Still room at the IDYW conference plus can we measure and treasure character?

On Thursday I’m contributing to a Centre for Youth Impact event, ‘The Measure and the Treasure: Evaluation in personal and social development’ in London. It’s sold out. OK, I accept there is unlikely to be a connection. However I will post next week a report of the proceedings and a summary of my sceptical input into the morning panel debate.

CYI

The Measure and the Treasure: Evaluation in personal and social development

The Centre for Youth Impact is hosting a day-long event on the 16th March 2017 focused on issues of measurement and personal and social development.
The day will explore policy, practical and philosophical debates about whether, how and why we should seek to measure the development of social and emotional skills in young people – also referred to as non-cognitive skills, soft skills and character, amongst other terms. We want to structure a thought-provoking and engaging day that introduces participants to a range of ideas and activities. The day will be designed for practitioners working directly with young people, those in an evaluation role, and funders of youth provision.

Speakers and facilitators include: Emma Revie (Ambition), Daniel Acquah (Early Intervention Foundation), Graeme Duncan (Right to Suceed), Robin Bannerjee (University of Sussex), Paul Oginsky (Personal Development Point), Jenny North (Impetus-PEF), Tony Taylor (In Defence of Youth Work), Sarah Wallbank (Yes Futures), Jack Cattell (Get the Data), Mary Darking, Carl Walker and Bethan Prosser (Brighton University), Leonie Elliott-Graves and Chas Mollet (Wac Arts), Tom Ravenscroft (Enabling Enterprise), Phil Sital-Singh (UK Youth) and Luke McCarthy (Think Forward).

newlogo

Then on Friday it’s our eighth national conference in Birmingham. To be honest the number of people registering is disappointing, well down on previous years. Although, obviously, the smaller audience, around 30 folk at the moment, will make for intense debate. This said, we’d love to see you there so it’s not too late to register or even turn up on the day.

Youth Work: Educating for good or Preventing the bad?

Details on this Facebook page or at this previous post.

Facebook thread on Cadets, Militarisation, NCS and Youth Work

There is little doubt that our Facebook page followed by 2,877 people is the liveliest forum of ongoing debate about youth work in the UK. However, not everyone is a Facebook devotee or user. It is though possible to share at least some of the sparkiest conversations by providing a link via this website.

cadet-units

As a starter, have a look at this thread, which starting from exchanges about further funding for cadet units spills into discussion about youth services, NCS, part-time workers and much more.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/90307668820/permalink/10154586347368821/

Credit to Natalie Ward-Toynton for kicking things off with this comment.

Over the last few daysI feel saddened by some of the responses around the additional cadet squadrons that are being opened up. I feel saddened because it seems to be compared with NCS scheme and that you all believe it’s a downfall of YW. Where actually the new sqns were part of the 2020 plan brought  into cadets in 2012. The cadets are funded by the MOD and these new sqns some additional money. It is also not a short term scheme like the NCS, young people from 12-19 are involved and it is youth work maybe unconventional youth work but it is.
Cadets doesn’t prepare you to join any armed forces it is about giving opportunities to young people with interests in aviation, leadership, adventure training, the list goes on.
Yes it’s sad youth work is always being cut, I am doing a youth work degree so I know  the lack of jobs in our field etc but please don’t hate on something that you may not fully understand the workings of.

The post-truth pantomime – Nigel Pimlott wonders, ‘what it means for youth work?’

 

post-truth

Ta to blog.oup.com

 

Although written primarily for a Christian audience, Nigel Pimlott’s incisive pantomime analogy sheds light on the significance of ‘post-truthism’ for all of us involved in youth work.

He begins:

The annual panto in our village is always great fun and entertainment. There’s a mix of banter, fantasy and miraculous stories played out by outlandish characters. There are goodies, baddies and dubious promises about living happily ever after tugging on our heart strings. Given what has happened across the political landscape in the last few months, you might think that was also pantomime.

 

panto

Ta to toy theatre.net

 

Our resident panto baddie will bully, threaten and twist things. They’ll be highly selective, cherry-picking facts and manipulating people. They will say whatever it takes to get their own way. They’ll play on the emotions of the vulnerable, unaware and naive. They invoke hysteria and dire consequences if they are disobeyed. They proclaim a populist consensus wrapped up in half-truths, facts taken out of context and fearful predictions. Our post-truth politicians have been found guilty of deploying the same tricks and casting the same spells.

