‘its got nothing to do with the cuts to youth services’ – or has it…. ?

‘Its got nothing to do with the reduction in youth services’

At least that has been the governments response to recent news items such as;

The increase in County lines in the last 4 years report 9th feb is here. But its their response after today’s news on radio 5 thus morning.

The increase in knife crime in London

The increase in young people referring to mental health provision the guardian this week, this report this week: camhs figures

and these are just the things in the public media domain…

Anecdotally anti social behaviour is on the increase, especially in areas where the youth clubs have closed down. And where voluntary groups are trying to raise the money to fund a youthworker.

None of these issues have anything to do with the cuts in youth services.. apparently according to every statement on these issues by the current government. They have to say this dont they and its becoming a more than frequent response as every new issue that affects young people comes to light, but …..

The government may have the tiniest slither of a point.

Only a tiny slither.

For it is difficult to say whether cutting youth services would have prevented any of these things happening. All existed before to some level. And measuring open youth work and its preventative possibilities has and still is notoriously difficult.

But what has been removed has been a safety net layer.

But what has been removed was on the ground intelligence (though in the case of Rotherham abuse scansal, the reports by youthworker to services about the scale of the problem were deemed excessive and ‘over-egged’ thus ignored)

But what has been removed was the persons on the ground.

But what was removed was a person who was trying (even in the midst of managerial targetting) to put young people first

But what also happened when the youth services closed down was that young people realised that they were the first to be targetted when priorities of budgets were set.

Young people realised that the government really does not care about them, that society doesn’t care and they were merely pawns in a bigger game they have no control over. No voice and no autonomy.

Maybe none of these things matter to the young person carrying drugs around the counties, or waiting to be seen by a mental health provider (again if there are any dedicated young person mental health provision left) , or the young person carrying a knife.

But what’s also been taken from many communities is the person who might facilitate a coordinated response to these issues who has a young person focus. Someone who not only contributes but for whom it’s their job to coordinate and facilitate. When in some cases a police, health or education perspective might not cut it (at least not always).

It would be disengenuous to say that youth services would have prevented any of these things happening, that as we know would be difficult to prove, but then not everything is easy to prove especially preventative work with young people, still far cheaper than reactive and targetted work, that has limited if only short term results.

If the reduction in youth services isn’t the issue, say the government, then I’m so glad that NCS is having such a positive effect on the most needy of young people. Guess it went for the most vulnerable after all- just those who needed a confidence boosting few week programme. The NCS person or programme doesnt have ‘the whole community’ at heart, neither are they on the streets being involved. They, like many others are detached from the real action, and trying to get numbers for a programme.

We’re never going to know if cutting youth services contributed to the issues young people are facing. Whats done has bern done. What we do know is the cost for young people, in every family, every wasted day waiting on a list, every day travelling around as a drug carrier is a completely dehumanising and degrading experience that could be prevented.

What is happening is that over professional services such as schools are spending their budgets on extra provision to back fill (see my previous post here, based on reflections from a small NE town ) so there isn’t a cost saving. It’s just money being shifted around.

Cutting youth services haven’t had any effect at all? Really, conservative government are you sure?

If nothing else the budget reducting austerity chickens are coming home to roost, and it’s not looking good.

In a digital culture, is youthwork stuck in the dark ages?

The days are gone where youd just pull up a pool table and have this kind of open space where there was chaos’

This was a reflection to me, from a community member, recently when talking about young people in a community in the north east. In a way, i could see the persons point, in a ‘digital age’ what point would table tennis be in an age of facebook, snapchat and other entertainment?. In another way, it also kind of revealed that to many people and this person included youthwork was the youth centre. Youthwork is the mobile youth centre that goes into the community. Youthwork is the facility. And though that missed the point, youthwork being the approach that uses the table tennis, or space for conversation. The persons reflection raised the question;

Has youthwork got to leave the dark ages, to have a future in a digital age?

