IDYW response to the APPG Inquiry – What are the training and workforce development needs to secure and sustain youth work?


The fourth question asked by the NYA on behalf of the All Party Parliamentary Group.

What are the training and workforce development needs to secure and sustain youth work?

Recent evidence has indicated that the number of courses leading to JNC-recognised youth and community work qualifications has fallen substantially since 2012, with only 36 undergraduate degree courses still operating in 2014-15. Structures for training and qualifying part-time and volunteer youth workers have also become much more fragmented and indeed privatised, leaving participants often having to fund themselves on the routes that are available.

The main route now for ‘professional qualification’ is a degree course although there are still courses up to Level 3 that are delivered ‘locally’ through various training providers. In the past workers would often start working either as a paid worker or volunteer in their local youth centre/project. However the significant change in funding arrangements for delivering part-time training (now the NVQ), together with the severe cuts in Local Authority Youth Services, the dominance of the outsourcing and commissioning culture,, means that we have lost an underpinning foundation for the planning and delivery of professional development for the workforce. In particular, we have lost an authentically local character to training and staff development. Training isn’t commissioned to meet need, but is ‘provided’ by organisations that can procure funding to offer a Level 2 qualification.  Those going through training frequently have no work or volunteer experience.

The collapse of Local Authority Youth Services and the demise of open access youth work has posed enormous problems for universities offering youth work degrees. Inevitably they have had to adjust to a fast-changing workscape, within which many of their graduates find employment in Schools, Youth Social Work, Youth Justice and beyond. The pressure is to produce students, who are employable in a diversity of settings, which in itself is no bad thing. However, from our perspective, the casualty in this blurring of the boundaries is the improvisatory and autonomous youth work we sacrifice at our peril. Addressing this concern is far from easy. Clearly, a renewal of open youth work on the ground is vital, alongside revisiting alternative routes to qualification, the extension of a reimagined NVQ qualification beyond Level 3 and the reinvigoration of Level 1/2 part-time training.

If open access, process-led youth work is, in any substantial and effective form, to again be made available to those thousands of young people who no longer have any access to it, dedicated and state funded action will be needed to provide sufficient and appropriate training opportunities for both full-time and part-time paid and volunteer youth workers, not forgetting students in Higher Education.


Network of Regional Youth Work Units’ challenging proposals for a would-be Tory strategy for young people

In this week’s Children & Young People Now you will find an article, Youth work network calls for redistribution of NCS cash. It opens:

Money earmarked for the National Citizen Service (NCS) should be redirected to support cash-strapped statutory and voluntary youth services, a group of youth work organisations has said.

The group in question is the long-standing network of Regional Youth Work Units. And the network’s response to the government’s alleged commitment to a 3-year strategy for young people goes far beyond the matter of Cameron’s vanity project. Indeed we think it is a valuable and challenging contribution to the present debate about the future of both youth work and services for young people. At this very moment, we are exploring whether the network and IDYW might join together to catalyse further discussion. In this spirit and ahead of the appearance of an IDYW paper, ‘Reimagining Youth Work’ you will find below the network’s proposals in their entirety.


3-Year Strategy for Young People

What should a 3-year government strategy for young people contain?

The Network of Regional Youth Work Units welcomes DCMS commitment to develop a 3-year strategy for young people. We want to work with the government, youth sector colleagues and young people to ensure that the strategy is a genuine cross-departmental initiative that takes into account the many different factors that impact on young people’s lives and does not concern itself simply with the elements that are included in DCMS’s current brief. We want to see a strategy that fully engages education, health, care, arts, sport, transport and aspires to make England a country where young people are encouraged to feel they are a valued part of the community.

election reform

A starting point would be to respond to young people’s demands for voting rights at 16, which would recognise young people as active citizens whose views are as important as other people in the community. Evidence from the Scottish Independence Referendum in 2014 showed that young people used their votes responsibly. There are opportunities coming up in elections for Metro-Mayors where votes at 16 could be piloted and evaluated in England. We urge the government to use these elections to test take-up of votes at 16.

We believe there are some important issues to address for the youth sector itself and want to see these emphasised in the strategy.