He suggests:

Youth and children’s workers themselves are not immune from the potential bewitchment a post-truth culture casts. It is too easy to fall into the trap of exaggerating things like the number of first-time faith commitments at an event, or bigging-up the impact a project has had. For those who do externally-funded work the pressure to make inflated claims, enhance stories of success and over-state the value of what we do can be overwhelming. Evaluations, reports to church councils, and meetings with line managers can be painted in such a positive light that the truth ends up diminished.

He ends:

We can’t afford to get seduced by post-truth approaches. We mustn’t get caught out by them. So, be aware of pantomime-like claims of magic solutions, ‘too good to be true claims’ and also be aware of political rhetoric about ‘them and us’, promised pots of gold at the end of the rainbow and unsubstantiated tales. They are all likely to be examples of our post-truth culture. Remember – it’s behind you!

It’s smashing and provocative piece with proposals for how we combat post-truth politics. Well worth pursuing in full.

The post-truth pantomime
What does 2016’s ‘word of the year’ mean for youth and children’s ministry? Nigel Pimlott has some ideas…

[Nigel Pimlott is a writer, consultant, facilitator of Messy Church and works part-time for the Methodist Church as a training and development officer.]

 

Renewing Collective Purpose : The D2N2 Youth Work Alliance

Further to yesterday’s piece celebrating Nottinghamshire’s defence of open youth work, find below a report on the launch of a Derbyshire/Nottinghamshire Youth Work Alliance, which outlines powerfully its collective sense of purpose and identity.

Is this a useful template for others in the struggle to renew a tradition of cooperation and solidarity within our work? It would be interesting to hear the views of the youth work trade unions and the Institute for Youth Work. I believe the D2N2 Alliance is making a contribution to the Unite national conference in Eastbourne on Saturday, November 19. My own initial response is that we should encourage further serious discussion about the wider possibilities of this important development.

 

d2n2

LAUNCH

D2N2 Youth Work Alliance is a forum of professional Youth and Community Workers who contribute to the support and development of young people in Derby, Derbyshire, Nottingham and Nottinghamshire. The methods, approaches, values and principles are in line with those set out through academic and evidence based practice.

 
On the 15th October 2016 we held the Launch event at Derby University, the programme of workshops was developed and facilitated by a group of young people to over 70 attendees, including Youth Workers from both Statutory, Third and Voluntary Sector Organisations and Elected Members.

 
The three workshops (Youth Work Past, Youth Work Present & Youth Work Future) led to plenary session to ratify the Alliance’s future programme of work;

 
PURPOSE:

  • To promote and youth work as a distinct and effective educational approach to engaging and intervening with young people.
  • To encourage the growth of open access youth work outside of the school day and targeted Youth Work with small group or individuals.
  • To positively influence the professional training and development of both Youth Workers and Youth Support Workers.
  • To advise on the quality assurance and inspection of youth work practice across Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire.
  • To promote of cross border cooperation and efficiencies on aspects of youth work including; policy & practice, curriculum, quality assurance and workforce development.

Eligibility for Membership of the Alliance is set out below.

This is to maintain the professional status of Youth and Community Workers. Membership recognises the diversity of the youth work sector; hence includes those that work with young people, who engage on a voluntary basis, in public, private and third sector (including faith-based) organisations. The work may be paid or unpaid and includes face-to-face workers, youth work managers and educators. It recognises those practitioners that may have an interest in community development, with young people at the heart of their interests. All members must subscribe to the Code of Ethics.

 

Membership is open to anyone who;

  • Holds an enhanced DBS check
  • Contributes to the development of young people in Derby, Derbyshire, Nottingham and Nottinghamshire.
  • Supports and does not contravene the code of principles and ethics of professional youth and community work.

Membership will include the following benefits:

  • Quarterly forum meetings to discuss current issues, debates and professional practice
  • A forum to raise issues, concerns or challenges that require challenge in decision making arenas
  • Membership of a collective voice which enables collective action for social change in the interest of young people and their communities
  • Ability to contribute to maintain the professional standards of youth and community work
  • Invitation to free CPD events
  • An online portal to share news within the field, opportunities, best practice and resources for effective youth and community work.

Fees: This is free

 

D2N2YWA believes that Youth work enables young people to develop holistically, working with them to facilitate their personal, social and educational development, to enable them to develop their voice, influence and place in society and to reach their full potential. It is characterised by:

  • Positive relationships based on mutual respect.
  • An informal educational process starting from their current unique experience based on voluntary participation, harnessing the unique learning opportunities of working in groups.
  • Planned opportunities, activities, experiences and interventions based on an informal curriculum, co-created through the young person and the professional.
  • Providing information, advice, support and guidance on the many complex needs young people face, in all areas of their lives.
  • Preparing young people to make a positive contribution to society in adult life, based on the principles of empathy, equality and social justice.
  • A diverse professional sector with a clear value base and National Occupational Standards to support young people through their adolescent phase of life.

