Seema Chandwani: Youth work isn’t sexy nor prescribed – it follows and grows with the young person.

I make no apology for copying again some of Seema Chandwani’s twittering thoughts posted ahead of today’s London City Hall Summit called by Sadiq Khan. Not at all abstract but responses grounded in the reality of day-to-day circumstances they express bluntly and eloquently the argument for a process-led, young people centred youth work, which has time on its side.



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This event cannot be an opportunity to blame each other for the shambles we find ourselves in, it’s the fault and responsibility of all regardless of party. This event needs to be honest & not pass the buck to absolve responsibility. We’ve no time to watch headline table tennis.

In London (and throughout the UK) young people, campaigners and Trade Unions warned Local Authorities/Council Leaders of the dangers in cutting Youth Services. In Feb 2011 Haringey was informed of consequences and pursued a 75% cut months prior to the riots.

Tomorrow must ask serious questions about why local authorities and council leaders ignored warnings, intel,and young people when they decided to slash Youth Services. Blaming govt cuts can only go so far when money is found for logo changes, propaganda mags etc.

The Mayors £45m Youth Fund has tweeted about is piecemeal, it allows organisations with the best bid writing abilities to be the most successful. It keeps us in gimmick mode. Youth work isn’t sexy nor prescribed – it follows and grows with the young person.

Any youth project applying for 3-year funding that is able to tell you 36-40 mths before the end of the project what the outputs will be is a fantasy. They’ll seek the young people to fit the outcome and the most marginalised will be seen as too much effort to meet the targets.

Youth workers need to be able to work with young people without the pressure of arbitrary targets that some young people cannot achieve. A Youth Worker needs to know they can stay on a journey with young people that could take months or years.

A real effort needs to be made by politicians, especially Cllrs at what Youth Work is. If it doesn’t make sense to you, accept this is your problem and not the service/staff and force yourself to learn rather than adapt the service to meet something you can understand.

This notion of ‘targeted’ support is absolute bullshit. No young person feels they can engage on equal terms with projects called ‘Troubled Families’. It’s degrading, it commences with judgement and it disempowers. Would you engage with things like that?

Youth work works because it attracts young people into activities that make them feel good, maybe that one thing they get praised for in education. It’s delivered in a space they feel comfortable and should have ownership of. They engage with trained adults in an equal way.

When things go wrong at home, on the street or at school. They have that one space, where they go that makes them feel good. They have relationships with adults that over time they’ve trusted with smaller things. They can now go to them with the big things.

If you think young people just get referred to a professional and trust is instantly there you’re insane! They don’t want another adult telling them (or threatening them) what to do. They want the freedom and ability to explore feelings, risks, consequences to make a decision.

So tomorrow must be clear that putting police on the street is a temporary measure. Investing in young people, properly through unrestricted youth work (not gimmick funding grants) is a political responsibility. Youth work ain’t a hobby, it’s a tough profession.

Is Sadiq Khan’s boost to youth work all it seems? Would be good to ask.


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CYPN’s headline reads, Sadiq Khan announces plans to boost youth work numbers in London. Messages on Facebook and Twitter suggest that here we have a politician, who ‘gets youth work’. Despite my doubts cadgers can’t be choosers, so obviously it’s good to hear that there is a  proposal to employ more youth workers. Being a sad pedant, though, I felt I’d better skim the Draft Police and Crime Plan for London 2017-2021 – Consultation Document.

As it says on the tin it is basically about supporting and improving the delivery of police and criminal justice services in the capital. In Khan’s words, “my ambition for policing and crime is to make London a safer city for all Londoners, no matter who you are or where you live. And as Mayor, I’m already taking bold action to make that happen, from putting victims at the heart of everything we do and cracking down on knife crime to tackling gender-based violence, making our justice service work for Londoners and challenging the root causes of extremism, hatred and radicalisation.”

The report is 62 pages long and there is a single one-line reference to youth work in this paragraph on page 42.

To intervene with and support those young people already caught up in gangs and violence to leave this dangerous lifestyle behind, we will invest in specialist services focusing on advocacy/mentoring and specialist health, housing and employment support. We will continue to fund and expand the support to victims of knife, gang crime and child sexual exploitation (CSE) in London hospitals; increasing our youth worker provision, maximizing the power and value of this ‘teachable moment’ and improving referrals to mainstream and specialist services. The extension of this programme support into key A&E departments in London will support young people with more minor injuries to access support earlier [my emphasis].

I may be being dim, but I’m not sure what the clause in bold above quite means. Indeed I’m intrigued by the reference to the ‘teachable moment’. Plainly we need to ask for clarification.  Is the intention to attach youth workers to hospitals? Or given the evidence from places like Rotherham, will we see the creation of youth projects with significant autonomy at a distance from the institutions? Or will funding be channelled into reviving networks of open access youth provision in targeted areas?

Without more detail I’m not sure how excited we should be about the brief reference to ‘youth worker provision’. Certainly the next step is for youth agencies and workers in London to respond positively, but questioningly to the document.

Consultation questions:
PRIORITIES – Do you think the priorities stated in this section are
the right ones? Thinking about the priorities – please provide any
comments you have, including anything you would add or change.
DELIVERY AND COMMITMENTS – Are the delivery plans and
commitments clear and easy to understand? Please provide any
comments you have about the delivery plans and commitments. Is
there anything you would like to contribute regarding the approach
MOPAC intend to take?
MEASURING SUCCESS – Do you agree with the approach laid out
in terms of how success will be measured? Please provide any
comment you have about performance measurement of the police
or criminal justice service.