In their recent statements of intent, the campaign group In defence of Youthwork made public their 16 point proposal for the future of youth work in the UK, a link to their post is here: It is about re-imagining the new future for youthwork, and states the following:

  1. Youth Work’s fundamental aspiration is profoundly educational, political and universal. It seeks to nurture the questioning, compassionate young citizen committed to the development of a socially just and democratic society. It is not a soft-policing instrument of social control.
  2. YouthWork as an integral element in education from cradle to grave should be situated in the Department for Education.
  3. The rejuvenation of a distinctive, state-supported Youth Work focused on inclusive, open access provision needs to be based on a radically different and complementary relationship between the Local Authority and a pluralist, independent voluntary sector.
  4. The renewed practice needs to be sustained by statutory and consistent funding, the purpose and allocation of which ought to be determined locally via accountable mechanisms, such as a democratic Youth Work ‘council’ made up of young people, youth workers, voluntary sector representatives, managers and politicians.
  5. Collaborative work across agencies is vital, but youth workers need to retain their identity and autonomy rather than be absorbed into multi-disciplinary teams.
  6. Youth Work should be associational and conversational, opposed to oppression and exploitation, collective rather than just individual in its intent, unfolding at a pace in tune with the forging of authentic and trusting relationships with young people.
  7. Cornerstones of practice should include the primacy of the voluntary relationship; a critical dialogue starting from young people’s agendas; support for young people’s autonomous activity, for example, work with young women, Black and Minority Ethnic and LGBTQ+ young people; an engagement with the ‘here and now’; the nurturing of young people-led democracy; and the significance of the skilled, improvisatory worker.
  8. The informed focus on young people’s needs flowing from open access provision is more effective than imposed, targeted work in reaching ‘vulnerable’ youth.
  9. Youth Work does not write a script of prescribed outcomes in advance of meeting a young person. It trusts in a person-centred, process-led practice that is positive and unique, producing outcomes that are sometimes simple, sometimes complex, often unexpected and often longitudinal. Practice must be evaluated and accountable, but not distorted by the drive for data, the desire to measure the intangible.
  10. Training and continuous professional development, particularly through the discipline of supervision, via the HE institutions and local providers is essential for full-time, part-time and volunteer workers in ensuring the quality of practice.
  11. JNC and other nationally agreed pay scales and conditions need to be defended and extended. However, a respectful engagement with the differing cultures and employment practices of voluntary and faith organisations, with the contradictions of professionalisation, is required. The emergence of independent social enterprise initiatives cannot be ignored.
  12. Closer links need to be renewed and created between the Youth Work training agencies, regional Youth Work units and research centres.
  13. Youth Work needs advocates at a national level, such as the NYA and Institute for Youth Work, but these must be prepared to be voices of criticism and dissent.
  14. Irrespective of Brexit, Youth Work ought to embrace the Declaration of the 2nd European Youth Work Convention [2015] and be internationalist in outlook.
  15. The National Citizen Service ought to be closed or curtailed, its funding transferred into all-year round provision, of which summer activities will be a part.
  16. The renaissance we urge hinges on a break from the competitive market and the self-centred individualism of neoliberalism and the [re]creation of a Youth Work dedicated to cooperation and the common good.

In case you hadnt noticed, there is nothing here about the ‘good old days’ of the open youth club, the table tennis table or the tuck shop with over priced mars bars. There is a sense that re-imagining is what needs to happen. In my previous post here, I reflected on how other service providers are now using the language of youthwork, without the relationship or philosophy of it, in their work with young people, such as teachers and police, and many voluntary groups and churches have been part of the ‘youthwork’ scene for a while, and at least they have had some training in its philosophy. However, critically, whilst the approach and philosophy of it remains crucial, there is a sense that as youthworkers the methods of how it is done may have to be re-imgained out of the dark ages.

But that doesnt meant that we avoid the dark spaces, the places in between, where no other organisation fears to tread, and i dont mean the streets, or the night time, necessarily- as it may even be that there are fewer young people out on the streets that there used to be. (i think in pockets this is changing, as young people are rejecting indoor technology). And so, the time, the place, the space and the method might indeed cause others to worry, but that may be where we have to go.

That place might be the afterschool time, the before school time, the lunch break or other time, it neednt just be the late evening.

Bubbling around for really only the last 10 years is the digital connections youthworkers make with young people. And the ethics of these are not to be repeated here, but in some way we might want to find a way of developing connections with young people that are consistent with the philosphy of youthwork practice, somehow, that isnt deemed unsuitable, grooming or something else. Could there be a ‘digital youth club’ a space for young people just to be in with a range of other young people? How might that work or be realised? How might it retain the safety and informality of the public space and the full humanity of that space too? Just a thought an idea. If that space doesnt exist in the normal apps and programmes, then maybe its in need of being created. But what else might be needed, if youth work is required to ‘leave the dark ages’?

