Is the tide turning? An IDYW initiative that means little without you.



Is the tide turning?

Policy proposals for youth work: A discussion paper.

                                         In Defence of Youth Work, Summer 2017


It is likely that local authority youth services will have disappeared by 2020. Yet in the aftermath of the 2017 general election, there are renewed possibilities for state-supported open youth work. This discussion paper will argue that progressive, political parties, focused on the common good rather than private interest, should make an explicit commitment to open, universal, all year round youth work. In order to put this commitment into practice, the following questions need further discussion:

  • Should local authority youth services be reopened, 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?

We encourage you to discuss these questions informally and in organised groups, with young people, colleagues, students, friends, policy makers, decision makers, campaigners and activists. We are conscious that our thinking relates most directly to youth work in England and Wales, but hope that its argument will have resonance for practitioners in Scotland and Northern Ireland. All feedback will be greatly valued.


isthetideturningfinal – the discussion paper in full {WORD}

isthe tideturningfinal – the discussion paper in full {PDF}

A Provisional Timetable of Activity

We are looking to use the National Youth Work Week, November 6 – 12, as a point of reference, especially as its theme is:

Youth Services: youth work for today and tomorrow

Our hope is that a diversity of local and regional meetings will take place in and around this week, although not necessarily so. For the moment we are not envisaging an explicitly national event. Thus, from now, we are taking a two-pronged approach.

  1. We are approaching specific people to act as organisers of regional gatherings.
  2. We are hoping very much that this initiative will resonate with our readers/supporters and that you will feel moved to organise meetings at a local level, however small or large. To repeat, please feel free to get your act together as you think fit.

On Wednesday we will post a proposal offering a possible template based on the discussion paper, which might be useful as you get your head around planning a meeting.

In some ways, our ‘Is the tide turning?’ initiative is a test of our collective energy and sense of purpose. We believe together we can rise to the challenge. We hope you agree.

‘The idea of an educated public’: ‘One can only think for oneself if one does not think by oneself’ [Alasdair McIntyre (1987)]

For more information and to let us know you are throwing your questioning hat into the ring of critical debate, contact





The State, the Market and the Voluntary Sector – Seminar, September 18






The state, the market and the voluntary youth sector


18 September 2014, 11.00 for 11.30 – 4.00

Brunswick Parish Church Centre, Brunswick St, Manchester, M13 9TQ


The In Defence of Youth Work campaign is committed to encouraging an open and pluralist debate on the state of youth work at a time of limited opportunities for collective discussion on this and the radical shifts in the landscape in which it is operating. This seminar is IDYW’s latest attempt to help fill that gap.


Why a seminar on the voluntary youth sector?

Two of the least debated, even acknowledged, of the ‘radical shifts’ of the last decade have been the voluntary youth sector’s changing relationship with the state and the increasing intrusion of private businesses into its field of activity. The seminar is offered an opportunity to look critically at the impact of these developments and the voluntary youth sector responses.


The seminar is therefore aimed particularly at youth work practitioners (paid and voluntary), managers and policy-makers in voluntary youth organisations as well as youth work students and tutors and those with perspectives to offer from the statutory and private sectors.


For more details see attached flyer, which we would encourage you to circulate.

The state, the market and the voluntary sector


The Future of Voluntary Services : The Future of The Voluntary Youth Sector

We are in the midst of organising an IDYW Engaging Critically seminar in Manchester on the issue of ‘The State, the Market and the Voluntary Youth Sector’. This will be held in the Brunswick Parish Church, Brunswick Street M13 9TQ from around 11.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m. on Thursday, September 18.  More details and a flyer to follow.

In thinking about this theme we must give a warm welcome to the first fruits of the National Coalition for Independent Action’s Inquiry, ‘What Future for Voluntary Services?’

NCIA logo

Andy Benson writes:


NCIA has begun the release of 16 major reports as part of its Inquiry into the Future of Voluntary Services. Using the contributions of senior academics, voluntary sector managers, practitioners and consultants, this series of reports presents alarming evidence of the extent to which voluntary groups have allowed themselves to become subservient contractors, in the process muzzling their ability to speak up for their users and communities, and adopting ‘managerialist’ workplace practices in a ‘race to the bottom’. The reports also give examples of people resisting these pressures and their stand with local people affected by cuts, privatisation and austerity.


The first four reports in the series are now available as downloads:


  • The Ideological Context by Professor Dexter Whitfield examines the changes brought about by the commitment of successive governments to the principles and practice of neo-liberalism, explains what neo-liberalism is, how this has reshaped the environment in which the UK voluntary and community sector now operates and its impact on voluntary agencies.
  • Ordinary Glory: Big Surprise not Big Society by Dr Mike Aiken looks at the impact of this changed environment on small volunteer-based community groups, shows how the influence of contracting and marketisation has damaged all levels of voluntary action but describes how, with a little encouragement, these groups and their activities might discover the seeds of a positive future.
  • Outsourcing and the Voluntary Sector by Laird Ryan documents the Coalition Government’s drive to privatise public services and evidences the damage being wrought by competition and marketisation, shows where the money is going, and uncovers the growing trend of Voluntary Services as sub-contractors to profit-hungry corporations like Serco and G4S
  • The Devil that has come amongst us by Andy Benson looks in detail at the procurement and commissioning regimes through which this progressive enslavement on voluntary groups has been achieved, and the ways this has diminished interest and capacity to take their mandate from users and communities and speak out against injustice.  


Further reports will be released over the next few weeks. These will deal with the rise of social enterprise and investment, changes in the ecology of the voluntary services sector,stories from the frontline, the failure of ‘leadership’ at local and national levels, and the impact on volunteering and employment practices. There will also be specific studies on services for black and minority ethnic elders and refugees and migrant workers and reports on Scotland and Northern Ireland. These reports will be available via the NCIA website –


Further information available from Andy Benson: