THE OPEN LETTER

This is the text of the original Open Letter, which launched the Campaign at the beginning of 2009. Clearly we were overly optimistic about the possibilities created by the banking crisis of 2008. On the other hand we stand by its analysis and its intent, its desire to resist the assault on the youth work tradition, which continues unabated.

IN DEFENCE OF YOUTH WORK

Thirty years ago Youth Work aspired to a special relationship with young people. It wanted to meet young women and men on their terms. It claimed to be ‘on their side’. Three decades later Youth Work is close to abandoning this distinctive commitment. Today it accepts the State’s terms. It sides with the State’s agenda. Perhaps we exaggerate, but a profound change has taken place.

This shift has not happened overnight. Back in the 1980’s the Thatcherite effort via the Manpower Services Commission to shift the focus of Youth Work from social education to social and life skills was resisted. In the early 90’s attempts to impose a national curriculum on the diverse elements of the Youth Service ground to a halt. However with the accession of New Labour the drive to impose an instrumental framework on Youth Work gathered increasing momentum. With Blair and Brown at the helm youth workers and managers have been coerced and cajoled into embracing the very antithesis of the Youth Work process: predictable and prescribed outcomes. Possessing no vision of a world beyond the present New Labour has been obsessed with the micro-management of problematic, often demonised youth. Yearning for a generation stamped with the State’s seal of approval the government has transformed Youth Work into an agency of behavioural modification. It wishes to confine to the scrapbook of history the idea that Youth Work is volatile and voluntary, creative and collective – an association and conversation without guarantees.

For many within the work this has been a painful period. For many there has seemed to be no alternative to making the best of a bad job. But History is an unruly character. In the space of only a few months everything has been turned upside down. Capitalism is revealed yet again as a system of crisis: ‘all that is solid melts into air’. Society is shocked into waking from ‘the deep slumber of decided opinion’. The arrogant confidence of those embracing the so-called ‘new managerialism’, which has so afflicted Youth Work, is severely dented. Against this tumultuous background alternatives across the board are being sought. We believe this is a moment to be seized.

Our contention is that we need to reaffirm our belief in an emancipatory and democratic Youth Work, whose cornerstones are:

  • The sanctity of the voluntary principle; the freedom for young people to enter into and withdraw from Youth Work as they so wish.

  • A commitment to conversations with young people which start from their concerns and within which both youth worker and young person are educated and out of which opportunities for new learning and experience can be created.

  • The importance of association, of fostering supportive relationships, of encouraging the development of autonomous groups and ‘the sharing of a common life’.

  • A commitment to valuing and attending to the here-and-now of young people’s experience rather than just focusing on ‘transitions’.

  • An insistence upon a democratic practice, within which every effort is made to ensure that young people play the fullest part in making decisions about anything affecting them.

  • The continuing necessity of recognising that young people are not a homogeneous group and that issues of class, gender, race, sexuality and disability remain central.

  • The essential significance of the youth worker themselves, whose outlook, integrity and autonomy is at the heart of fashioning a serious yet humorous, improvisatory yet rehearsed educational practice with young people.

Such a definition is at odds with much that passes for Youth Work today. But, as we have suggested, this is the time to challenge anew the new managerial attempt to make Youth Work the servant of the Market. To give some examples, we need to question:

  • The shift from locally negotiated plans to centrally-defined targets and indicators.

  • The growing emphasis on identifying the potentially deviant or dysfunctional young person as the centre of Youth Work’s attention.

  • The increasing incorporation of youth workers into the surveillance of young people, perceived as a threat to social order.

  • The insidious way in which delivering accredited outcomes, even if only on paper, has formalised and thus undermined the importance of relationships in the work.

  • The distorting effect of identifying individuals as suitable and urgent cases for treatment and intervention, ‘to be worked on rather than worked with’.

  • The changing role of the youth worker, from being a social educator to a social entrepreneur, submitting plan after bid after plan, selling both themselves and young people in the market-place.