What if it doesnt? What if the future of youthwork is not that different from the strengths of its essence, the purpose of its intentions and its dream for a better world for young people to be participants within. That doesnt seem dark to me, its hopeful and promising. The only thing, in reality that needs to leave the dark ages is the prejudice that people have of young people and the youth workers themselves who represent and stand up for them. Youth work is naturally futuristic, we need to think that change can occur and keep dreaming the possible. Yes, the methods may have to keep adapting, the practices creating space in the new times for the magic of it to occur, and the environment to be realised that causes it. But leave the dark ages?

The problem is less that youthwork needs to leave the dark ages, is that what the open club did was create the space for participation that this persons was asking for. In the dark ages is a perception of what youthwork is all about, the non-descript open youth centre that was a haven for poor behaviour. It is that perception that needs to be resigned to the dark ages, what this person and what youthwork is all about it is nothing other than bringing a perception about young people right up to the future, the cooperation, creative and participative potential that young people, and a political endeavour that this is. It is continues to be futuristic and youthful to continue to believe in the ideas and possibility lying dormant in every young person. In the dark ages is the seen and not heard, the voiceless or the consumer young person, and resigned there, to rot. In the digital space, much that positively young people do is create narratives, create community and contribute, thats what we all probably want, significance. Young people are finding it online, like many of us are, and this same significance might be what youthwork is about.

Does youthwork have a future in a digital age?  It might need to harness what young people find and do online, but ultimately its not what it believes in needs to be resigned to the past, as young people in the future need youthworkers more than ever (its just being ‘covered’ by other organisations, see linked post above) – what needs to be resigned to the dark ages is the attitudes about young people, and also the perception of the old battered youth club. That old battered youth club fostered the kind of conversations that forged youthwork relationships. And those relationships hosted and fostered the potential of young people. And that is timeless.

IDYW: A 16 point pledge to Re-imagining a new youth service in the UK

I am sharing this statement of purpose from In defence of Youthwork on this site, Tony Taylor has on many occasions shared my reflections on youthwork and faith, it is simply right that for young people in the UK that a coherant informal universal youth service is established, and done so on the basis of the 16 statements agreed at the recent IDYW conference. Please do engage with the statements and join in with the campaign all details below, a healthy and sustained youth service might, just might be one answer to some of the issues facing young people in the UK. Even if you read this blog as someone from a faith perspective, a joint desire to instil good youth practices in the UK should be a positive ambition whatever your perspective on youthwork or ministry. Anyway – here is the statement below:

Find below the 16 Starting Points, which reflect our IDYW interpretation of the rich debates held both under the ‘Is the tide turning?’ banner and at our March national conference. We hope that you will find them useful as a reference point, as an aide-memoire, in the diversity of meetings you’ll find yourself in during […]


‘Albermarleys were dead to begin with…’ A Youthwork Christmas carol.

Albermarleys were dead to begin with’,  Image result for christmas carol

Rang the sound in bells that hung over the town. It was Christmas eve and the workers at The department of education were still hard at it, while the rest of the village gathered festivities and trees and danced upon ice and shopped and smiled, but not those education workers who did the accounts and balanced their books. At the front of the wall above the desk, on a moth ridden wall was a dusty old photo of the recognisable face of Margaret Thatcher, and in front of the workers, with head cowered low, was the latest of leaders to stand in its shadow. Its currently Justine, but used to be Govey or Ken, or even Alan, or Charles, or David or Estelle. Theyve stood in that pose. That stance.

And faced all the workers, and dreamers and thought – ‘How can I get them all to do more, and make more and get better results’, so they set out a plan, with that picture behind them, to fill jobs in the factories, and offices and workplaces, and everything else to go by the wayside. So they churned out assessments and targets, and examination boards and projects, to keep children busy and focussed and work ready. Everything about work, supplying the workplaces, children just numbers, to spend less money on but get more ready for work.

And now it was Christmas eve, in the town, and the workers were still driven, by the picture on the wall and the threat of an Ofsted. Justine was driven to do extra tomorrow, and make them all do the same.

‘But Miss’, one worker cried. ‘Its Christmas eve, do we really need to come in tomorrow? We’ll not get any data, the school are all closed, not even the pupil premium ones are open? There’ll be nothing to do?’

‘Rubbish’ Justine cried, What would Thatcher do? she thought, There was still work to do, like the data on outcomes and business plans and truancy to spin, for quiet news days and a parents to sue, for taking their kids out of school last week. And a plan to distance the government from failing academies that they set up. There was work to be done, and she was about to demand that they stay in when, again that voice from the floor said; “its a big office, and think about all the money youll save on heating it for a day, money to go on your expenses account, cant we just have one day off?’  So Justine sighed and relented and said, go on then, take the day, but youll be back here for boxing day, and youre not having a teacher day in May this year. And she looked up at the picture of those thacherite eyes and mentally apologised.

