Celebrating a new look Youth & Policy 1 – Tom Wylie on the Election


Welcome news! After a hiatus, Youth & Policy returns in a new format to prompt us into reflection and to challenge what often appears to be our aversion to critical analysis.

The editorial group write:

Dear friends,

We are writing to announce the launch of the ‘new format’ Youth and Policy at http://www.youthandpolicy.org/

The new Youth and Policy will continue to be free, open access and online, yet rather than having ‘issues’ we will now publish individual articles, which can be published as soon as they have been prepared. Most of these articles will be much shorter – around 2000 words in length. This enables us to be more responsive to events as they occur, and provides an opportunity for researchers and practitioners to share work in a timely manner and concise format with an international audience. Back issues will remain available free on the website.

Since 1982, Youth and Policy has published articles which provide a critical analysis of policy issues as they affect young people. We have been free, open access and online since 2010. Our new, more responsive format is launched today in response to changes in the fields of youth work, youth research and publishing, and we hope it will continue to contribute for many years to come.
We will be publishing new articles throughout the summer and beyond; subscribe on our website (‘newsletter sign-up’) to be informed of new articles as they appear, and/or follow us on Twitter @youthandpolicy, or on Facebook.

Call for papers:
We are seeking original and concise articles that provide a critical analysis of policy issues affecting young people. We are keen to publish papers on a wide range of themes in relation to young people and policy: youth work, youth services, education, employment, justice, health, identity, equality, media, campaigning, leisure and more. We welcome articles by researchers, lecturers, practitioners and policy makers. See our guidelines for submission on the website for more details.


Paula Connaughton, Tania de St Croix, Tony Jeffs, Tina Salter, Naomi Thompson (The editorial group)

During this week we will draw your attention to each of the four new pieces now available.

Given our latest post on the post-Election implication for ourselves, Awakening from the deep slumber of decided opinion,  it’s good to get Tom Wylie’s sense of affairs in his The (young) people have spoken: reflections on the general election.


Tom Wylie

Tom Wylie


‘And so it came to pass in the dawn’s early light on June 9th that not only had a hubristic May lost her majority but the ideology of neoliberal economics, with added austerity, was badly shaken if not toppled. The result holds out the possibility – nothing stronger – that the years ahead may see some repairs to the institutions which support young people; that there could be an end to the hollowing out of public services; that inequality would cease to rise so remorselessly; that Brexit may unfold more benignly.’

Tom Wylie observes – It’s impossible to maintain youth services without money

Tom Wylie

Tom Wylie Former CEO, the National Youth Agency, writes to the Observer:

Your editorial (“Vulnerable children deserve better support”, Comment) demonstrates that the furore over Kids Company has crystallised how a range of concerns about the negative impact of austerity on services for young people is now spreading to those for children.

Many voices from the front line of youth work, including in Rotherham on sex exploitation and nationally on mental health, have gone unheard. In 2011, the education select committee presciently identified the sharp decline in youth services in England and called for prompt government action. It was rejected in a cloud of bluster by the then responsible minister, Tim Loughton. In the last few weeks, his successor, Rob Wilson, has expressed his disappointment in local authorities and said that good provision is not a matter of money.

At the heart of many current difficulties is the absence of government leadership to co-ordinate and set standards for the wide range of bodies that can contribute to young people’s development. The Department for Education has shed the responsibility for youth work it held for 75  years and Ofsted has ceased to inspect such community-based work. Is it any wonder that problems fester out of sight until a crisis occurs? Responsibility for the co-ordination of youth policies now rests with the cabinet office; since Wilson is a minister there, perhaps he can demonstrate what can be achieved for the young across the country with no money and a declining number of youth workers.

Youth & Policy Special Pre-Election Edition: The Next Five Years: Prospects for young people


Youth & Policy 114 is a bumper special indeed!

The Next Five Years: Prospects for young people

Published ahead of the coming election it is a challenging mix of sometimes controversial commentary on both youth policy and youth work.

