Is the tide turning? The IYW offers a strategy and UNITE seeks to resuscitate the JNC

At this moment we are near completing a draft ‘Is the tide turning?’ document based on the discussions at events held around the country late last year. We are going to present a draft for debate at the Youth & Policy conference in Leeds on Friday, February 9th, after which we are going to circulate the paper to all those involved thus far. The draft will then go to the IDYW national conference in Birmingham on Friday, March 9th. Amongst those contributing to the conference will be UNITE and UNISON, together with the Institute for Youth Work.

In this context, it’s informative and revealing to spend time with two new publications from the Institute and UNITE.




The IYW has become a robust and trusted organisation in its own right that has an elected council of 12 dedicated individuals bringing a wealth of skills and experience from across the youth sector. We grew from sector bodies and continue to be a team player, open to working with the wider sector.

We have outlined below our strategic plan that seeks to ensure the place of IYW in the future of youth work as the democratic, independent professional body for youth workers that does not compete with those we seek to represent.

Read in full at IYW STRATEGIC PLAN

Meanwhile UNITE has produced a research report, undertaken by the Yorkshire and Humberside Regional Unit, entitled YOUTH WORK: PROFESSIONALS VALUED.

Find below its key recommendations.

Key recommendations

i. A specific Minister for Youth Affairs whose responsibility is to be an advocate and voice for young people in Government, attending Cabinet. The role would straddle  Government departments and assess the impact of Government policy on the hopes, aspirations and lives of young people.

ii. Government should create a national youth forum to consult young people on policies that affect them, giving them powers to challenge policies that will affect their interests.

iii. Parliament should establish a joint parliamentary commission on youth services to consult with young people, communities and key stakeholders of the sector on the impact loss of or change of provision has had on the lives of young people, communities and key stakeholders and make recommendations for legislative and
other action.

 iv. The introduction of a Statutory Youth Services bill that places new legal duties and obligations on local authorities to provide a professional youth service and meaningfully consult young people on any changes to local services; especially cuts, closures and removal of services.

v. A Parliamentary Select Committee report on the impact of the changes in government policy on youth and community work, with a comparable cost analysis of short term programmes against universal open access provision. This should assess the impact of cuts and policy changes, in order to make recommendations to
government on how to stop the further de-professionalisation of youth and community work.

vi. The UK Government and the Governments of the Devolved Nations where responsibility for youth services sitmust develop a national strategy involving stakeholders to resist further de-professionalisation and retain and return local authority youth service funding to a well-resourced, statutory provision and seeks to protect and preserve the JNC.

vii. The protection of the JNC quality standards through the establishment of a Youth and community workforce licensure system, workforce register including a revocable license to practice, protection of the title, CPD scheme and code of ethics as exists in many other professions.

viii. Stakeholders within the community and youth work sector must develop a communication strategy to educate students on youth and community courses about the JNC.

ix. Stakeholders including the JNC, Trade Unions, ETS committees, Training agency group, plus HEIs and Youth work employers must carry out a national review of local and national training for youth work.

x. Local authority employers must work in partnership with trade union staff side groups to develop policies and procedures to support those workers already redeployed, to maximise their impact in new roles.


We look forward to the contributions of both the IYW and UNITE to our conference. What will be fascinating is to explore the question of the relationship in seeking to turn the tide between IYW, UNITE and indeed UNISON? Almost a decade ago at the first IDYW conference held in Manchester, Doug Nicholls, then the long-standing General Secretary of CYWU [UNITE], gave an impassioned speech, warning of the dangers of reviving the idea of a youth workers’ professional association. To what extent have the circumstances and perspectives changed?


Unite calls for youth affairs minister to coordinate policies for young people

Video of the presentation plus Q&A from yesterday’s fringe meeting at the Labour Party conference. Thanks to Nick Robinson

A call has been made for a youth affairs minister to coordinate services for young people across government by Unite, the country’s largest union. 

The demand for a minister with a seat in the cabinet will come in a new research report to be launched by the union at the Labour party conference on Sunday (24 September).

The need for a senior minister to knock heads together across Whitehall comes after a period which has seen youth and community services in England seriously eroded by the Tories’ austerity policies since 2010.

In the foreword to the report, Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “Alongside these devastating cuts, youth workers have simultaneously faced attacks on their very profession itself.

“The research findings confirm our fears that the imposition of austerity
measures have devastated the sector. Employers are engaged in a divide-and-rule exercise which feeds ‘a race to the bottom’ and increasingly imposed a ‘one size fits all’ culture on the sector.”

The key demand in the report is for a specific minister for youth affairs to be an advocate for young people in government. The role would straddle Whitehall departments and assess government policy on the aspirations and lives of young people.