So they all left, including Justine. Well nearly, but a group of young people were standing at the door, singing Christmas carols, slighlty off key, but enthusiastic. When she opened the door, as their singing got louder and louder,  she noticed their clothing, some tattered, some battered, but scruffy, and spots on their faces and no woolly hats on a day that was frozen, but she screamed at them, saying ‘Why are you here – is there nothing else you could be doing?, Have you no homework to do, or exams to revise for or assessments to complete?’ And she looked at their cap with a fiver not much more, hey youth wheres your aspiration, you could do so much more! . The three youths stopped singing and said, but Miss, you closed our youth club, last year, in the big freeze of ’14, and theres no one to talk to and no where to go! So we’re here singin’ tryin’ makin’ a livin’, our Mams at the foodbank and we’ve got no turkey, and our families at home all wrapped in a blankey’

Justine was cold, and hardened and said to the youths, ‘Get out of my way ive no time for snowflakes, or trouble, or youths with no future’, and she stormed down the driveway to her home round the corner, leaving trails of snow dust and flustered and graceless she got to her door yet it all looked strange, see the wreath that she had on the door, in the dusk seemed to look at her funny, and it looked like a pigs face, and reminded her of someone she once knew.

To the kitchen went Justine, pouring a glass of merlot, with a chunk of fresh bread and some cheese to the fire she did go, when a knock at the window caught her attention, and she toughened again not used to commotion. For, behind the curtain came a voice she once knew, she thought it a prankster, but it was not she went phew. Though scared though she was, the voice still and gentle, and out from the curtain came a recognisable figure. All at once Justine sat upright, for she did discover, that it was no other than remainer Ken, the Clarkmeister, who said, ‘beware Justine Greening you’re about, to be visited by 3 spirits who’ll cause you to doubt, the effect of the work that you forcing on others, though cut backs and efficiency and targets all over. Be warned and ready, they’re all on their way, to meet you right here when the clock strikes eleven! Leave me, cried Justine, it cant be all true, and Ken did as she said and he left her alone, with the cheese and her bread.

Afraid did she go, upstairs in a shiver, and hid neath the bed, and dreamed in a dither. But just at eleven, as the clock it did chime, the first movement she felt in her room at the time. It was nothing she thought, as she opened her eye, and she saw a dark figure in the corner, and she asked ‘who are you? ‘

The lady went close, in her dress and with handbag, and said to Justine: ‘I am Lady Albermarle, I am the ghost of youth work past’ , ‘Lady Albermarle, ive not heard, of you, or who you are, or youthwork’, said Justine, ‘so why bother me? is it the cheese ive been eating or the youths ive been treating?’

‘Come with me’, and she held out her hand, to Justine and they moved, out the window and, up into the sky, over hedges and fields and farms to the city. ‘Where are we going, what land are we in?’ Thought Justine, as the City grew large, and dark, and grey and the smoke filled the sky, and was busy again.

With a delicate flutter they landed quite soon, near a gutter and children playing with spoons, ‘Welcome to the past Justine, this is London its 1860, and look theres Thomas Guthrie, his school is just there.’ They peered through the window at an ordinary shop, and saw grubby boys topless making shoes with a chop, of leather and cloth and threads and stitching, learning a trade, and working the kitchen. This schools for the boys, Lady kept on going, like the singers from earlier, they’re grafting and making and learning all here, theres nothing else like it, cept the one down the road, for poor boys and beggars to do work or get clothed.

Its good said Justine, ‘Im glad them so helpful, the Guthries and others, so willing and able, to solve these poor problems and make these boys stable’. ‘were not finished here yet, theres more to this story, and the ghost whisked poor justine back up and in flight, to a buiding still grey in the cool of the night. ‘not here’ said Justine, ‘I cant go in there’, for now Justine saw, all jagged and concrete, was the youth club from rotherham and the distant beat, of music and dancing and memories come back, of the stories that others would tell her in school, of the dances and chances they took, in the youth club each evening whilst she was in books. Do you remember this place? asked lady A, of course I do said Justine, ‘all my friends loved coming here, but i wasnt allowed, I had to read, and study, for I was going places, and was better than them’. Though there was one occasion I secretly went, sneaking out of my window and followed a gent, to the youth club we stumbled, and inside we fumbled, and danced till past nine, but as we got back all sweaty and silly, i tripped in the driveway and made such a racket, that trip was the last one, as i was all for it. ‘No more’ said Justine, ‘Ive had all my fill, of youthwork past and the stories that chill, I see how it gave, young people a space, to learn and to do things, and safe, but it wasnt for me, or the future I wanted, but what happened since, is this club still here? dont tell me its gone now, all housing and cleared?

