Contribute to the Labour Party Consultation, ‘Building a Statutory Youth Service’

Following our concern about the tone of Labour’s proposed revival of youth services – Reviving Youth Work as Soft-Policing: Labour Party Policy? and Bernard Davies responds to Labour’s skewed youth work vision  – we want to motivate contributions to the Party’s consultation on youth services. The content of the consultation document is much more encouraging than the initial press releases.


Youth services do a vital job in our communities. The benefits they provide for young people are real and long-lasting. However, with direct government funding to local authorities falling by a half since 2010, youth services have seen significant cutbacks as councils seek to make savings. This means that a generation of young people could potentially be left without the opportunity to play a full part in our communities.

Thank you for taking part in the consultation process. Whether you’re a Labour Party member or not, we want to hear your ideas on how the next Labour government should tackle the challenges our country faces, and build a more equal Britain for the many, not the few.

In order to contribute go to the link below, where you can use an embedded submission box or e-mail


To access a copy of the consultation document, go to

The consultation period ends on November 12, 2018



Whatever happened to the Youth Service? Bernard Davies critically reflects.

Bernard chats with Malcolm Ball at the 2015 Conference

Bernard chats with Malcolm Ball at the 2015 Conference

This week we are posting two intertwined and perhaps controversial pieces, born of the IDYW Seminar, ‘Creating a Vision’ held on June 22 in Manchester. In the first Bernard Davies, youth work’s leading historian, reflects critically on the development and demise of the Youth Service.

What follows is a write-up of an input made at the Birmingham University/IDYW practitioner seminar, ‘Creating a vision of “public money” and youth work’, held last month in Manchester. Its aim was to offer a critical look at the development of the local authority Youth Service since its creation, as context for the debate which Ian McGimpsey prompted at the event on ‘public money’, what exactly this might mean and whether and how it might act as an alternative route to funding for open access youth work.

Within its argument Bernard notes:

As early as 1980 I thus found myself pointing to limiting organisational features affecting youth work which included:

  • A trend ‘to incorporate youth work even more tightly into the burgeoning local government structures’ which, ‘far from releasing (its) imagination, flair and dynamism, ensured that it was even more subject to the often stifling controls of local bureaucracy and corporate management’.
  • Staff (who) were being cast in the role of local authority officials’.
  • ‘… a greater stress on accountability – not just for money but also for philosophies, purposes and methods’ – with the result that youth work was in danger of being ‘set in a rigid pattern of quite formalised programmes’
  • ‘… expensive buildings requiring maintenance, protection and heating as well as staffing’ which not only ate up substantial amounts of the (often reducing) funding available but limited youth work’s capacity to move with young people as they changed their ‘territory’ or to develop alternative approaches and methodologies as their needs and expectations changed.
  • Even then, policy shifts which, if they were to get financial support, left voluntary organisations ‘dependent on a number of restrictive conditions’.1

He concludes:

None of this is of course to dismiss local authority Youth Services as total failures. Close examination of youth work’s situation immediately pre-Albemarle has shown that without the Committee’s often, for its time, imaginative and relatively radical prescriptions, state-sponsored youth work could easily have withered away altogether. In part at least Ministry civil servants were prompted to set up the Committee by their conclusion that leisure-time provision for young people which was wholly or largely dependent on the voluntary sector as then constituted was unlikely to appeal to the ‘new’ 1960s teenage generation1 – a view which, in its own typically tactful way, Albemarle itself confirmed.2 Moreover, given the ‘social democratic consensus’ that existed at the time, it was taken as a given across the political spectrum that, if youth work was not just to survive but to develop further, the state needed to intervene in decisive ways.3

What such arguments do not consider however is the appropriateness for this somewhat maverick field of practice of the form of statutory intervention which came out of Albemarle and the structures it generated. In the context of the growing vacuum opened up by the Coalition’s destructive policies, questions for youth work specifically which in the past have been missed or even avoided need now therefore to be faced head on. Such as:

  • How and where have local authority Youth Service structures impeded rather than supported and liberated what is distinctive about the way youth workers practise?
  • How can those structures be rethought and redesigned so that in particular more bottom-up influences (from both young people and front-line workers) can help shape what happens, and how?
  • How can and should funding be made available and distributed for that distinctive practice?
  • What processes can be devised to account for the use of these resources which are congruent with that practice?