  • And finally, but not exhaustively, the delicate issue of to what extent professionalisation, hand in hand with bureaucratisation, has assisted the suffocating grip of rules and regulations upon the work and played a part in the exclusion of the volunteer, once the lifeblood of the old Youth Service [see Jeffs and Smith 2008: 277-283].

Of course it is easy to spout rhetoric on paper. Doing something solid with this analysis is another matter altogether. This is especially the case, given the very different settings occupied by youth workers today. Without doubt the space to duck and dive, to argue and criticise, varies enormously. Yet this very diversity lends weight to the proposal we would like to make, which is quite simply that we must come together to clarify what is going on in all its manifestations; to understand better how we can support each other in challenging the dire legacy of these neo-liberal years.

If we possess the wit and energy to do so, we will not be alone. Organised, dissident resistance is growing. Adult Education, devastated in the name of vocationalism, is reviving at the grass roots. The Social Work Action Network opposes managerialism and marketisation, the stigmatisation of service users . Closer to home the Federation of Detached Youth Work describes its members as neither social entrepreneurs nor social spies, but democratic educators. The National Coalition for Independent Action campaigns to reassert the autonomy of voluntary groups. The Youth Work unions are having to counter savage attacks, as in Coventry, upon young people’s provision and workers’ conditions. All such opposition offer the chance to ‘join up services’ under our own steam, under our control, on our and young people’s terms.

If you sympathise with and support the position set out in this Open Letter, we ask you to join with us and sign up to its intent. In doing so, you are not agreeing to some party line. There is so much to think through together. However, in doing so, you are lending your voice to what might be a radical revival of a form of Youth Work that wishes to play its part in the creation of a just, equal and democratic society.

Criticisms welcome, but if you feel able to put your signature to this Open Overture, please inform Tony Taylor mailto:tonymtaylor@gmail.com

Reference

Jeffs, A and Smith, M. [2008] ‘Valuing Youth Work’, Youth &Policy, 100:277-302.

23 comments on “THE OPEN LETTER

  1. Elaine says:

    Here’s a public consultation that may interest those involved with youth and childrens rights as well as the young people themselves.

    A young person’s version of the consultation text will appear on the site shortly.

    http://www.dcsf.gov.uk/consultations/index.cfm?action=consultationDetails&consultationId=1607&external=no&menu=1

    For a shorter URL

    http://tinyurl.com/dlklgw

    Regards, Elaine

  2. Lenny says:

    I’ve only just read this “open letter” by Tony Taylor. Spot on! An excellent reflection of the tragic state of youth work today. It’s as if Tony has stood up from the heaving crowds and pointed out that the Emperor is in fact in the buff and looks a right t!t.

    It’s a fantastic battle-cry, Tony. The problem arises, of course, when you look around to find the crowd have continued to cheer the Emperor and ignore your very existence. When you ask people to stand up and be counted, I have a sinking feeling that our minority status may well have reached a state of statistical impotence. As I’ve said before, youth work (“real youth work”) is a lonely place to be.

    I wrote a paper in 1999/2000 as contribution to the work being carried out by Blunkett’s Skills Policy Action Team. It was largely an empirical piece focused on the particular barriers facing working-class young males entering into education, employment and training (sound familiar?). The conclusions I came to at the time were that youth work was aspiring to the same dizzy heights of the Social Services – loosing connection with the world outside whilst wallowing in the esoteric ambience of Über-professionalism. I was quite bitter back then. Of course, when Blunkett’s response was to create the bewildering marble temples of the criminally irrelevant Connexions Service… well, I almost imploded.

    One day, when it is far too late, someone, somewhere will listen to the very basic laws of nature. It doesn’t matter how much you polish and decorate your systems, your procedures or your policies, it is the relationship between worker and young person that is the most essential factor for effective youth and community work.