Whilst youth work skills are applied in a variety of settings and contexts, which are welcomed, youth work is not:

  • Formal vocational or academic education or training.
  • Social control directed by outcomes driven by social care, education or youth justice professionals.

“Grass roots praxis: youth workers’ reflect on ‘fighting the corner’ and ‘giving value for money’”

At the very worst we hope to carry a review of Tania de St Croix’s new book,  ‘Grassroots Youth Work’, before Christmas. Meanwhile we are very pleased belatedly to post a brief account of a parallel and complementary research project undertaken by Paula Pope with the support of the Keele University. It is heartening and necessary to hear the voices, often stifled, of workers on the ground fighting their corner in the teeth of contradiction. We hope that Paula will be able to publish a fuller and more detailed exploration of her thoughts and findings in the near future, which will speak, we are sure, to our ongoing discussion about the future of our work.

praxis

Ta to prlog.com

“Grass roots praxis: youth workers’ reflect on ‘fighting the corner’ and ‘giving value for money’”

A presentation handout by Paula Pope for Liverpool Hope University Conference on ‘Children and Young People in a Changing World, Action, Agency and Participation’, June 2016.

This paper draws on qualitative research into social relations and practices of professional youth workers. This research inquiry, approved by Keele University in 2013, involved 17 JNC qualified and practising youth workers from two districts in NW England. Thematic analysis of transcripts from focus groups and interviews suggested continuing misconceptions of youth work, funding difficulties and managerial practices that conflicted with professional values

There was limited recognition of the generic potential of youth work at the macro level where government youth policy focus was on the National Citizen Service for 16-17 year olds. Some support for professional youth work continued at the meso level in some local councils and organisations, with youth work roles included in the portfolio of provision. Unsurprisingly, youth work was having most impact at the micro level with individuals and in some communities.

It was recognised that youth workers were persevering despite significant funding worries at the grass roots level. In practice, youth workers were continuing to listen to young people, build relationships that started where the young person was at and which at times managed to catch young people when they were in danger of slipping through the net. Youth workers were frequently standing up for young people and advocating on their behalf though this could cause difficulties when it was in conflict with agency expectations and funding constraints.

Among the challenges facing youth workers was the emphasis on targeting certain young people in ‘hot spot areas’ and getting them through a form of accreditation as a way to show youth work had value. For one worker it felt like becoming ‘Tesco’s police’ while another analysed the approach as ‘squeezing’ rather than ‘celebrating’ the usual relationship building activities. Another difficulty was the loss of experienced colleagues in the service cutbacks that left some workers feeling isolated in new organisational structures, particularly when youth work was not well understood by new professional colleagues or managers.

Youth workers were continuing to be passionate about youth work and to reflect on their practice and identify ways to know that their youth work was working:

“I know that my youth work is working because what that means is the relationship is working, and it’s not working because I am getting on really well with them, it is working because they’re trusting me… with unprovoked, voluntary enquiries… asking for help and advice or guidance about something in their life” (Carl)

Explaining youth work ways of working and the difference it can make was not always straightforward. This emerged in workers’ accounts of ‘fighting the corner’ to stay true to their values in inter-agency work:

“We were doing that developmental work with the young people and we had them on side quite quickly but the police, when we were there, what the police wanted us to do and the other agencies wanted us to do was a little bit different than what we were actually going to do” (Greg)

It suggests that youth workers are finding themselves in similar positions to teachers who are operating in realms of “principled infidelity” (Hoyle and Wallace, 2009). The authors argued that ‘principled infidelity’ was a noticeable pragmatic response by school teachers to changes in education policy that appeared to conflict with their professional values. The gap appeared to be widening between external views of what mattered and the views of those on the ground:

“You can see the glaring sort of problems with you know you’re recognising some work that is not completely ethical, do you know what I mean, and that’s, that’s hard. OK, well should we sacrifice our ethics and sort of morals to get the job done and to be recognised for it and that’s, that’s a difficult challenge as well” (Greg)

It was generating worker uncertainty over whether to comply or dissent from the dominant discourse and contributing more nuanced and complex forms of professional identity (Baxter, 2011). This tension is sometimes associated with creating ‘third space identities’ in the emerging middle ground:  