While the articles very much stand alone, all authors provide careful reflections on the social policy needs of young people, what they consider to be the key issues for young people today and what this means for the future direction of policy. It is hoped that not only will the articles provide stimulating food for thought as we approach a key transitional phase; the juncture between the Coalition Government and the likely change in governance to take place from 2015, but also that they will inform ongoing debate and political activity which works for the benefit of young people in our society.

Young People and Housing: A Review of the Present Policy and Practice Landscape – Julie Rugg & Deborah Quilgars

If young people’s housing needs are to be met more adequately, there needs to be a more fundamental reexamination of how the tenure system works for young people in the UK.

Young people, health and youth policy – John Coleman and Ann Hagell

In this article we review public attitudes to the health of young people. We note that too often concerns about the health of adolescents are linked with a notion of risky behaviour.

Youth Crime and Youth Justice 2015–2020 – John Pitts

This article considers current issues in crime and justice in the UK and how these may bear upon young people over the next five years.

Youth Work – Tom Wylie

This article focuses on the place of youth work which is presented as a distinctive form of practice with young people complementing other approaches such as schooling or social work. It offers suggestions on how youth work can be re-built.

Austerity youth policy: exploring the distinctions between youth work in principle and youth work in practice – Will Mason

Presenting ethnographic material from three years of research with casually paid youth workers, volunteers and young people, the article illustrates some of the contradictions embedded within the Coalition government’s youth policy. In this endeavour the discussion also demonstrates respondents’ commitment to the principles of child centred, open access youth work.

Innovation and Youth Work – Tony Jeffs

Innovation has long been central to the survival of youth work as a form of welfare practice. During a period when local and central government spending is being curtailed how can we expect innovative practice to emerge without the stimulus of state funding and in the face of state indifference to youth work per se?

Youth Work: A Manifesto For Our Times : Revisited – Bernard Davies

When ‘Youth Work: A Manifesto For Our Times’ was published nearly a decade ago, it opened withwhat was for me, at the time, a perplexing question: Has youth work ever been so fashionable – or at greater risk? (Davies, 2005:7)

The Fortified College – Brian Belton

Talking of the plans to build plans to build an £85m ‘secure college’ for 320 young offenders Brian ponders, “I have been to places much like the one focused on in this article; I’ve breathed the air and felt their harsh caress”. 

This is an especially stimulating Y &P offering and it deserves our serious attention. With this in mind we’ll be returning to a number of the articles in due course.

The Youth Work Manifesto is available as a pdf in its own right.

Manifesto for Youth Work Revisited

What’s Next for Education? How to Revive Youth Services -Tom Wylie muses

Ta to muhlenberg.edu

Ta to muhlenberg.edu

With more than an eye on the forthcoming election the New Visions for Education Group launched its book, ‘What’s Next for Education?’this very week.


Thanks to his efforts behind the scenes the book contains a welcome chapter entitled ‘How to Revive Youth Services’ by Tom Wylie, former chief executive of the National Youth Agency from 1996 – 2007 and a critical supporter of IDYW.

It begins:

These are hard times for the young. Many individuals continue to flourish but the gulf is widening, in financial, human and social capital, between those who are doing well and those left behind. Employment in secure jobs for young people and young adults has fallen sharply, often offering only minimum wages in a casualised labour force. Social mobility has stalled; the constraining contours of wealth and privilege are evident. The recession of 2008-14 was particularly brutal for people without qualifications in those regions which had already suffered long term economic decline; reduced social security benefits (with added sanctions) have helped drive many deeper into poverty and despair. Unequal societies make the more vulnerable young prey to extremism or tempt them into acquisitive crime or alcohol or drug misuse. Personal debt and family poverty leave limited opportunities for imaginative cultural experiences outside the neighbourhood. Anxiety about educational achievement and precarious future employment mean that, for many young people, this is not a good time to grow up. For some, their natural exuberance and aspiration may morph into sullen depression; for others, their peer loyalties can imprison them in anti-social gang cultures.

Youth services cannot remedy all these social ills but, over the last 75 years, they have provided support and development opportunities for young people in diverse settings: neighbourhood youth clubs; streetbased youth workers engaging with young people in public spaces where they gather, sometimes in gangs; specialist projects for young adults who are homeless or unemployed or attending A&E as a result of  alcohol or drugs overdoses; information and counselling centres; a whole array of national voluntary organisations, including the deeply rooted Scouts and Guides as well as those which are locally created, sometimes by faith communities.

