What future for state-funded youth work? Manchester and London seminars in June


In Defence of Youth Work
Engaging Critically Seminars

What future for state-funded youth work?

Manchester, Wednesday 14th June 1-4pm
London, Friday 23rd June, 1-4pm

  • What is the current role of government in providing or funding open access youth work?
  • What does this mean for young people, youth workers, and youth organisations?
  • What might we expect to see in the future, and what should we be fighting for?

Bernard Davies will start from the proposition that the local authority youth service may well have disappeared by 2020 as the model for supporting and providing open access youth work. Recognising that ‘the state’ is a complex and contested concept whose past intrusions into this form of practice with young people have not always been helpful, his recently published article in Youth and Policy 116 on which his talk will draw seeks to break out of the neo-liberal mind-set to re-imagine, for youth work, more appropriate state responses. Bernard is a widely published author on youth work and is a retired youth worker, Youth Officer, and lecturer who has been active in IDYW since it was created.

Tania de St Croix will critically discuss the government’s primary vehicle for investment in a universal youth service – the National Citizen Service. What does state support for the National Citizen Service tell us about how young people – and services for young people – are perceived in policy? Does the National Citizen Service ‘count’ as youth work, and does that matter? Six years on, is Tania’s critique of NCS in Youth and Policy 106 still relevant? Tania is a Lecturer in the Sociology of Youth and Childhood at King’s College London, a volunteer youth worker/co-op member at Voice of Youth, and has been involved in IDYW since the early days.

These short talks will be followed by open discussion on the questions above. We particularly welcome youth workers and other youth practitioners (paid or unpaid), managers, voluntary sector and local authority employees, policy makers, students, tutors/lecturers, researchers, and anyone else who is interested. The seminar is offered an opportunity to take time out from the hurly-burly of practice to think about where we are, where we are going, and what we might do differently.

In Defence of Youth Work is a forum for critical discussion on youth work. We are committed to encouraging an open and pluralist debate at a time of limited opportunities for collective discussion.

Manchester seminar: Wednesday 14th June 1-4pm at M13 Youth Project
Brunswick Parish Church Centre, Brunswick St, Manchester, M13 9TQ
A short walk or bus ride from Manchester Piccadilly. See map and directions: http://www.brunswickchurch.org.uk/contact–location.html

London seminar: Friday 23rd June, 1-4pm at King’s College London
School of Education, Communication & Society, Rm 2/21, Waterloo Bridge Wing, Waterloo Road, SE1 9NH.
Five minutes from Waterloo station (but slightly confusing to find!) See map and directions: https://www.kcl.ac.uk/sspp/departments/education/WTKings/Finding-WBW.aspx

Suggested donation to IDYW: £2-5 (students/volunteers/unwaged) / £5-10 (waged). Tea/coffee provided.

To register, email Rachel@yasy.co.uk

Please circulate around your networks the flyer for this event.

YS NCS flyer [Word]

YS NCS flyer [pdf]

The State of Education: Youth Work breakout group, October 29


“If education should really mean anything at all, it must insist upon the free growth and development of the innate forces and tendencies of the child. In this way alone can we hope for the free individual and eventually also for a free community which shall make interference and coercion of human growth impossible.”
Emma Goldman, 1906

Message from Tania de St Croix

The ‘State of Education’ collective are inviting all educators, students, youth workers and anyone else interested to a workshop in London on 29th October 2pm-4pm: ‘The state of education in Britain today – how should we respond in light of current neo-liberal reforms and racist policies (such as Prevent)?’ as part of the Anarchist Bookfair.

Everyone involved in, or interested in, any form of education is welcome to come along and it will be a great opportunity for those of us involved in youth work to discuss the important challenges we share with other educators, students, etc, and think about what we can do collectively. There will be some discussion in one group, followed by breakout groups – I am facilitating a group for youth, play and community workers (kind of loosely with my IDYW hat on), so I hope some folk are able to come along!  Feel free to share the information with any other relevant groups or networks you can think of. Thanks!

More information at State of Education. The venue is Park View School
West Green Road, London, N15 3QR

A Collective Chance to be Self-Critical – see you in Brum on the 30th





FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 30 from 11.15 – 4.30


Back in April we postponed our national conference as a number of other broad initiatives were on the go. We said at the time we hoped our rearranged conference would keep the debate about the future alive and ongoing. Our themes, ‘Blurring the Boundaries?’ and ‘Re-Imagining Youth Work?’ raise questions for In Defence of Youth Work. and the youth sector as a whole.



11.15 Where is IDYW up to? What is its role?

11.30 Challenging IDYW’s perspective, ‘Thinking the Unthinkable’ – Annette Coburn [University of West Scotland] and Sinead Gormally [University of Hull] with a response from Tania de St Croix [IDYW] followed by open discussion.

12.40 Paul Fenton will share the major themes arising from the Shaping the Future events held by the Professional Association of Lecturers in YCW followed by open discussion.