  3. Tony Taylor says:

    Lenny

    In truth, as I drafted the Letter, I was deeply uncertain about what might be the response. My own experience across 40 years in and around Youth Work is of being a member of a minority pursuing in practice what we call in the Letter ‘democratic youth work’. This has seemed to be the case even though the training agencies have by and large promoted such a form of youth work. On the other hand I wonder if the present crisis holds out the possibility [as a first step]of renewing local. regional networks to bring together this minority. As things stand I’m holding on to some optimism about the number of people coming forward to be counted.

    I love some of your turns of phrase, particularly ‘ the esoteric ambience of Uber-professionalism’ and your concluding sentence, which I will quote frequently in the coming weeks!

    Have you still a copy of your 1999/2000 paper? Is it worth republishing here?

    Hope you can make one of the regionals and together we can be less lonely.

    Tony

  4. Lenny says:

    Hi Tony

    Kind words. It’s nice to receive a little empathy when even sympathy is hard to find these days. I doubt that I still have a copy of my paper. I gave Leeds Met Uni a copy and Northern College had a copy but it had limited impact (people either loved it or didn’t get it at all). I’d like to get my hands on a copy so that I can see what I used to sound like 8 years ago. I will try to attend one of the regionals. I’ve been trying to provoke debate on the CYPN forums but it’s very slow. Maybe I need to be a little more provocative. Any response is better than no response.

    Later

    Lenny

  5. michael wellington says:

    Great defence, yes youth workers have become servants of the state, given up on working with YOUNG PEOPLE, working within unworkable deadlines, and moving at one hundred miles an hour, within building any relationships with young people, and as you mention the obsessive nature of accredited outcomes. The people who are at the top have a totally different perspective and reality of youth work principles, and only see or use their positions to better there CV and career paths with little regard to YOUTH WORK AND YOUNG PEOPLE. HOW DID WE GET TO THIS, WHY DID WE ALLOW THE POWER MASTERS,UNIONS ETC to deliver us into turmoil
    yes we need to share some of the blame, but we can make a start to rectify the position that we find our SERVICE IN.

  6. Stevie G says:

    Tony

    A noble defence of Youth centred youth Work practice and whilst I agree with many of the principles about approaches to youth work you seek to defend, I think this is yet another case of too little too late. Remember, many of the youth workers who may have started out with those very same princilples are now the senior managers and policy makers who are driving the new agenda and the disconnect from traditional youth work values. Its like ‘yeah, we hate whats happening with the kids man’ but we are quite comforatble going along with it and whining quietly about the erosion of our values and practice; the impact of this new way of working on young people and youth workers alike until the shit hits the fan and we finally cotton on to whats been happening – like the frog in the boiling water!

  7. Lenny says:

    Seems like we’re all pretty much agreed. Rather than repeat myself I’d like to quote one of my recent rants…

    “I get the feeling that I’ve been climbing a mountain for fifteen years only to find that the f#**#rs have build another mountain on top, twice as big and twice as steep. I don’t think I’ve got the mental and physical energy to climb anymore.

    So, metaphorically the mountain represents the daily grind of wading, chest-high through bulls#!t. I’ve got a mental image of the summit. The clarity is startling. But that’s just a vision. The reality is a jumbled mess of strategic clichés. There’s an enthusiastic buzz in the meeting room about a new initiative. It sits well on the handouts and the power-point presentation is dynamic. The power suits love it. They are impressed. They can wallow in that warm feeling that resembles post-coital languor. They eagerly display their new buzz-words and acronyms like kids display the labels on their designer clothes. I look forward to the meeting in 2 months time when we hear the feedback that despite the fact that they displayed the posters, posted the leaflets, spent £200 on a buffet, £80 on renting a room and £100 on hiring a scratch DJ… no one turned up. I could tell them now but that would be arrogant, negative and curmudgeonly.