This is very far from an exhaustive list – so please add your own questions to it.


In the present crisis, criticising what we don’t like about what has happened and what’s happening now is much the easiest part of the struggle to defend youth work. The much harder task is to focus on possible positive strategies (however long-term) for creating alternatives. This is certainly why I hope the debate on the notion of ‘public’ funding for youth work introduced by Ian McGimpsey at the Manchester event will continue.

I have to admit however that, pie-in-the-sky though it may seem at this dire neo-liberal, anti-statist moment which has all but killed off the Youth Service, I’m not yet ready to give up completely on the notion of state funding for youth work. I see it as important at least to explore whether different forms of and routes to this which ‘fit’ with the practice can be re-imagined. This is a search in which I hope IDYW will be involved in the coming months – and to which I will try to contribute.

READ IN FULL with references at Whatever Happened to the Youth Service?

Ian McGimpsey’s thoughts on public money will appear on Friday.

Creating a vision of ‘public money’ and youth work: a practitioner seminar, June 22


Uni Brum

Creating a vision of ‘public money’ and youth work: a practitioner seminar

An event supported by the School of Education, University of Birmingham

Monday 22nd June 2015 at 42nd Street, Manchester from 11.00 a.m. to 3.30 p.m.

This event is a space for the formation of a positive vision for publicly funded youth services amidst the ruins of austerity.

The event proceeds from the idea that forming such a vision first requires us to confront a tension that has haunted statutorily funded youth services, between:
• the need for tax payer’s money to grow and sustain youth services; and
• the defining features and processes of youth work practice

Since the financial crisis youth services have suffered rapid cuts to government spending. Throughout this period, there have been active campaigns pointing out the damaging effects of cuts to services and to young people, and argued
for a new, enforceable statutory duty to fund youth services. In such campaigns, and the sector more widely, the two goals of a restoration of statutory funding for youth services and of democratic forms of youth work are often assumed to be twin goals. Yet there are good reasons in the history of the service to question the idea that they have been mutually supportive.

The idea of ‘public money’ is intended as a tool to explore how to bring these goals into alignment, and to spark debate about the implications for future campaigning.

The event will ask:
• How has statutory money supported and disrupted youth work practice and values?
• What are the issues with current funding arrangements?
• What would ‘public money’ need to be in order to support youth work?
• How might we seek to build widespread support for such a model of funding?

The event will include an input from Bernard Davies who, following on from the recent reissue of his Manifesto for Youth Work, will offer a historical account of statutory Youth Services, its successes and failures, and why recent austerity policy represents such a fundamental break.

Ian McGimpsey will offer an account of the ways that statutory funding regulates youth work practice, and how these forms of funding and regulation have been changing in recent years. Ian will also offer a tentative vision for ‘public money’ for

Registration Information

Attendance is free. Please note, lunch is not provided as part of the event. To register your place, email Ian McGimpsey at

42nd Street is located in central Manchester. For details of the venue and maps, please visit:

Full details on the attached flyer – please circulate as widely as possible

Public money practitioner seminar 

Creating a New Vision of Public Money and Youth Work – IDYW Seminar, June 22, Manchester

Ta to

Ta to

This seminar seeks to build on the lively discussion, which took place in Birmingham on April 22. The launch of Bernard Davies’s revised ‘Manifesto’ and the presentation by Ian McGimpsey of his continuing research into the nature of statutory funding prompted the beginnings of a vital, critical scrutiny of ‘where we are up to’ in terms of practice and finance. Thus we are organising a seminar, entitled provisionally, ‘Creating a New Vision of Public Money and Youth Work’, to be held at 42nd Street in Central Manchester on Monday, June 22 from 11.00 a.m. to 3.30 p.m.  More information and a flyer to follow this week.

To whet your appetite here are Ian’s challenging reflections following the Birmingham event.

Public Money: a campaign aim for a new political context

Today is a day of unexpected certainties. We have a majority Conservative government. Few saw that coming. However, even before that outcome emerged it was already certain that the campaign for a restoration of statutory funding for youth services had been unsuccessful in persuading either of the main parties to make a manifesto commitment.

Beyond the immediate frustrations, this is an opportunity to take stock and consider what might be done now. In so doing, we should confront the problem that recent campaigns defending youth work typically have two goals: one being the restoration of statutory funding for youth services, and the other being the promotion of a youth work practice worthy of the name. There is nothing wrong with either goal in isolation. This difficulty is that these goals are divergent from each other.