1.30 Lunch – bring your own snap as per tradition or there are local shops.

2.15 Where are people working? How is youth work surviving? Kirsty Lowrie  [Aspire Arts] and Malcolm Ball [IDYW] will lead off a dialogue in small groups about the state of play on the ground.

3.45 Where do we go from here? Dependent on how the day unfolds we will have a Q&A panel session or break into local/regional groups.

Tea, coffee etc will be available.

Conference fee is a minimum of £10 waged, £5 students/unwaged.

To book a place contact Rachel@yasy.co.uk

Please circulate the flyers

idywsept30 – Word flyer

idywsept30 – pdf flyer

Grassroots youth work : Policy, passion and resistance in practice

It gives us great pleasure to publicise the appearance of a new book by stalwart IDYW supporter, Tania de St Croix, Grassroots youth work : Policy, passion and resistance in practice. The launch of the publication will take place on Tuesday, July 12 at Kings College, London. Evidently loads of folk are intending to be there so no room for latecomers. Having been privileged to see early drafts of Tania’s research and insights into the neglected world of the paid and volunteer part-time youth worker I can vouch for its timely significance in reimagining together the future of an impassioned youth work practice, which holds true to an emancipatory politics.


The voices of grassroots youth workers are rarely heard in policy, research or public debate. This book paints a picture of passionate practitioners who build meaningful relationships with marginalised young people, at a time when their practice is threatened by spending cuts, target cultures and market imperatives.

Written by an experienced youth worker, this engaging book uses interviews, dialogue and research diary excerpts to bring youth work practice and theory to life. Offering perspectives not found elsewhere in the literature, it will interest researchers and practitioners in youth and community work, education, social work, and health and social care. Its rich, empirical research will resonate internationally.

Dr. Tania de St Croix has been a youth worker for over twenty years, and is a Lecturer in the Sociology of Youth and Childhood at King’s College London. She is active in Voice of Youth, a youth workers’ co-operative, and In Defence of Youth Work, a campaign for critical, democratic and emancipatory youth work practice.

“Essential reading for youth workers and other creative and critical thinkers who are looking for the cracks where life can still break up and break through the grids of control.” Janet Batsleer, Manchester Metropolitan University

“An in-depth look at the devastating impacts of neoliberal reform policies on youth services and youth work that illuminates the dedication and passion of youth workers against the backdrop of a dehumanizing work environment.” Dana Fusco, York College USA

And Tania herself adds, “academic books rarely make money, but if there is any profit I will pass it on to Voice of Youth and/or In Defence of Youth Work”. If you sign up to the newsletter of Policy Press you can get a 35% discount and you will find it an absorbing and accessible read – not always the case in terms of academic literature.

‘Exploring young people, celebrity and entrepreneurialism: an event for youth workers and practitioners’


News from our friends at CelebYouth. We are more than pleased to be involved.

We are really excited to announce that we have a new event which you can now register for! The event is a half day workshop in collaboration with In Defence of Youth Work and Kings College London entitled: ‘Exploring young people, celebrity and entrepreneurialism: an event for youth workers and practitioners’  on 26 November 2014 10am-2pm (lunch included) at Kings College, University of London.

The event will explore the findings and resources from the CelebYouth project as well as exploring the work of In Defence of Youth Work and Tania de St Croix.

Programme for the day:

10.00am-10.30am: Arrival and Registrations

10.30am-11am: Heather Mendick and Akile Ahmet
Young people and Celebrities: Mythbusting

11am-11.30am: Tania de St Croix
Youth Workers as Critical Entrepreneurs?

11.30am-12pm Questions and Discussion

12pm-12.15pm- Break

12.15pm-1pm Resources for youth workers and practioners

1pm-2pm- Lunch and Networking

If you would like to attend please email Akile Ahmet:



Also see this recent article by Kirsty Fairclough-Isaacs.

Celebrity, youth culture and the question of role models

What’s Your Story? Tania reflects on a Belfast Workshop

What’s your story?’ in Belfast

Belfast Story

A recent IDYW story-telling workshop at Queens University, Belfast, brought together seven youth workers from a range of organisations, alongside four researchers/lecturers in the area of youth work and ‘out of school’ learning.

Using IDYW’s collective story-telling method, workers were asked to think of a story that demonstrates them working as a youth worker. Evocative ‘headlines’ and brief details were shared including “Lads on tour”, “Dipping your toes in the water”, “West Belfast girls take on the wall”, “What does a man say?”, “Flags in East Belfast”, and “Piss off!” Any one of the stories proposed would have made for a deep and useful discussion. Through discussion and deliberation, the group chose the story entitled, “Only tell us what we want to hear”, which prompted a thoughtful and nuanced discussion of practice.

Only tell us what we want to hear”

Without giving away any details (because stories are only written up later, anonymously, if workers choose to do so), the story enabled us to consider a variety of important issues. How do we build trust with young people, and what do we do when that trust is broken or undermined? If young people are let down by other agencies, how much (and how) do we share our anger or sadness with these young people? When something goes wrong, even if it was not our fault, what do we do with our sense of guilt or failure?