    So I’m looking up at the mountain. The lofty peaks of middle-class strategy; the precarious ridges of output driven work; the sheer-face obstacles of tedious bureaucracy; the harsh climate of prescribed funding…. and I think, why can’t someone just give me the money and the resources to work with marginalised young people? I’ve been doing it for the last 15 years and to be honest, it’s a piece of p#ss.

    Does it sound treacherous to declare my contempt for the ECM agenda and everything it stands for? I have to be careful about this. I feel as though I’m offending some deeply religious principle of some deeply religious disciples. The last time I publicised my thoughts I destroyed all chances of ever securing employment with my local authority.Somethings gotta give. I’ve been at odds with the system for the past 15 years, in fact, we now seem to be walking in opposite directions. I’ve tried to push against it but it’s too big. I’ve even tried to ignore it but the fact is it owns the tools that I need to do my work. The system seems to have got much more aggressive over the years. It wears an imperious sneer and it keeps wasting vast amounts of money on initiatives that defy logic. And this is where I am f#ck@d because I have one of those heads that refuses to engage with the illogical. So it isn’t that I won’t play it’s more that I can’t play.

    I think one of the main problems we now have for reclaiming effective youth work is that it has been (and still is as I type) travelling in the wrong direction at 100 mph. And to be honest, there’s nothing left to reclaim. The management structures have all been recruited and constructed on the basis of their administrative strengths. They fear innovation because innovation is unpredictable. Face-to-face youth workers seem to be judged on their ability to gather information and on how much bullshit you can fit on a monitoring sheet.

    So, to the creation of a parallel youth service. One which engages with real young people with real issues. Leave the more functional kids to the existing youth service. They can wallow in accreditations and create school councils for every day of the week. Have youth workers got the b#ll@cks to effect change? Are there enough “real” youth workers left who give a sh!t?”

    It’s a pretty simple diagram. The more you get involved with the strategic levels the further away you move from the reality of your purpose. The closer to front-line delivery you work, the more ridiculous the strategic aims look.

    I found myself caught in a rather surreal situation earlier this week. I turned up for a meeting which I’d assumed was an amalgamation of the Youth Network Meeting and the Area ECM meeting. I arrived to find the local Youth Service Area Officer sat at the table who was under the impression it was the Safeguarding Partnership meeting. We were then joined by one of the school’s Educational Psychologists who thought it was the Health Network Meeting which would then be fed into either the Safeguarding Partnership Meeting or the Higher Safeguarding Childrens Board. To confuse matters even more, a family support worker turned up and asked if we were attending the “Healthy Weight” strategy meeting. The Area Officer explained to her that the “Healthy Weight” strategy meeting had been incorporated into the Health Development Partnership meetings. Over the following 10 minutes I watched bemused as they all gave their loose interpretations of what they thought was the aim of each of these forums. Finally, the Centre Manager arrived and told us the meeting had been cancelled. He hadn’t got a clue either.

    • Tony Taylor says:

      Lenny, Michael and Stevie G

      Apologies for this belated and brief response to your challenging comments – a bit upside down because of family illness.

      I’m not sure whether the In Defence intervention is too little, too late. In a sense it depends on what our hopes might be. At this point I’m comfortable with there being a diversity of desire within the campaign. For my part I have a pretty humble aspiration, which is that a genuine and long-lasting network of support for a democratic youth work practice will emerge; that such a network will work at both a local and national level; that it will bolster efforts to create pockets of oppositional practice within the present structures, at the same time as subjecting the status quo to the type of withering criticism offered by Lennie; that it will explore the possibility of renewing autonomous youth work free from bureaucratic control, ‘a parallel youth service?’. In contrast I believe other people will feel that we must press for profound institutional reform. All this needs to be argued through over the coming months. For instance I’m open to being persuaded that mainstream youth work can be transformed. For now my commitment is to the encouragement of the widest and deepest critical debate possible.

