities. Indeed the Leisure Department housed the Youth Information Officer,  who came to all our staff meetings. Today people would rush to define our inter-agency creativity as entrepreneurial, but I digress. The point is that youth work and the youth service, both in its voluntary and state-funded guises, were respected as an integral part of the Authority’s educational provision.

This latest demotion of youth work’s significance continues a neo-liberal ideological fear of an improvisatory, process-led practice, that can never be completely controlled. Back to Tony Jeffs, writing a year or so ago, “Philosophically, the damage wrought by the uncoupling of youth work from the DfE is difficult to exaggerate. This is no minor administrative re-alignment for it speaks of a judgement made by civil servants and senior politicians that youth work has ceased to be an educational service.”

No such concerns seem to be entertained by Anna Smee of UK Youth, who welcomes the move.

“This will ensure continuity and enable some exciting initiatives that are in the pipeline to go ahead as planned,” she said.

“There are clear benefits in placing the youth portfolio in a department that has strong links with many of the sector’s key funders, including The Big Lottery Fund, The Arts Council and Sport England.

“We look forward to working with DCMS to continue to promote the value of informal learning for young people. It is vital that every young person, whatever their circumstances, is able to complete their own social development journey in addition to completing their formal education.”

Full story at Youth policy set for move to Department for Culture, Media and Sport

It would be good to argue this through more – via this blog, Facebook and at our national conference. I’m conscious of contradictions in my argument, not least that many workers within  the arenas of culture, media and sports might well see themselves as educators too, so……………