‘That is all from me’, Lady Albermarle recounted, ‘from here Im all done’, as she whisked Justine clear, of streets in the ghost light and over the roofs, ‘See that place’, just there? That the YMCA, and inside I hope, is guidelines I wrote, on the welfare of youth, their education- and social and moral voluntary dedication. But thats my time over, ill hand you all back, to the house with the pig face and merlot and cheese, for soon will be time, for the clock to start ticking, the chime will be 12 and then youll be wishing, that youd been more careful in thinking of youths, for then who will find you but present day youth work, all tidy and ‘shoes’.

Flee, thought Justine, it couldnt get worse, her fears were all realised when she looked through her purse, to the photo of Graham, the gent from the youth club, the place of her childhood she never could frequent. Her Graham was gone, it gave her a shiver, to ponder the moments of joy all a dashed, when tick tock the clock went, and as Lady A said, the floorboard did rumble at 12 like large thunder. Now blinded by white light coming towards her, was all prim and proper a man in a suit, with briefcase all dapper. ‘Oh’ Said Justine – who are you? I expected much more, from the light and the thunder and its only you. Said the man, ‘I am NCS’ I come with a bluster, all flashes and bells but really just usher, for I am the ghost, of youthwork present which favours the most.  Favours the most, said Justine, I know what you mean, the achievers, and star rated and none in between? Follow me NCS and we will go places, and do things and meet people and then you will see, how your confidence grows, but for now let us go!

And the ghost of youthwork present to Justine, on tour, of projects and places and groups all a tither, for no where they landed, was overly keen, to share of their story, or how life had been. ‘Wheres fun and the music?’ said Justine, this all feels like school? and NCS winced, for this he had seen, of teachers dictated the youths to be seen. I cant see the romance, or skiving or laughter, in heres just a programme with certificates all after! for NCS cowered and took poor justine, to the room with the admin and files to be seen. Heres all our guidelines, and policy frameworks, and targets and numbers and perks, if we reach them and get all these youths, to complete all these programmes to suit, the funding requirements, for all of this costs, two grand per student and not just two cents, and thats all we charge them, with subsidies from current government.

Justine relented, she’d now seen enough. ‘But what of the youth clubs, all homely and rugged?’ for NCS laughed- ‘theyre all gone now, the one round the back, is now just a car park, flattened to make, this school even bigger for all it now takes, the children till 18 and wrap around cover, so parents can work and get child cover’. ‘Thats tragic’ cried Justine, what can we do, is there anyone around who knows what to do?

‘My time is near done’, and NCS ran, away from Justine, for he had to go, his time nearly over, he’d been caught red-handed with money to burn, the tide now shifting and he hadnt earned, respect from the youth, the troublesome ones, the scruffy or cold, the singers or sold, for he as he said was there for outcomes, and those who he knew. So Justine now wondered and wandered around, hoping for someone who’d find her and ground, this story of youthwork, which might have a future, and look who is this, coming down from the sky?

At first she did wonder for two men did she see, and behind them there stood, those youths from who were signing, that we saw right at the beginning. Oh here we go again said Justine, those youths dont leave me, but hey who are you and where will you lead me?

‘We’re Jeffs and Smith, and we’re the ghosts of youthwork future, we’re telling you know, the dreams not all over, there can be way, that wreckage you saw with the NCS suitors, its not the end, theres others who do this. You know that old pigs head, the one on your door, well Camerons his name and NCS gave, himself a good reason for splashing the cash on a programme for youths, and closing down centres and buildings galore. Some closed forever, and ripping the heart, of the youth work profession that start-ed, with things you have seen, education in shops and clubs in the towns and doing the jobs, but now for the future, the dreams havent died, of empowering youths to do what they try. And Jeffs and Smith glided, poor Justine a curveball, to local church halls and room with a sofa – ‘here you go Justine, look at this project, they’re doing the youth club with limited profit, they pay low wages, or get student placements, all so that young people arent stuck on the pavements.  And some of them go, to the outside and wander, the streets of this city in case they might flouder, upon more young people lost, or choosing to be there’ . Justine looked proud and thanked the youth leaders, who graciously smiled but then said, ‘can you hear us? look at our funding, our financial muster, we try and keep going but likely to be busted, we thought wed get funding, big society promised, but really that vanished, and all that is left is a room full of passion, of volunteers trying, is this the real action?