      Tony

  8. janey says:

    I feel slightly conflicted when I read this. Whilst part of me reads the initial call, and thinks ‘absolutely, I agree’, I remain concerned that we don’t get overly purist in terms of making sure that walls are not built to further divide an ever more divisive and divided field. I don’t want to risk creating a ‘closed’ shop, and I recognise that that isn’t the purpose. I guess I always wonder who the ‘we’ is, and what is this ‘youth work’ ‘we’ defend?

    In my own work I started off in youth homelessness, moved to drugs education, then detached work, some centre based work. At points I’ve done what might be seen as falling short on paper at least of the sorts of definition of ‘youth work’ under the guise of targetted work. At these points neither my job description or person spec would say ‘youth work’. However I would always self define as a youth worker, and one that is engaged in critical practice at that. I also sense the real tensions for middle management in getting squished from targets / funding from above, and the tensions in developing a practice in line with a critically reflective praxis.

    I re read Aiming High for Yp today. I was trying to see glimpses to find a way through the policy rhetoric, so we might bend it/ rewrite it/ rethink it. Then I read the Youth Task force action plan and a creeping dread returned… just some thoughts…

  9. Lenny says:

    Maybe it’s just question of perspective but I had always seen youth work being on the outside of a wall built by statutory services. The most effective measure for integration (surely) would be to lower the height of the wall but instead we seemed to have been deployed to positions within the walls.

    I don’t know what youth work is anymore. It always seemed to be a bit of an ethereal and transient concept even before it was transformed into a statutory service. My own mission is defending the effective methods for contact and engagement of marginalised young people. And this is based on simple process of analysis. I compare my experiences of needs-led youth work with experiences of prescribed youth work and conclude the latter is actually a barrier.

  10. Becca says:

    It’s great to hear people’s comments and passion, and to know we’re not alone in trying to uphold the esscence of good youth work and the intrinsic values that make it work.It has always been built on good relationships and not quantifiable outcomes for me, and I will argue to the death about the work I do which is about quality not ‘quantity’.
    With this in mind,it does seem crazy that as someone who works for the third sector with a large group of BME young people who don’t and wont access any other youth services as they don’t cater for their needs, that we constantly fight for funds for a worker and have to justify the need for our provision. And also not paid even to National Youthwork standards. I love my job, and I know how blessed I am to be trusted by my management, and left able to work from the heart (and head)moment by moment and do the best for the young people, but I do wonder what will happen when funding runs out again…working within the restrictions and unrealistic demands of the youth service is not an option I wish to consider for my sanity’s sake…
    Needs-led youth work is the only way forward – it’s really not rocket science – it’s definatly time to stand together and make our voices heard as one on this.The profession needs to be given the respect it deserves, and the skills, judgements and experience of Youth Workers to be recognised, not wasted. It’s never too late for change, let’s be honest stranger things have happened!!
    Anyway, just meant to say i’m totally with you on this!

    Cheers,
    Becca 🙂

  11. David West says:

    I found the comments about the meetings very funny and enjoy the same surreal experience on a weekly basis in my own area. Added is the one-up -man -ship of using information as weapons of ” I know something you don’t know” putting all those who aren’t aware of the new strategy meeting to discuss 13 or 14 to 19 or 25 strategy alongside the IYSS. The new group is setting up to discuss who should or shouldn’t join the group who decides the terms of reference of this new group. Never, ever are the means of addressing issues young people face discussed.
    However, here in this neck of the woods we are debating the specification of youth work. the vol sec and the LA sitting around a table spitting at each other. “You’ll have to do what you are told” snipes the vol org member to the Principal Youth Officer. ” We will not!” is the retort, exactly as I would find a discussion in a junior school play ground.
    Youth work is being carved up and put out to tender, commissioned out, procured under procurement rules, competitive selection, and put onto some tendering website. Youth work is being specified by speculators of youth work, described by SMT members and Vol Sec business people as units of work costing x amount of £ with a need to have a percentage of delivery on a, Youth Task Force Agenda, Friday Night. Youth work will be done to young people when the are told what to say when asked: Friday , Saturday nights please and can we do some accredited work please with certificates, they are told to plead. Our specification includes EET and RPA meaning youth work is getting young people into Education Employment(with training) or Training to meet the Education specification the youth service has tendered for?
    In fact youth work is for Ed Balls to describe so our SMT and Volsec to jump up and say “I’ll do that,” “sir can I do that”. How sad youth work has reached this pitiful level where jobs and mortgages depend on terms of reference of unimportant meetings.

