Seema Chandwani: Youth work isn’t sexy nor prescribed – it follows and grows with the young person.

I make no apology for copying again some of Seema Chandwani’s twittering thoughts posted ahead of today’s London City Hall Summit called by Sadiq Khan. Not at all abstract but responses grounded in the reality of day-to-day circumstances they express bluntly and eloquently the argument for a process-led, young people centred youth work, which has time on its side.

 

sadiqkhan

Ta to worldreligionnews.com

 

This event cannot be an opportunity to blame each other for the shambles we find ourselves in, it’s the fault and responsibility of all regardless of party. This event needs to be honest & not pass the buck to absolve responsibility. We’ve no time to watch headline table tennis.

In London (and throughout the UK) young people, campaigners and Trade Unions warned Local Authorities/Council Leaders of the dangers in cutting Youth Services. In Feb 2011 Haringey was informed of consequences and pursued a 75% cut months prior to the riots.

Tomorrow must ask serious questions about why local authorities and council leaders ignored warnings, intel,and young people when they decided to slash Youth Services. Blaming govt cuts can only go so far when money is found for logo changes, propaganda mags etc.

The Mayors £45m Youth Fund has tweeted about is piecemeal, it allows organisations with the best bid writing abilities to be the most successful. It keeps us in gimmick mode. Youth work isn’t sexy nor prescribed – it follows and grows with the young person.

Any youth project applying for 3-year funding that is able to tell you 36-40 mths before the end of the project what the outputs will be is a fantasy. They’ll seek the young people to fit the outcome and the most marginalised will be seen as too much effort to meet the targets.

Youth workers need to be able to work with young people without the pressure of arbitrary targets that some young people cannot achieve. A Youth Worker needs to know they can stay on a journey with young people that could take months or years.

A real effort needs to be made by politicians, especially Cllrs at what Youth Work is. If it doesn’t make sense to you, accept this is your problem and not the service/staff and force yourself to learn rather than adapt the service to meet something you can understand.

This notion of ‘targeted’ support is absolute bullshit. No young person feels they can engage on equal terms with projects called ‘Troubled Families’. It’s degrading, it commences with judgement and it disempowers. Would you engage with things like that?

Youth work works because it attracts young people into activities that make them feel good, maybe that one thing they get praised for in education. It’s delivered in a space they feel comfortable and should have ownership of. They engage with trained adults in an equal way.

When things go wrong at home, on the street or at school. They have that one space, where they go that makes them feel good. They have relationships with adults that over time they’ve trusted with smaller things. They can now go to them with the big things.

If you think young people just get referred to a professional and trust is instantly there you’re insane! They don’t want another adult telling them (or threatening them) what to do. They want the freedom and ability to explore feelings, risks, consequences to make a decision.

So tomorrow must be clear that putting police on the street is a temporary measure. Investing in young people, properly through unrestricted youth work (not gimmick funding grants) is a political responsibility. Youth work ain’t a hobby, it’s a tough profession.

Seema Chandwani – ‘Marginalised people exist because the system of marginalisation exists’. Twitter thread goes viral.

Ahead of trying to pull together a host of stories and articles arising from and coinciding with the tragic events of these last weeks, Seema Chandwani has agreed to me pasting into a whole her passionate and powerful Twitter thread of April 6, which has gone viral.

THREAD: I’ve been relatively silent about the murder of 17 year old Tanesha Melbourne-Blake, sometimes you just have to shut up and listen.

I first met Tanesha 3 years ago during the fight to ‘Save Haringey Youth Services’. A fight her and many of her peers fought with passion.

I’ve rewatched some of those campaign videos. The words are haunting. Those young people knew what could/would happen should cuts to services continue.

Watching Tanesha’s face in those videos, little did she realise the lives she was campaigning to save, would include her own.

I’m not in anyway saying if the youth services cuts didn’t happen she’d be alive.

But the issues raised by young people in such campaigns need to be heard – cutting of services creates an environment where young people feel compelled to speak out about their lives.