It concludes:

Action for the next government
􀀀 – Require the Secretary of State for Education to promote and
secure sufficient youth services focused on the personal and
social development of young people.
􀀀 – Build on this core national duty by placing explicit
responsibilities on local authorities, setting national standards
for local provision and using powers of intervention where
Ofsted reports that these standards are not met.
􀀀 – Provide adequate investment, for example by diverting the
money currently spent on the short-term, age-limited scheme of
‘National Citizen Service’ into year-round funding.
􀀀 – Secure a skilled professional workforce which should focus
particularly on the needs of the disadvantaged young and on
supporting volunteers.
􀀀 – Encourage the development of local and national processes for
young people’s engagement in decision-making.

Read in full – How to revive Youth Services


Meanwhile Fin Cullen draws our attention to the BERA manifesto, Fair and Equal Education, which contains the following references, which are not as strong as we might like and somewhat ambiguous, but nevertheless recognise the educational significance of youth work:

We need to recognise that children and young people’s entitlement to good quality education extends beyond school to include early childhood, further education, higher education, work-based and vocational learning, informal learning and out-of school activities.

Values youth and community workers as allies in developing informal learning in schools and beyond schools.



Where Next for our Campaign? – Tom Wylie responds

Hopefully fuelling further exchanges Tom Wylie responds to the discussion paper, Where Next for the IDYW Campaign?



May I make  brief comments on a few aspects of this challenging paper .

On ‘the voluntary relationship ‘

There is a danger in being too precious about this component. If a youngster decides to play in a Sunday football team is this youth work ? Probably not because we see youth work as containing other features. For me these include a focus on personal ,social and political education ;the deployment of particular approaches including experiential learning; and the presence of a particular  value base (along the lines originally expressed by Bernard Davies and now in IDYW papers). A voluntary relationship ,sometimes within constrained structural arrangements , is an important aspect of these values but not a principle.

On ‘outcomes’. IDYW is a campaign , not an academic discussion. So  we need to consider the battleground . Of course if people want to do youth work without public subsidy towards their wages they can proceed as they like. But commonly,and increasingly , it is in competition with all manner of  public services. Saying  ‘we have convivial conversations and take it from there…’ is not likely to prove a particularly convincing argument in a struggle for resources . It is also possible to come at the issue of outcomes in different  ways. For example , as targets defined in advance  for individuals or cohorts; or as a way of reporting the results of interventions . At the very least ,it seems to me, youth work needs to be able to identify the groups with whom it intends to work ,to identify the kinds of experiences and relationships it aspires to offer ,and to demonstrate-with metrics as well as stories- the beneficial consequences of the work.  

On pragmatism  ,Bernard has posted elsewhere on the tensions for managers as well as workers of operating within contemporary structures, both in local authorities and the voluntary sector, I wish to make a comment on the national scene. Staff in these bodies can also be constrained by their sources of income. Not simply because the cash is usually tied to specific programmes but also because governments of any colour don’t like criticism of their policies. But we should expect leaders of national bodies at least to be making a coherent  case in public for the benefits of youth work;when did you last see any national youth work figure reported in the national press or appearing on national TV or radio ?

The IDYW campaign is playing a useful role in encouraging many field –based colleagues to keep battling on in the face of major cuts to services. The recent US elections should give us pause. It is possible to maintain an ideological purity which pleases one’s core supporters (ask the Republicans what happened next ). Or a campaign can  blend passion, solidarity and data to pursue a cause (give Barack Obama a call ) .    

Tom Wylie

Monetising Youth : An Excess of Righteous Wrath?

A much appreciated shot across the bows from Tom Wylie re our recent post

NCS : A Calculated Tale of Monetised Benefits?