This ministerial appointment should be accompanied by a statutory youth services bill that places new legal duties on local authorities to provide a professional youth service and consult young people on changes, such as cuts, closures and removal of services.

Unite national officer for community and youth workers Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe said: “What this research identifies is the systematic erosion of youth services in England since 2010. This report is a blueprint for action and a key recommendation is the appointment of a cabinet-level youth affairs minister.

“He/she would have the ministerial clout to cut through across departments to ensure coherent and joined-up policies that benefit young people, often with serious personal problems, and the staff that provide those services.

“We strongly support the Joint Negotiating Committee for Youth and Community Workers as the quality benchmark to maintain the pay and employment conditions, status and professionalism of youth workers in these challenging times.”

The report also contains the results of a snapshot survey which revealed that 55 per cent of youth workers had experienced change to the services that they deliver; with 73 per cent of those replying that these changes had a negative impact on the provision of services for young people.

The report Youth Work: Professionals Valued was launched at a fringe meeting at the Labour party conference entitled: Moving forward: Rebuilding Youth Services under a Labour Government in hall 4, Hilton Brighton Metropole on Sunday (24 September) at 16.00.

The Youth Work Unit Yorkshire and the Humber was commissioned in April 2017 by Unite to conduct this research. It was a direct response to an attempt by the Local Government Association (LGA) to remove the national collective bargaining agreement called the Joint Negotiating Committee for Youth and Community Workers (JNC) in 2015-2016. 

Identifying Risk, Building Resilience and Catching Pokémon : Call for Papers

CYWU conf.jpg

UNITE Community, Youth and Play Workers 

Identifying Risk, Building Resilience and Catching Pokémon

National Conference, Eastbourne, 19 November, 2016

Youth centres are a great place for young people to come together, make friends, mix with others from different backgrounds, participate in a range of positive activities and catch some Pokémon. But behind the façade of games and activities, the work undertaken with young people via the youth work delivery model is far more involved.

Young people voluntarily enter into a relationship with a youth worker and together explore a wide spectrum of issues, from behavioural difficulties, violence and extremism to teenage pregnancy, helping young people to develop the ability to manage difficult situations, build resilience and make appropriate life choices. Preventative work with young people, ensuring that they are equipped with the knowledge and skills to stay safe and to make a positive contribution to society in adult life.

This conference will offer a range of seminars, expert panels and workshops facilitated and delivered by key professionals in the field, and the wider youth and play sector, that will identify, explore and offer new insight into some of the more complex and challenging issues that are faced by professionals in the field and by the children and young people that they work with.

Conference Themes

Papers are invited that explore and challenge current policy and practice in relation to the key themes below. All submissions will be disseminated to delegates and may be used to inform discussion and debate. There is also opportunity for these to be published in our journal, Rapport, and be made available on our website.

Papers are invited in relation to the following themes:

‘Keeping children and young people safe and building resilience.’

Resilience has become the buzz word in intervention work with children and young people but the whole notion of resilience can be a challenging concept for both policy makers and front line workers. Youth services and play services are under increasing pressure to avoid exposing children and young people to any manifestation of risk despite the obvious contradiction that in providing support to children and young people experiencing adversity, they may be insulating children from those very experiences that enable them to build resilience in the first place. We invite papers that focus on how best we can work to build resilient children and young people and in particular, how the youth work model can be used to provide the needed to respond to the challenges of adolescence and young adulthood and to navigate successfully in adulthood. We would particularly welcome papers on topics looking at children and young people’s experiences of risk practices relating to alcohol, drug-use and sexual activity; how building digital resilience is a key to keeping young people safe online and how sexualised media and social networking impacts on children and young people.

‘Will Youth Work survive in an ever changing landscape?’

The climate of austerity has resulted in major changes in the nature of youth work provision and has had a major impact on the ways in which youth workers and other service providers work with and for children and young people. We invite papers that encourage critical discussion of policy issues and practice initiatives shaped by these measures. We are particularly interested in papers that challenge dominant policy and practice conversations and which address the recent move away from the traditional focus of youth work towards the employability and skills agenda.

‘Because We’re worth it’

Youth Work is facing increasing pressure to prove its worth and youth workers are now working with young people to deliver predetermined outcomes through time-limited contact. Government cuts to budgets continue to have devastating consequences for the most marginalised and vulnerable people and on the practice of youth work. Where services do remain youth workers struggle to navigate the new terrain, whilst maintaining ethical integrity. However, throughout the history of youth and community work there is a distinct tradition of innovation and diversity with proactive and creative practitioners shaping and influencing agendas based on community needs. We invite papers that explore the context of youth work in contemporary society and offer critical reflection on aspects of youth work practice.