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  13. Amneet says:

    I have recently started my MA in Youth and Community Work and I find the issues discussed to be quite fascinating and indeed true. The values and core ideologies of youth work are increasingly blurred and we are conflicted by trying to keep them alive and between the so called prescribed outcomes we should adhere to. The sight of what is really important seems to have been lost. Its a sad yet familar story…keep up the good work government!

  14. EJKeeling says:

    I’m currently starting on my second module of the MA course in Youth and Community Work at Newman, Birmingham. We have been talking today about Principles and Practices of Youth and Community Work and how the five values of youth work outlined by Jeffs and Smith influence practice. We also touched on the fact that roots of practice and personal roots are, in effect, ‘watered’ by these values. It struck me that when talking about roots in an area as multiculturally diverse as Birmingham, there is a whole discussion to be had with young people about what they themselves value in youth workers they come into contact with.

    Seeing government cuts and how their services are being stripped and pared down must feel like they are not valued properly, but also have a detrimental effect on their sense of belonging in a community when somewhere where they have begun to put down roots is being pulled from underneath them. It leaves me with the question, is it any wonder that there is a lack of self-worth amongst young people in Britain? Maybe I am generalising but having gone into various schools and spoken to young people after doing workshops on healthy relationships, I am devastated by the surprise reaction when I am genuinely interested in what they think about themselves. The repetition of the words ‘I don’t really matter’ is devastating.

    Whilst many adults see antisocial behaviour as a response to young people feeling they have ‘the right’ to do as they please, I find myself wondering if actually it is a reaction to their lack of self-worth which will surely only be worsened as their roots are further shaken when youth services are ripped up.

  15. di26 says:

    At present I’m on my first year study in Youth and Community Work (JNC) and have recently experienced my first tangible evidence of how much youth work principles are being targeted and redeployed from their own values and tenacity of returning something back to the young people and communities who they value.
    I was disheartened at the recommendations and meanings I heard from Central Government policies and how they are going to employ them into practice. This was fundamentally flawed and presented a lack of any reassurance for the young people and where they were emerging from. In continuing to act as an “agency of behavioural modification” I started to question who actually determines what behaviour is appropriate and what rational is behind actually endeavouring to modify young people’s behaviour.
    Young people are losing their rights to cultivate and to develop who they want to be, and are constantly being regulated, converted and amended to encompass a “One size fits all” .
    One size does not fit all and all the variances should be esteemed, revelled and not diminished to a communal image, where peoples own identity and ethos is being disorientated due to this modification.

  16. sophina says:

    I am also a first year student studying youth and community work (JNC). Upon reading all previous comments, i feel enlightened about the current climate youth work is in. Within the compound of university I felt that I understood, but since becoming part of my placement I have become more empathetic and not just sympathetic towards the passion and ideology of what youth work truly stands for. First hand I have already experienced the conflicting motives that are occurring between the LA and the youth service.
    Although I am relatively new to youth work my past experience is within schools, I felt restricted inside the boundaries of formality and felt that an invisible barrier was being produced due to the focus being solely on academic performance and conformance. Targets and curriculum took over the wants and needs of each individual child, and for those whom may of needed a different approach, were put on an IBP or EBP then passed on to others who can be bothered.
    I have come to find that the ‘others’ meant youth workers I feel that the amount of psychological, sociological and philosophical experience that youth workers have less not forget the passion for each individual young person has been underrated by the dominant discourse of the majority of society. Thus discrediting the skills of a youth worker and furthermore demonizing specific young people. Youth workers at present are between a rock and a hard place. deadlines and targets defeat the values of what youth work is really about.
    I totally agree with Tony’s open letter and can see the frustration that seems to be falling on deaf ears unless more youth workers come forward and point out the pink elephant in the room the methodology will be lost.