The reason these goals are divergent is that successive governments have used money as a way of reforming services and regulating what practitioners do, in youth work and public services more generally. The recent launch of Bernard Davies’ revised Manifesto for Youth Work – originally published in 2005 – is a timely reminder of the dilemma this creates. If austerity is the context for the second edition of the manifesto, remember that the original manifesto was felt necessary at a time when statutory money was in relatively plentiful supply.  Indeed, the ‘In Defence of Youth Work’ campaign was founded in similar circumstances.

Since the early 2000s, there have been two phases of statutory funding. The first ran from the early 2000s until 2007/8. During this period local authority spending on youth services steadily increased (House of Commons Education Committee, 2011) as central government created and grew a series of funds ‘ring-fenced’ for this purpose (see fig. 1). But, as the then education secretary Charles Clarke put it, government did so in return for ‘reform’ (DfES, 2002). This was part of a larger pattern of government funding through competitive commissioning services to be delivered by voluntary or third sector organisations. By 2007/8 statutory spending on voluntary sector organisations through contracts for services had increased to around 80% of total government spending on the sector (NCVO, 2014). For the voluntary sector as a whole, earned income (such as through contracts) overtook voluntary donations for the first time in 2002/3 and has continued in its place as the dominant form of funding (NCVO, 2014).

YS funding

This ‘quasi-market’ form of statutory funding brought with it many of the regulations that have been argued to restrict the practice of youth work in youth services: targets and an output focus, cultures of managerialist regulation and auditing of practice, short-term projects with a pre-determined process rather than open-ended provision, targeted of pre-categorised young people, more formality in relationships and so on.

From 2008/9 to 2010/11, the levels of spending on youth services by local authorities fell by just over £100M (House of Commons Education Committee, 2011), which is about a quarter of the peak level of spending in 2007/8. Then, according to Unison’s report The Damage (2014), in the single year of 2011/12 this level of spending fell by a further £137M and then continued to fall at a slower (but still rapid) rate.

This fall is not just about cuts. While austerity has involved a systematic withdrawal of cash from public services, to explain such an exceptional divestment we need to look at how statutory funding for youth services has changed. First, the removal of ring-fencing from local authority funds used to fund young services is clearly significant. With no legal reason to spend money on youth services, it seems likely that local authorities diverted money to areas where they have a stronger statutory duty to maintain levels of service. At the same time, however, significant statutory funding has been made available to youth services through the National Citizen Service and Big Society Capital. But statutory funding is increasingly taking the form of ‘social investment’. Such funding is outcome rather than output driven. This requires youth services to demonstrate ‘return on investment’ through a credible (in policy terms) ‘theory of change’. Statutory funding is increasingly paid via Payment By Results contracts, Social Investment Bonds and other funding vehicles that suit organisations with capital that are ‘investment ready’, that is for-profit organisations, larger charities, or formal consortia that can pool resources and risk.

In short, the competition for statutory funding has changed and it is perhaps even more powerfully regulating of youth work practice, and is certainly more ruthless about diverting money away from that practice altogether. And the political party that has most actively driven this social investment model has just won a further five years in power. At this point in time, to demand access to more statutory funding will require such reform on the part of youth services that I fear youth work practice would be lost.

However, to recognise that the goals of statutory funding and valuing youth work practice are divergent at this time is not a counsel of despair. It doesn’t have to be this way. I am not suggesting we have a choice of arguing either for statutory funding of youth services or for youth work practice. Nor am I criticizing those campaigning for government to fund youth services. What I am saying is that if we understand how statutory funding works to regulate practice then we should be better able to campaign not just for statutory funding but a form of statutory funding that supports a genuine practice of youth work. We can, and should, bring the two aims together.