‘The politics of social action’

We know young people in the UK are affected by politics. Unemployment is highest among 16 to 24 year olds and the likelihood of finding a permanent, full-time job is now much lower than it was for generation X causing delays to traditional stages of adulthood; the proportion of young people over 18 living with their parents is increasing year on year and tuition fees are increasing again. Campaigns to get more young people involved in social action emerged in abundance over the past six years as a result of the focus by former PM, David Cameron and his ideas around Big Society with social action projects now found across the UK involving the youth, voluntary, business, education and faith sectors. But with social action now more commonly defined as taking practical action in the service of others, such as restoring a community property or organising a charity event, how do young people participate in the politics of those making decisions about them without them? Every issue of concern to young people is political so how do youth work professionals ensure that young people have an opportunity to change the world around them? We invite papers that explore why youth workers should be the providers of political education and how they could equip young people with a grounding in political theory, the knowledge to dissect the views put forward by their representatives and the ability to debate with them on best policy practice.

Please make submissions via email to by Monday 17th October 2016.

CHOOSEYOUTH call for unity : Our Shared Future

News that the ChooseYouth alliance is adding its voice to the outbreak of discussion about the future of youth work. Obviously IDYW are supporting this initiative, although we have qualms about how this engages with the Youth Sector Briefing project and the TAG consultation. So too it is taking place a mere few days after our national conference in Leeds on April 8th in Leeds. Nevertheless we are encouraging our supporters to register and attend.

choose youth logo

Youth Work and Youth Services: Our Shared Future

The fledgling youth service was nearly abandoned by funders in the late nineteen fifties and all those concerned banded together and not only rescued it, but they created the modern youth service with public funding, national collective bargaining through JNC a respected professional qualification and training and support structures for part time worker and volunteers.

Unfortunately, as we all know, this once world leading infrastructure and set of professional practices within personal and social education has not just been cut, it has been so severely affected since 2010 that all providers are struggling and the essential education and support that youth work offers is being destroyed. This adds immeasurably to the pressures young people face at a time when they need youth workers more than ever.

The unity of purpose evident amongst all those who built the service two generations ago is much needed again and we reflect also that at times of danger to the service in the eighties and nineties it was only alliances of the main organisations concerned about young people that pulled us through.

Since 2010 ChooseYouth has successfully flown the flag as a broad alliance. At our January meeting there was a strong feeling that we need to create a new opportunity for every concerned organisation to get together and see what more can be done to secure a future for youth work and youth services.

We therefore invite all interested parties to an open forum to discuss what more can be done together to protect and enhance essential services for young people through youth work.

WHEN Wednesday, 13 April 2016 from 10:30 to 17:00 (BST) – Add to Calendar

WHERE Unite Offices – Moreland Street, , London EC1V 8BB GB – View Map

Go to to book tickets.

London Play and Youth Workers Campaign Launch, April 7

London play and Youth

News from Joe Ryle of a new initiative in London

Playgrounds, youth centres, and community services have been attacked since 2010. The three main political parties have pledged more cuts after the General Election in May. That means less staff, less hours, less pay, or simply the sudden closure of more valued community spaces.

In London, we want to get organised to stop this happening. If you’re a youth worker, a playworker, a parent, or someone who uses one of these services, please come along to our campaign launch on Tuesday 7th April (exactly one month before the General Election).

Why we need to get organised: an example

In 2012, Wandsworth Council decided to close Battersea Park Adventure Playground, in what they claimed would save £386,000. Considering the low maintenance costs of the playground and the low wages of the three full-time staff that were sacked, it is hard to know how they arrived at £386,000.

Despite protests organised by local mothers and children, the council went ahead with their plans. At the time, they said the playground would be closed, refurbished, and re-opened as an unsupervised space.

What the council actually did in 2014 was re-open the playground but divided in two: one half free and the other an exclusive, privately-run service that costs £20 per child. Before the playground had been an open community service, where teenagers (who often lack safe, constructive spaces in cities) built long-term relationships with staff and their peers, and felt ownership over the environment.

Such spaces are rare in London. Now, the company Go Ape! have opened a private (and no doubt profitable) ‘attraction’, designed for the once-a-year enjoyment of those who can afford it. This has nothing to do with the community values that underpinned adventure playgrounds when they first sprang up on derelict land in the 1970s.

If we want to stop this happening to other playgrounds and youth centres, we need to strengthen links between workers, parents, and children across London. We need to raise awareness about the importance of these services and the threats they face. We need to support each others local battles. We need to be ready for the next time they try to cut.