Young people in areas like Tottenham are very capable of articulating their own wants and needs, but they asked me to campaign *with* them because they needed a ‘political advocate’ as this fight was in their words ‘unequal’ – they felt unable to ‘compete’ alone.

I didn’t understand it at first, but soon did.

I won’t go into details, the campaign (both 2011 & 3 years ago) are well documented.

But I’ll make my first point; we fail as adults when we see young people fighting for help services as the problem.

I’ve watched the response over the past few days and there are times I’ve been frustrated.

If you’re a Politician or politico, currently engaged in this issue of youth violence, ask yourself why?

Why are you getting involved?

You don’t need to respond but if are genuinely interested in helping young people in this fight you have to accept this is their fight, not yours.

This isn’t about your stats, your policy, your budget or even your child.

This is about young people’s current everyday life.

If you are speaking about young people’s daily life, actually understand it first.

They are surviving, navigating through a world mainstream society haven’t dared make a TV series out of yet. It’s nothing like you think you know about, even if you once smoked weed when you were 15.

There are now politicians and policy donks up and down the country holding events/meetings to show they’re doing something.

Less than 1/10 will be inviting any young people to hear what they have to say.

A lot of pics will be taken.

Of the few that will engage young people they’ll go to speak to a school council or local church group or something similar.

Young people are not a homogeneous group. Tarquin in Hertfordshire doesn’t speak for Trevor in Wood Green.

Engaging young people facing this battle is difficult, made more difficult as almost every embryonic cord connecting them to society has been cut.

The young people in survival mode don’t know you, some don’t even believe they need to know you.

But don’t find a substitute!

‘Community Leaders’ don’t exist, they are a political fabrication designed in the 80s to create a hierarchy amongst the working class.

Stop meeting with them.

If you want to ask people how you can help, ask those directly who need the help.

Ask your ‘community leaders’ to give you direct access to those people, if they cannot, then the only thing they lead is you, up the garden path.

There is only one way to solve this problem and that is long-term inclusion.

This means understanding there has always been a criminal underworld – Dickens wrote about it centuries ago. If Oliver Twist was born in 1998, he’d have a YouTube account

Marginalised people exist because the system of marginalisation exists.

This is not a new problem. It existed when I was a teen. My and my little sister can remember the names of our friends murdered in 1990s.

Why we keep acting like this is a new thing is almost insane!

It’s always been about economics, opportunities and belonging, always.

You are competing with an industry that can promise young people a life you have failed to give.

It’s not just money, it’s a sense of worth, purpose, belonging and achievement.

Maslow is basic GCSE level psychology. Young people need investment.

It’s not a short term fix. It’s not a 4 week Twitter campaign. It’s not a  week summer project – it’s a complete 0-19 long term investment. Including investment in people working with young people

And it’s a lot cheaper than these knee jerk reactionary initiatives.

Until you can get a child to tell an organised crime ring they’re not interested – you’ll have this problem.

Criminals need a workforce and our society is providing them with an unlimited supply of young people to choose from.

STOP IT!

The LGA vision for Youth Services – Bernard Davies asks, ‘where is the youth work?’

Further to our earlier post re the LGA/NYA conference in London on Wednesday, we can now direct you to the LGA publication, Bright Futures: our vision for youth services. In its words – helping children and young people to fulfil their potential is a key ambition of all councils, but our children’s services are under increasing pressure. This resource forms part of the LGA’s Bright Futures campaign – our call for fully funded children’s services.

 

Responding immediately Bernard Davies sounds a welcoming note of caution.

A Local Government Association vision – for Youth Services but not for youth work

 

Any kind of forward thinking for ‘Youth Services’ is rare enough these days, as the present government has again demonstrated by apparently binning its plans to lay out a youth policy. A new ‘vision’ for these Services is therefore more than welcome, not least perhaps when it comes from an organisation with the potential clout of the Local Government Association (LGA). To be even more optimistic, its new paper could even be taken as validation for IDYW posing the question: ‘So – is the tide turning?’