“The third space is a mode of articulation, a way of describing a productive, and not merely reflective, space that engenders new possibility” (Meredith, 1998, 3)

Being active in this middle ground may contribute to affirmations of professional worth. A sense of feeling valued came through in workers’ accounts when they broached new ground. They spoke of taking a risk with new projects, leading informal education initiatives in new settings that prompted formal education to wake up to the benefits of informal education and raising the profile of youth work in new arenas such as police custody suites. Sometimes, small changes could make quite a difference as one worker found on reviewing his work schedule to create the space for more continuity in relationship building with young people:     

“Our funders wouldn’t necessarily have said within that work they wanted us to do any schools’ work but what we’re saying is, well if we do the schools’ work that’ll give us continuity with young people; they’ll see the same staff on a regular basis over 12 months so whilst we’re not in their ward, we’ll still be seeing those young people” (Andy)

It was recognised that the youth and community sector was undergoing dramatic change, yet the research participants continued to express commitment to youth work values and belief in the efficacy of their practice. They offered an optimistic view of future prospects:

“There are huge changes structurally and organisationally, huge changes, but when we look at what we actually do, I think we sell ourselves short and I think that we’re already doing a lot of the things that we’re being asked for; it just takes thinking about it a little bit differently so yea in answer to the question, there is light at the end of the tunnel” (Jessica)

References

Baxter J. (2011) Public sector professional identities, a review of the literature, The Open University, UK http://oro.open.ac.uk/29793/  

House of Commons Education Committee (2011, June) ‘Services for Young People’, Third Report of Session 2010-2012, Volume 1, London: The Stationary Office, Ref HC 744-1 http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201012/cmselect/cmeduc/744/744i.pdf

Hoyle E., Wallace M. (2009) ‘Leadership for Professional Practice’, chapter 17 in S. Gewirtz, P. Mahoney, I. Hextall, A. Cribb (editors) Changing teacher professionalism, international trends, challenges and ways forward, Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge

Pope P. (2016) “‘Handing over our ethics?’ Youth work conversations in times of austerity’, Ethics and Social Welfare, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/17496535.2016.1185795

Website: National Citizen Service http://www.ncsyes.co.uk/  

Footnote: A thank you to the participating youth workers whose voices can be heard giving insights into today’s fieldwork practice. The quotations have been anonymised to protect confidentiality. For further information, contact Paula Pope: p.m.pope@keele.ac.uk

Covering over the cracks continued – from Youth Work to Family Well-Being

Following upon Bernard’s criticism of the CYPN ‘evolution of youth work’article, its shallow attempt to suggest that somehow the assault on youth work is not so bad really, I’m copying a revealing exchange from our Facebook page. This conversation was sparked by the following question:

family-network

Ta to dudleycypfnetwork.net

I have asked this question before, but I would like to hear again, as Lancashire moves it’s Young People’s Service and SureStart into a combined ‘Well-being, Prevention and Early Help [WBPEH] Service’. We will be case workers working with families who will be put through he Common Assessment Framework [CAF] as a condition of accessing the service. A caseload of 20 per full time post with 12 weeks to work with each family. All outcomes must meet Troubled Families Unit [TFU] criteria to pull down funding. Plus targeted group work with young people and parents in the evenings. this is what the Level 1 workers ( soon to be Grade 4 NJC) will be doing if on evening posts.
Are you working this way already?
What is the reality?
What is it like to manage workers doing this role?
What are the positives if any?
Have you been able to manage in a democratic way, given the inherently target based approach?
Can you retain the values and empathy of the youth work role?

Oh yes, and did I mention that open youth work would be minimal or non-existent? No? sorry, just assumed everyone took that as read…..

These are but some of the responses, which reflect the shifting priorities and dilemmas on the ground and the continuing integration, even disappearance of youth services/youth work. These scenarios are skated over in much of the debate about whether boundaries should or should not be blurred.

Check out Leicestershire County Council’s model. Sounds exactly the same but did this over 4/5 years ago. The merge was depressing, the youth work became very diluted. Ultimately it is social work but on a very low wage.  I now work in the voluntary sector

I’m Leicester City. We parted company with the CAF process about two years ago and moved towards an integrated early help/targeted youth support model at around the same time. Our full time workers and senior youth support workers are expected to carry a case load of Targeted Youth Support work as well as maintain delivery of open access youth provision or street based work. We’re about to enter into another ‘remodelling’ exercise which is likely to move us further along the road towards a social work lite approach to work with young people. We’re also part way through a process of closing down significant numbers of our youth centres and children centres. Indications are that the focus will be on more generic family support in the future. Crock of proverbial shit and precious little recognition of or support for any kind of critical pedagogy.