  17. catherine norman says:

    I have recently started my degree in Youth and Community and find it very sad the state of youth provision at the moment. I already work with young people and obviously experienced cuts to budgets etc, since starting this course it has emphasised even more the need and importance that something needs to be done and quickly. This week i visited a local youth centre with it being half term i expected to see some young people. I did not see one young person which really surprised me and left me wondering where and what are all the young people doing. I do feel that the service has turned into a target driven service with deadlines and bums on seats attitude which is not what effective youth work is. What happend to the humanistic approach, detached youth work, working with young people and building positive relationships to help both youth workers and young people move forward. I couldnt agree more with the open letter a true reflection on what it has become.

  18. daryl-B25 says:

    I am a first year student studying Youth & Community work at Newman University in Birmingham. I also work as a Project Worker and have been in my current post for several years. In that time I have experienced first hand the dramatic shift in the state of modern day youth work.

    Youth Work is no longer about the voluntary relationship between the worker or young person and is ever more less about the individual needs of the young people we are supposed to informally educate. Instead Youth Work finds itself and its core principles and values caught up in bureaucratic red tape where outcomes models, targeted work and the monitoring and labelling of young people such as NEET’S is becoming increasingly more standard practice. The needs of the young people as indviduals is at a loss within the whole process.

    Youth Work is fast becoming everything it is not meant to be, governened by Politicians, outcomes, statistics and Policy initiatives. In my opinion It seems that our profession is at a critical point, where those who govern will furthermore aim to formalise it with regulation and policy so it is looked upon as some form of alternative education to school, with the emphasis being on the social inclusion of the young people they demonise and label in the first place.

    Tony’s open letter is spot on and a true testimony of the state of youth work today. If things do not change dramatically, the core principles and values which youth work is based upon will be a distant memory.

  19. Hannah says:

    I have only been engaged in Youth Work for the past 3 years, and have worked for a Local Authority and a third sector organisation commissioned by the LA for the duration. As such I have never experienced the type of open, un-targeted and needs-led service which Tony and my mentors recall fondly. However, I believe that until policies change, it is down to individual youth workers to maintain democratic and anti-oppressive practice within the confines of outcomes and funding restrictions. I have worked with youth workers within the LA who clearly emanate this ethos, and youth workers who clearly do not.

    At the centre of youth work has always been the relationship between youth worker and young person. Youth workers are the driving force of youth work and we must not compromise our integrity.

  20. ajones says:

    I have also recently started my first year at Newman University doing a Youth and Community degree. I don’t have as much experience as others but I have worked in schools and government funded products before the course. Personally I don’t agree with youth work becoming formal, the whole reason is that young people can come and go as they please, which means they can speak to you when they are ready rather than forcing them. Yes things change over time but there are certain things that are being changed to benefit everyone but the young people and youth workers. The principles and values of youth work are slowly becoming lost within the system. To me it seems the government just wants boxes ticked rather than taking the young person into consideration. Equally as youth workers it should be us that makes sure that young person is being looked at holistically and not just being seen as another number.

  21. H says:

    I have to say that from my recent experience, youth work has diverted from the the basic relationship between worker and Youth, to now of something with too much emphasis on principles and policies. This to me proves that the nature of youth work today has been severely misinterpreted and we need to go back to its main and basic purpose of building relationships (between workers and young people) in order to create an educational function, that’s what youth work was based on originally. Going back to basic principle is the way forward!!

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