As often happens in story-telling workshops, we moved beyond the specifics of the story to discuss some of the wider contextual issues it brought up. How does relationship-building work, when so many of us are only able to work short-term with groups on specific projects? How much control and autonomy do we have as workers, and do we feel empowered to challenge bad practice? As many of us are working as the only youth worker in a non-youth work setting, where can we go for support and professional development? How can we challenge the structural factors that lead to poor practice amongst some of the professionals in young people’s lives, while understanding the precarious and disempowered working conditions that these workers are often subject to?

I’m afraid for youth work in Northern Ireland”

We finished by discussing the state of youth work in Northern Ireland, and what action practitioners can take to support and defend youth work as a distinctive practice. While the North of Ireland has, so far, been somewhat insulated from the devastating cuts that are decimating youth work in England and Southern Ireland, this is unfortunately likely to change as Stormont faces increasing budgetary pressure. One of the workshop participants commented, to nods from others, “I’m afraid for youth work in Northern Ireland”. Alongside the threat of cuts, many of the issues facing youth workers elsewhere also affect workers in Northern Ireland, as illustrated by the story we explored – for example, an increase in short-term project work rather than long-term relationship-building, a focus on adult-defined outcomes, and growing isolation for youth workers in multi-agency teams. As one participant said, there is often in youth work ‘a lack of time to think’.


As the facilitator, this was one of the most powerful workshops I have ever been involved with because of the quality of the discussion. The workshop was organised by IDYW alongside British Educational Research Association (BERA), who kindly provided the venue and designed the flyer, and Ulster University Community Youth Work team, who did a great job of publicising the workshop through its networks. Because of the BERA connection, three researchers / lecturers (who were attending the BERA national conference the next day) came along; they did not ‘take over’ from the practitioners, but listened, on occasion asking thoughtful and helpful questions.

Story-telling workshops – at their best – can create the conditions for particularly thoughtful, sensitive and meaningful discussion, and this was certainly the case in Belfast.

Tania de St Croix

Tania de St Croix – Thinking Critically about Outcomes

We are delighted to receive this report from Tania on a recent Centre for Youth Impact event.


The outcomes agenda is increasingly prominent in all areas of education and public services, youth work included. Few practitioners would argue against the need for evaluation and critical reflection on practice; however, the notion of ‘outcomes’ is more challenging, particularly for those of us involved in open access youth work. The debate is very nicely summarised by a proponent of outcomes, Nick Axford from Dartington Social Research Unit, who recognises the tensions involved in attaching outcomes to a practice that avoids imposing an agenda.

CYI Tania

In this context, there were plenty of stimulating conversations at the Centre for Youth Impact event on the 30th June, where practitioners, researchers, funders, managers, policy makers and others gathered to discuss measuring and evaluating the impact of work with young people. As both a researcher and a youth worker I found the event fascinating, and appreciated the opportunity for open and critical discussion. Although there was a celebratory element (as CYI comes to the end of its pilot period), it is encouraging that there was also room for debate and for perspectives that went against the grain. For example, the event included an excellent presentation by Jane Melvin, who asked what might be lost in translation between outcomes frameworks and youth work practice.

Perhaps the main omission was a critique of the terms under which this debate takes place. The ‘new outcomes agenda’ is wholly tied up with a wider market-based context, where organisations compete for a shrinking pot of funding – including from companies that promote an economic system that perpetuates inequalities. It feels as though the message from most youth service organisations, networks and commentators is: ‘this is the situation we are in – so let’s make the best of it’. I completely understand the desire to keep projects open and preserve jobs and organisations, so I am not entirely unsympathetic to this point of view. However, I do think it is essential to keep our critical faculties about us in relation to the context in which these changes are taking place.

Do we ask often enough, or clearly enough: why, and in whose interests, is the new outcomes agenda being promoted? And in this process, who – and what forms of work – are likely to lose out, or be left behind? Small youth organisations, and those practitioners and groups practising critical and open forms of youth work, need to speak up loud and clear about our reservations about the outcomes agenda. These reservations may make things complicated, but should be welcomed as a valid contribution to the debate. We are not just being an ‘awkward squad’ – we are working in a context of hugely reduced resources, where young people’s lives are lived under ever greater pressures, and where our jobs and our projects feel increasingly precarious. It is not unreasonable of us to be questionning and critical in relation to the contemporary demand for ‘data’ and outcomes, or the market systems that underpin these demands.

As one workshop at the CYI event proposed, it is not always a question of ‘outcomes focus or process driven’. Neither, perhaps, should we settle for the most obvious compromise – that all forms of youth work need to address both outcomes and process. There is, and needs to be, space for practices that are critical of the very notion of outcomes. Without idealising our IDYW story-telling workshops, my own commitment to them is because they are an attempt at a broader form of accountability, that emphasises critical reflection on practice, and interrogates or explores the process of youth work, as well as what happens before, during and after this process.

Tania de St Croix