Campaign Launch (Linked with Unite Community, Youth and Playworkers Branch):

If you’re a playworker, a youth worker, a child, a young person, a mum, a dad, a cousin, or your just concerned about cuts to youth services, please come to meeting on:

Tuesday 7th April from 18:30 – 20:30

There will be snacks, childcare, and ***guest speakers***


Unite the Union
128 Theobalds Road

Facebook page :

UNITE highlights the growth of unpaid internships in the voluntary sector

Sally Kosky, National Officer, UNITE the union writes:

Unite is calling for an end to unpaid internships in the voluntary sector and the re-introduction of paid entry level jobs.


Our report ‘Unpaid Internships in the Voluntary Sector’ demonstrates that unpaid internships are on the increase. They are becoming the fastest growing source of abuse under the National Minimum Wage regulations. Unpaid internships aren’t just wrong but in many cases they are illegal. Under employment law, people who work set hours, do set tasks and contribute value to an organisation are “workers” and are entitled to the National Minimum Wage but many employers in the voluntary sector are paying their interns nothing.


We need your help to stop this, and to help the thousands of unpaid interns. Click here to sign your support to this campaign and tell us how your organisation treats interns.


We are also strongly urging all reasonable employers who care about their workers to sign up to a voluntary code that pledges they will end unpaid internships and pay all interns at least the National Minimum Wage. Please ask your employer to sign up to this pledge which you can view here.


Support the Youth Workers Strike, Oxford, August 23

Unite the union announced  that youth workers employed by Oxfordshire county council will begin a series of one day walkouts from Tuesday 23 August over job cuts and service closures.

The jobs of around 80 youth workers, who care for hundreds of vulnerable young people across the county, are at risk as the council pushes ahead with its re-structuring exercise. The cuts will hit the prime minister’s constituency of Witney where people as young as 12 years of age have been fighting to save their youth service.

Unite has said that the Conservative-led council’s decision to offload the running of its 26 youth centres and two detached youth teams exposes a local authority with scant regard for the needs of young people in the county warning that dismantling the top class youth service will push young people onto the streets.

Oxfordshire county council plans to slash youth service funding from £3.7 million to £1.4 million making the county the lowest contributor to youth services in all of England. Within the council’s overall budget of £800 million, the cut will save a miniscule 0.17 per cent, but the impact on the service and its recipients will be huge and very damaging.

Mike Beal, chair of the Unite community and youth worker sector Oxford, said: “Youth workers would much rather be doing their jobs but the council is turning its back on young people. They will take strike action with a very heavy heart but how else can they get an unthinking council to listen?

“Oxfordshire county council’s plans to dismantle its youth service are short-sighted. They will tear apart the youth service at the very time when it is needed most. I have spoken to a number of young people who all say that without their local youth club they would be hanging out on street corners. Youth clubs provide safe places for them to go.

“Across the county, young people have shown again and again that they are not as portrayed – as apathetic – and that they do want to contribute to Oxfordshire by fighting to save their services. By ignoring their pleas, this council risks confirming young people’s worst suspicions – that politicians are not interested in them.

“Oxfordshire county council is failing young people and failing its dedicated workforce of trained, professional youth workers.

“The youth service in Oxfordshire is top class. It is efficient and far more cost effective than picking up the pieces afterwards. The jobs we do make a difference to young lives. Oxfordshire county council must think again.”

Doug Nicholls, Unite national officer for the community, youth worker and not for profit sector said: “Youth workers in Oxfordshire will be taking this day of action with a heavy heart, but are determined to challenge the council’s short-sighted decision to dismantle its top class youth service.

“Many workers will be taking action for the first time. Our members work with some of the most marginalised young people in our society – those living in poverty, fighting loneliness and struggling to engage. The jobs they do make a difference to young lives.

“The prime minister had the audacity to speak from his so-called favourite youth club in Witney last week in the wake of the UK riots, but failed to defend the county’s dedicated team of youth workers.

“If Cameron had taken the time last week to listen to youth workers then he would hear why the great work being done in his constituency must not be lost. Youth clubs provide safe places for young people to go and are needed now more then ever.

“Young people have been given a very rough ride by this government and now Oxfordshire county council wants to slash its youth service budget when it already ranks a dismal 104th out of 118 local authorities for net expenditure on youth provision.

“This shows scant regard to the needs of young people in the county. Oxfordshire county council is sending a message to its young people that it does not care.”

Workers were balloted on the 18 July with the majority (14 to 1) voting in favour of strike action.

We urge you to show support on the day: Visit picket lines in Banbury

8 – 10am Samuelson House, Tramway Rd,

10.15am – 12pm Banbury Youth Centre, Hilton Rd,

12.15pm – 2pm rally Town Hall, Bridge St, Banbury.

Details of Unite coach from Oxford to follow …

Please invite others.