To unify these aims, I suggest we shift our focus slightly and build a new vision of ‘public money’. ‘Public money’ is any capital that promotes and enables the creation of truly public spaces and public provision rather than private or privatizing aims. In short, it is money that has no strings attached that would (in a deliberately very close paraphrase/almost-quote of Bernard Davies’ manifesto for youth work) prevent its use to create spaces:

  • which are ‘open access’
  • in which participation is voluntary
  • in which young people and communities hold the balance of power
  • in which young people are understood as members of a public with identities they produce and choose and not through governmentally imposed categories
  • in which respect for the wider diversity of personal, community and cultural identities is fostered
  • in which education as a process of personal and emotional, creative and political development can take place

Public money would not prevent diversity within the practice. Nor should it prevent evaluation of that practice, indeed it should encourage it! However, such evaluation would be consistent with the value of public money, and not subvert it or promote fabrication. Public money is not the same as statutory money, and the source of public money could be government, a charitable fund, or a private foundation. Perhaps I should say, the source of public money should be government, charitable funds, and private foundations!

With the prospect of a cold policy climate, public money is intended not as critique of those committed to youth services who have campaigned for statutory money, but as a hopeful prospect and a point of solidarity. It is also intended to hold out tactical possibility. If government will not listen, and an opposition political party will not listen, then perhaps charitable foundations or others in policy networks might. It may be a day of unexpected certainty, but change is another certainty we should bear in mind.

Please note: This post was developed following discussion at a recent event supported by IDYW and Youth & Policy which was hosted at the University of Birmingham’s School of Education. I would like to thank my co-organisers at Youth & Policy and In Defence of Youth Work and the participants for the conversations which stimulated my reflections here.


DfES. (2002). Transforming Youth Work: resourcing excellent youth services. London: Department for Education and Skills Retrieved from

House of Commons Education Committee. (2011). Services for young people: Third Report of Session 2010-12 Volume 1. London: The Stationery Office Limited.

NCVO. (2014). UK Civil Society Almanac 2014. Retrieved 20 April 2015, 2015, from

Unison. (2014). The Damage. London: Unison.

Labour backs commissioning, Super Youth Zones and National Citizen Service

Lisa Nandy root and branch reviewing/ Ta to

Lisa Nandy root and branch reviewing/ Ta to

Yesterday I did a quick response on our Facebook page to the CYPN story that Lisa Nandy,  Labour’s shadow minister for civil society, which includes youth work, had defended the party’s decision to ditch its statutory services pledge.

Nandy defends Labour’s youth services policy U-turn

Being somewhat parochial I’d irritatedly posted:

I know I’m biased, having been a worker and officer in Wigan, but Lisa Nandy’s depiction of the Wigan Youth Zone as ‘innovative practice’ is at best disingenuous. The hub and spoke analogy suggests that this Wigan town centre ‘positive activities’ centre serves the whole of the Metropolitan Borough with talk of local services and indeed transport links. I’d like to know what links there are with, say, the Higher Folds estate in Leigh, the Hag Fold estate in Atherton, the Shakerley estate in Tyldesley, all significant towns in their own right, 7 – 10 miles from Wigan. More examples could be added. Any more info on the real situation in Wigan Borough gratefully received at

Lest I mislead I did some homework on the latest from the Zone and its transport arrangements, which do include a coach from Higher Folds on Fridays and a shared coach with Tyldesley on Saturdays. Places though have to be reserved in advance. The timings too are significant. The transport leaves at either 4.30 or 5.00 p.m. and returns by 9.00 p.m at the latest. The journey can take an hour. Clearly those taking up this limited offer are likely to be at school and committed to undertaking an activity on arrival. With the best will in the world this is not ‘innovative’. It is a somewhat tortuous and slightly embarrassed way offering leisure opportunities to a small number of motivated young people on the outskirts of a large Metropolitan Borough, where the principal facility is simply out of reach and indeed out of touch.  It’s a far cry from a local and organic youth work delivered through a mix of clubs and projects, where young people set the rhythm of conversations and events.

The Facebook post has engendered a host of angry responses to Nandy’s claim that Labour is intent on a ‘root and branch’ review, given the party’s speculation that ‘promising a statutory youth service might not have delivered the provision needed by young people’. In a revealing turn of phrase Nandy implies that the statutory pledge means ‘forcing councils to provide a minimum level of youth provision’- why not obliging?

Lisa Nandy invokes quite rightly the need for young people’s critical involvement, but reveals her ideological bias in favour of a particular way of providing services.

“One of the primary purposes of the review is to consider how we extend real power to young people over the design, commissioning and accountability of youth services in their area. Young people in areas where they drive services and can hold them to account are where those services are most valued”.