  • Young people and their parents believe that the people who work with them in youth organisations are trained and qualified in what they do. Increasingly this is not the case as the infrastructure and funding for training youth workers has withered during the austerity years since 2010, and most of those working in youth organisations have no or little access to relevant training and qualifications. Young people and communities benefit from a skilled and confident workforce and it is essential that some resources are found to make training and qualifications available, particularly to those working in voluntary sector organisations, whether paid or in a voluntary capacity. The sector has maintained a coherent framework for training and qualifications, including apprenticeships, and this should be extended and made more widely available.
  • There is a strong emphasis on involving young people in social action in the current government approach, and we support this drive. However, the way in which social action is defined should be broadened, to include more youth-led and issue-based campaigning alongside more formal volunteering. Young people become active citizens in a number of ways, and all possible routes should be included in the youth strategy.
  • Youth work and work with young people now happens in a very wide range of settings, both open access and targeted at young people with specific needs and vulnerabilities. The key elements remain the same, however – building long-term trusted relationships between the worker and young people and working in locations, at times and on issues that are chosen by young people. The notion of social pedagogy, widely used in mainland Europe should be given more serious consideration as an effective way of working with young people, and a youth strategy that provided opportunities to pilot the approach with young people in England would be welcome
  • Finally, resources for work with young people have been greatly diminished since 2010 as a result of local authority cuts and fewer specific opportunities for grant aid for youth organisations from trusts and major funders. The government currently makes a very substantial contribution to one flagship project, National Citizens Service, and we question whether this is the right approach in a time when the youth sector and services to young people in general are under enormous pressure. Investing so heavily in NCS, particularly in its current format of a single 4-week programme for 16-year-olds when in many areas there is no provision available for the rest of the year does not seem to us to be an effective way to support young people into active citizenship. We would advocate for a significant reduction in resourcing for this model of NCS in order to free up money for essential infrastructure such as trained staff and support to voluntary organisations to help them improve their offer to young people and become more sustainable.

The Network of Regional Youth Work Units through its members in regions supports the development of a 3-year strategy and will be happy to work with partners to engage young people and the youth sector across the country.

Running the sin-bins for the losers?


Thanks to heraldsun, Australia

Thanks to Paula Connaughton for this link to an article by Danny Dorling, Professor of Geography at the University of Oxford  :

If you are young in Britain today, you are being taken for a ride

Amongst a host of points he raises :

Work gets better only when we have a choice to say no to some work. We need to be able to say that it is too demeaning, too poorly paid, too dangerous or too dirty. Then the employers need to offer us enough money in return if they want that work done. That is what a well-functioning labour market looks like. It is what you get in a good society –a truly free labour market in place of servitude.

For work to be good work, there needs to be choice, including the choice to say no to bad work. The same is true of education and training. Young adults need a choice. It can become good when there is a choice not to take it, when there is a selection of provision and when there is no provider of last resort that you have no option but to endure. No sin-bin unit for the losers.

At the very least this poses a question for youth workers. Are we running some of the sin-bin units?


Campaign under Attack

In Tuesday’s Guardian [March 9] there is a sympathetic and measured piece on the dilemmas facing students training to be youth workers.

The future looks bleak for would-be youth workers – and the colleges that teach them.


It is well worth a read and then as you reach the Comments thread you might be thrown a little. A person under the pseudonym, Spoonface, launches an attack on our Campaign, declaring:

What makes me despair, though, is the number of (mostly older-generation) youth workers signing up to Tony Taylor’s ‘In Defence of Youth Work’ campaign, which is completely unconstructive. Taylor wants to defend traditional youth work, but does so by foot-stamping and complaint rather than by offering solutions. Youth work – as with any public service – has a duty to demonstrate to the taxpayer the worth of money spent on it. The IDOYW campaign seems to show that many youth workers do not understand this point. Youth work needs to figure out how it can demonstrate its value if it is to survive.

One of our supporters responds:

Your criticism of the “In Defence….” campaign highlights one of the difficulties faced by youth workers (many of whom, across the generations, support the campaign) trying to operate in the current climate. Nobody is denying that youth work should be accountable to the taxpayer / funding body / society in general, but what form that accountability takes is, and must be, open to debate. The campaign aims to defend youth work as an open ended, exploratory and democratic practice where the terms of the engagement and any “outcomes” are negotiated, on equal terms, with the participants. The difficulty arises when workers are tasked with working to prescribed (written previously) agendas such as increasing young people’s participation in employment and training, or reducing crime and ASB. While these may well be outcomes of the youth work process, the prescription of and measuring against these targets necessarily compromises the “democratic and emancipatory” nature of the work.

Forget the personal references –  it has kicked off a debate, to which you might want to contribute. Hopefully the discussion is reaching a wider audience than normal.


My effort to give an overview of what’s going on within the campaign begins:

The past few weeks have been hectic. The first national steering group meeting was held in Wigan, whilst Sheffield and Huddersfield hosted differing, but significant gatherings of students and workers, young and a little older. Regional steering groups have met in the North-East and the West Midlands with the South-East due to meet any day now.

Within I try to mark major issues such as the way in which we might organise:

I have been caught off guard by a significant feeling amongst some supporters that we need a new professional association for youth workers; that there is a collective organisational void; and that a powerful independent voice is lacking. For what it is worth I had not seen beyond the development of a campaigning network. Ironically too I have been reading Doug Nicholl’s fascinating account of the Community and Youth Workers Union’s journey from professional association to trade union. Indeed I remember back in the late 70’s clashing within the then Community and Youth Service Association with members, who opposed the shift to becoming a trade union. In this context, is talk of a professional association a step backwards or forwards?

The full summaryMoving Forward IDYW touches also on relations with trade unions, training and education as well as reports on the many meetings held in November.