Qualification is an issue. As a Community & Youth Worker who has worked closely with Social Workers, I know enough to know that I am not a Social Worker. As mentioned above – deprofessionalisation. I have also worked with generic ‘children’s services’ – and Social Work training is not a suitable background for Informal Education or a group/community approach to intervention. Even superficial similarities can be misleading, with terminology having different assumptions & professional models behind them. I would hope to see ‘conversion’ courses – at PGC to Masters level – for people who already have appropriate Professional qualifications; but I suspect that this will not happen.

I’m in that camp, might as well get a Social Work degree and get paid 5k more. I don’t agree that youth work cannot do same job. I believe our training is better able to tackle social problems inside and outside the home. There are just different forms and approaches!! The danger is the criticism the Youth Work heard about Social Work not being present, available, being human – is that the pressure will turn our services into the same quick fix programme.

There’s no ‘community’ in our practice in Leicester City now. The community development element of our role has been sacrificed in order to free up more capacity to carry ever increasing case loads of Targeted Youth interventions! Since we moved to an early help model, we have no senior management who come from an educational background, informal or otherwise.

Sadly that mirrors the reality of many parts of the country. The first head of the combined ‘Children’s Services’ in one County seemed to enjoy going round meetings telling people the there was no such thing as a ‘Youth Service’.

Caseload of 20! That’ll last about a month. I don’t know anyone in children’s services with less than 35 and most working 40-50. The ideology is corrupt at its base and the methodology employed crap. The reason young people in these programmes and in care for that matter continue to have poorer outcomes is that those working with them are manacled to Key Performance Indicators that have a higher priority than furthering the education and options of the individual they are working with. Following procedure is the mantra, doing what is right for that young people in that place at that time has no credence whatsoever, even if it is agreed, if it’s not in the playbook it’s not allowed to happen, if it is allowed to happen it has to go through 19 layers of bureaucracy by which time the moment is lost and circumstances changed so it becomes irrelevant.

We’ve both worked for the same service for a long time – we are professionally qualified & anything under grade 7 NJC isn’t – we all have transferable skills to do the job – the question is do you want to? Caseloads, line management as a senior practitioner at grade 8 should be you target if you feel you can go forward with the WPEHS – for me it’s not just about paying the bills it vocational as I volunteered for 7 years – I love my job as a youth worker & agree with the above I never wanted to be a social worker & clearly the path to integrated social care is pending –

We still have the semblance of voluntary engagement in our service but this is becoming increasingly tenuous and I would be surprised if this survives the next round of remodelling and reviews and once this has gone, it just ain’t youth work in my view!

The only way to stop Youth Work from disintegrating is to forget informal education and go into desistance theory models. With academization the Education route is over. Youth Work is going to be a useful arm to any service, as we are the profession who knows young people best. The best chance of keeping open access Youth Work is through cosying up to the Youth Justice Board model.

Youth Justice Board don’t do it for me, rather cut loose if that’s all that’s on offer! We are still putting up a fight through my union in Leicester 😉

Quick note to say we need a post on desistance theory, which crudely is about the how young people, in this case, might be encouraged to cease being criminal or more broadly anti-social.

 

 

 

The State of Education: Youth Work breakout group, October 29

anarchist-bookfair

“If education should really mean anything at all, it must insist upon the free growth and development of the innate forces and tendencies of the child. In this way alone can we hope for the free individual and eventually also for a free community which shall make interference and coercion of human growth impossible.”
Emma Goldman, 1906

Message from Tania de St Croix

The ‘State of Education’ collective are inviting all educators, students, youth workers and anyone else interested to a workshop in London on 29th October 2pm-4pm: ‘The state of education in Britain today – how should we respond in light of current neo-liberal reforms and racist policies (such as Prevent)?’ as part of the Anarchist Bookfair.

Everyone involved in, or interested in, any form of education is welcome to come along and it will be a great opportunity for those of us involved in youth work to discuss the important challenges we share with other educators, students, etc, and think about what we can do collectively. There will be some discussion in one group, followed by breakout groups – I am facilitating a group for youth, play and community workers (kind of loosely with my IDYW hat on), so I hope some folk are able to come along!  Feel free to share the information with any other relevant groups or networks you can think of. Thanks!

More information at State of Education. The venue is Park View School
West Green Road, London, N15 3QR