This very question of real power and young people could have been explored whilst retaining the commitment to statutory funding. At this very moment IDYW, together with Youth & Policy and  Birmingham University, is interrogating via Ian McGimpsey’s research the differing ways in which the statutory might be implemented. And we would allow for sure that in this investigation of what might be the future we should converse with such initiatives as the Lambeth Youth Cooperative.

To further ruffle youth work feathers CYPN note that “Nandy reiterated Labour’s election manifesto commitment to expanding the National Citizen Service so that it provides better value for money and has more of a ‘long-term impact’ on young people.” Thus it appears that this massively advertised, self-styled ‘once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for 15-17 year olds.’ will lie outside of any ‘root and branch’ review.This is the case even though she seems to allow there is an issue about its effectiveness and that given the collapse of youth services nationally the one-off NCS experience is not grounded in any on-going provision for young people.

All in all Lisa Nandy’s apologetics don’t fill us with confidence about a review, which, whilst ‘root and branch’, will be swift as “young people can’t wait” – something of a contradiction in terms. It will be interesting to see who is to carry out the review. Suggestions welcome.




Youth & Policy Manifesto for Youth Work Launch and In Defence of Youth Work Practitioner: Seminar, April 21

Bernard Davies and Tony Taylor peruse the Manifesto

Bernard Davies and Tony Taylor peruse the Manifesto

Youth & Policy Manifesto for Youth Work Launch and In Defence of Youth Work Practitioner Seminar

Tuesday 21st April 2015 at the School of Education, University of Birmingham

An event hosted by the University of Birmingham

This event brings together the two most prominent debates in the youth sector over the last decade regarding: • the defining features and processes of youth work practice; and • the need (or not) for statutory funding of youth services.

Ten years ago, Bernard Davies published Youth Work: A Manifesto for our times as an attempt to define and reaffirm commitment to voluntary, open access, and democratic youth work practice in the midst of increasingly individualised, authoritarian and targeted responses to young people. This text, among others, played an important role in stimulating and supporting efforts over the subsequent decade to sustain these approaches to practice despite hostile organisational and funding environments. This event sees the launch of a new manifesto, ten years on from the influential original piece to stimulate this debate anew. Since the financial crisis, and particularly following the Coalition Government’s first spending review, youth services have suffered rapid cuts to government spending. Throughout this period, there have been active campaigns including Choose Youth and those led by the NUS that have pointed out the damaging effects of cuts to services and to young people, and argued for a new, enforceable statutory duty to fund youth services.

The two goals of a restoration of statutory funding for youth services and of democratic forms of youth work are often assumed to be twin goals within the sector. Yet, there are good reasons to question whether these are mutually supportive aims. Historically, they have often diverged from one another. After all, it was in the financial context of annual above inflation increases in spending on youth work that the original Youth Work Manifesto was published, and in which the In Defence of Youth Work campaign was established.

This event creates a space for youth workers to explore this tension, and to debate the implications for future campaigning: • How should the core values and practices of youth work be promoted today? • What are the implications of a restoration of statutory funding for youth work? • Can statutory funding for youth services promote youth work? It will include the launch of Bernard Davies’ new manifesto for youth work, published by Youth & Policy. It will also include presentations from research evidence about statutory funding and its effects on practice, and provide space for discussion and debate.

Continue reading

Choose Youth urges Labour to go statutory in its Manifesto: IDYW to explore what statutory might mean?

choose youth logo

CYPN reports that the Choose Youth coalition, of which IDYW is a member, continues to call on Labour to include a commitment to protect the funding and status of youth services if the party forms the next government.  Its online petition  has gathered 6,520 signatures backing its call for Labour to commit to protecting services. The petition argues,  “By 2015, youth service provision may have disappeared entirely in many parts of the country and could certainly be the first public service to disappear. We know this issue is important to you so please take the lead and ensure that Labour’s commitment to a sufficiently resourced statutory youth service is included in your election manifesto for 2015.”

Full story at ‘Campaigners urge Labour to back statutory youth services in manifesto’.

Meanwhile In Defence of Youth Work, together with Youth & Policy and the University of Birmingham, is organising a day of debate and consultation, Youth & Policy Manifesto for Youth Work Launch and In Defence of Youth Work Practitioner Seminar, on Tuesday, April 21 in the School of Education, University of Birmingham.

This event brings together the two most prominent debates in the youth sector over the last decade regarding: • the defining features and processes of youth work practice; and • the need (or not) for statutory funding of youth services.

More details this week.