 

What’s more, this one has some proposals which resonate strongly with some parts of our own current discussion paper:

  • It starts from a view of young people as citizens now – as ‘a valued and respected part of the community whose needs and wishes are considered equally with those of other groups’.
  • It describes young people’s voices as ‘central’ to any offer to be made to them, including their role in service design and operation.
  • It gives unqualified endorsement to their ‘choos(ing) to attend many services on a voluntary basis’ – and to ‘provision structured around their needs locally’, including ‘universal. open access provision’.
  • It argues for services to ‘focus on developing the skills and attributes of young people, rather than attempting to “fix a problem”’.

 

It also takes up some specific policy positions which for the present and indeed all recent governments will sound like heresy. On the NCS for example, also echoing a proposal in our own paper, it suggests

… the devolution of a portion of NCS funding to local authorities to support local provision for young people, expanding the reach of NCS funding from a time-limited programme to ongoing support and an enhanced local offer.

It also wants to see the Government explicitly include responsibility for young people within a Ministerial portfolio, to champion young people within government. And, though it continues to take as a given that local councils should remain the body with overall statutory responsibility for these services, it nonetheless explicitly encourages a search for ‘alternative delivery models’ including ‘Young People’s Foundations (to) bring together the public, private, voluntary and community sector…’

 

And yet, and yet – in no particular order:

  • Why must a paper like this just assume that commissioning is the only way of sharing out public money?
  • Why does it not challenge the statutory limit placed on local authorities’ responsibilities as extending ‘only as far as possible’ given how this has been used repeatedly as an excuse for cutting local Youth Services’ funding?
  • Why in the whole of the document is staff training considered only in relation to ‘safeguarding’?
  • Why, in its wholly uncritical treatment of ‘outcomes’, does the paper never raise the need to develop different methods for assessing these for different practices – and especially of course for an open access, young people-led practice like youth work?

 

Which brings me finally to the most blatant and damaging absence in the paper: where in fact is the youth work? As such, it gets two passing references in a 3.600-word paper, when for example, alongside ‘youth offending team officers and mental health workers’, youth workers are listed as ‘skilled practitioners’. However, even here, what is highlighted is these practitioners’ purportedly ‘expert knowledge’ for ‘identify(ing) potential issues that require further investigation’ and not the distinctive features of their face-to-face practice. Yet it these which, for so many young people, turn out to be crucial to their actually getting engaged in the first place and ultimately often therefore to their willingness to open themselves up to some striking, personally developmental experiences.     

 

Even amongst policy-makers with such positive intentions and commitments, it seems, turning the tide for that practice has clearly still some way to go.

 

Bravo! Students 4 Youth Work – new group enters the fray

Message from the newly created group Students 4 Youth Work

Students 4

Please support us! We are a new group that has been started by BA (Hons) Youth and Community students at the University of St Mark and St John in Plymouth. We aim to get active and take a stand against the dismantling of the Youth Services thats happening nation wide. We would love to be able to count on your support and any like, share, advice or anything else you can think of would be massively appreciated.

Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/Studentsforyouthwork

Perhaps students in other institutions can join forces.

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.

Jeremy Corbyn launching his youth policy document tonight. Youth workers on tenterhooks.

EMA Corbyn

The above tweet on Twitter has messed up me going on a long bike ride today. I promised I’d respond to drama. Hence I have to report that Corbyn supporters within youth work are likely to be getting giddy in the wings. On stage the rumour is that Jeremy makes reference to youth workers and youth services. He is certainly promising, as you can see, to bring back the Educational Maintenance allowance. Watch this space!

In the Aftermath : Thoughts and Initiatives – Manchester Youth Services Campaign

free educ mcr

OPEN MEETING // Youth Services Campaign – 24 May at 12:00 noon

University of Manchester Students’ Union in Manchester, United Kingdom

Youth services are a vital life-line for so many young people and yet have been subject to devastating cuts in recent years.

Join us for an open meeting about how we can build a Manchester-wide youth campaign to use council reserves to make youth services statutory, giving young people and the local community a say in how that funding is spent.