Monetising Youth

A measure of righteous wrath has been expressed about the assertion in the recent evaluation report on National Citizens Service  that the programme’s community service element can be shown to have an economic benefit. Why the surprise ? Similar  claims have been made down the years for such schemes,including Blunkett’s Millennium Volunteers and the work of V. Indeed, youth organisations such as the Scouts or Guides have from time to time deployed the argument that youth work undertaken by their volunteer leaders would otherwise  cost  £XXX when compared to the alternative of employing paid youth work staff. Indeed,some in the voluntary youth sector have made a life’s work out of claiming that its servants,whether paid or voluntary, can always go further and faster than the servants of the state.

A conservative –led government, intent on rolling back the welfare state, will always welcome such arguments. Moreover, the youth work sector as a whole has often compared the modest costs of its provision when compared,say, with incarcerating the young,or their unemployment. This argument may well be true but youth work has not been so good at demonstrating ,as distinct from asserting, how it prevents such negative outcomes.

The political reality is that HM Treasury expects any case for state-funded social programmes,especially new programmes , to show the potential economic return on investment (ERI). It has an elaborate set of requirements though many of these  may be a form of financial smoke and mirrors given the intrinsic difficulties in doing the sums. Some advocates have turned to making a rather wider case about potential additional social benefits (SRI), not just economic ones . Such attempts may prove no  less problematic ,though they may be a bit  more appealing to the youth work sector with its traditional distaste for any metrics,especially economic ones.

Youth work’s wrath would be more usefully focussed on real concerns about NCS ,notably  the increasingly apparent attempts to claim the moon by way of likely success while simultaneously cutting corners and costs. We could also do with an explanation of why some major national bodies in the field have aligned themselves with commercial servicing companies and rather questionable procurement practices (beyond the obvious one that some will make any sort of Faustian pact to get money ).

Tom Wylie

Tom Wylie : The Principled Pragmatist

As we reported briefly in our last post, Tom Wylie has been appointed as specialist adviser to the Select Committee inquiring into services for young people.  His accession to this role has been warmly received.

Doug Nicholls, national officer for community and youth workers and the not-for-profit sector at Unite, welcomed Wylie’s appointment: “Tom is the right person at the right time to advise the select committee at this moment of huge danger for youth work and the youth service. His immense knowledge of the evidence that underpins our understanding of the impact of youth work will be of great value.
Andy Hillier of CYPN comments that:

During his time at the NYA between 1996 and 2007, the agency was credited with helping to convince the Labour government to create the youth opportunity fund and youth capital fund and invest in the Myplace youth centre programme.

There is no doubt that Tom has a long and distinguished career in the service of young people as this brief biography indicates:

Tom Wylie took up the appointment as Chief Executive of the National Youth Agency in 1996 from a post as Assistant Director of Inspection for the Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted). He retired from NYA in August 07, and is now a trustee of Young Minds and of Rathbone. Tom also chairs an advisory group on young adults for the Financial Services Authority. He was born and educated in Belfast where he was a teacher and youth worker. Moving to England in 1970, he worked for the Scout Association and the National Youth Bureau. He became one of Her Majesty’s Inspectors of Education in 1979 and held various national responsibilities including managing the Inspectorate’s Divisions responsible for youth and community work, for educational disadvantage and for curriculum. He has served on various governmental advisory groups; the Board of The Prince’s Trust and committees of the Economic and Social Research Council and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. In his spare time he enjoys playing hockey.

Yet, in the last few years Tom has been less than impressed with our Campaign. Indeed in the latest Youth and Policy he  articulates his dismissal of our evident romanticism, extolling the virtues of  his own principled pragmatism. Read his perspective in full , Youth Work in a Cold Climate

As it happens we received a few weeks ago a critical response to Wylie’s article penned by Bernard Davies.  We were not quite sure what to with Bernard’s challenging polemic and this spurred us  to create a sister site, Critical Exchanges. Go there to read Bernard’s thoughts and to join in! Our thinking is that this site/blog might be the place where supporters and critics are encouraged to enter into animated debate about the issues facing us. As ever this might be pie in the sky, but certainly Bernard’s piece gets us off to a lively and topical beginning.

In saying all this we wish Tom all the best in his new position and hope that he recognises that the pragmatists are rudderless without the romantics and vice-versa!