‘Is this it?’ – asked Justine, ‘the future not rosy, its run on a shoestring with nothing to offer?’ Its back like it used to, the shop with the old man, with youths quite bedraggled away from the structures. Oh you see it now, said Jeffs and Smith fuller, weve one place to go now, youll like it i wonder. So from there on a journey they soon did discover, they were back in their old streets with snow and ice cover.  The singers they led, from the road to a door, which opened to find, their parents and some, more young people around, a table and fire, and at one end they saw, the unmistakable figure of the worker who asked, that question before. And next to him sat, a child looking paler, the sparky but whitewashed Tony Taylor, who sat at the table next to his father, hoping for lunch for he was still starving. As the guest they all stood, and then that they saw, the worker and tony stand up near the door. ‘Lets raise up a glass, to Justine our saviour, her wages have brought us closer together; this food though it little, we dont need much more, the foodbank still helped us, fill up in the store’. But nobody noticed, that Justine was still there, with tears from her eyelids and pink in her cheeks. She ran down the back streets and into her house, and said No more, i cannot go on, ignoring the issues the youth all still face, of poverty, hopelessness, judgement and fear and no chance of housing when costs are so dear. I work them too hard, and youthworks the answer, to give them some freedom and space to cluster.

And Justine ran to her office and tore down the Thatcher, and screamed its all a lies, this work and money and capatalism, its not humane, its work and work, work. Now on its about worth, an dignity and hope, and youthwork again will funded by state, ‘I’ll go even further, ill give it a future, ill make it again, an educational venture!’ And the young boy and girls will have somewhere to go, and somewhere to learn about life and its flow, ‘we’ll make it informal, about education, not removing the need for voluntary participation’.

She ran down the street, to the house, with a turkey, and opened the door and saw all of the party, the youths who were singing and making a racket, and though taken aback, when she asked, she built them a youth club, and funded forever, the youths of the streets were happy there after.

‘And little Tony Taylor- did he die?’

No, of course not. He ate the turkey and grew up strong and became the youthworker in the town. This tales over, its run out of gas, Justine she repented and opened a class, full of young people needing more care and attention, and love and support and dedication. Youthwork is not history, the ghosts are defeated, its future is rosy, sadly,if only. Its sad but its true, this storys all fiction, though the first bits are true. Happy Christmas to all, the youthworkers in sight, the dreamers and carers and fighters for right. One we might see it, the ghosts laid to rest, and youth work is given the governments best. But young people they ignored, or sugar coated, and only acknowledged when Corbyn they voted. What now for the future, and 2018 and whats to discover of youthworks fate?


The 12 youthwork days of Christmas

Image result for 12 days of christmas


altogether now…..


On the 12 days of Christmas my youthworker gave to me…

12 annoying icebreakers

11 months of funding

10 broken ground rules

9 (or ninety) games of ping pongImage result for table tennis

8 hr sessional contracts

7 jeffs and smith books

6 franchise projects (speaking of which..)

N….C…. S…….  (or if you cant bring yourself to say NCS, say D…B….S instead)

4 smart objectives

3 supervisions

2 junior leaders

and (deep breath) an annual report for the charities commission!

Just getting in there early with a bit of Christmas cheer, I hope your end of term, last few sessions, staff meal outs, final mentoring group for the term goes well, and that you have a restful and positive Christmas, ready for the challenges that 2018 might bring us all in the youth work community. Thank you for reading, sharing and being part of the ongoing conversation in youth work in the UK and I hope reflections from this site have been useful for you this year. Happy Christmas!

ps. this might not be the last post this year….

We shouldnt knock NCS, its the only good thing this government has done for young people in 7 years.

Earlier this week I was having a pretty down sort of day, nothing major in the major sense of the word, fed up, half way through a fairly quiet/dull week off annual leave and hadnt really done anything, then a few money worries added to this, and I played and lost a game of tennis against my son, less out of physical inability just mentally not in the right place. And in that ‘place’ I wrote my previous piece on the pending demise of NCS, and it was a brilliantly executed piece of prose, full of humour, wit and intelligence that was then shared around the place a bit. However, it was also hugely critical of NCS, a programme that has already taken a substantial knocking from the youth work fraternity. That post is here: https://wp.me/p2Az40-17V  

And, as a i reflected i realised, that, like many programmes, franchises and projects that are subject to funding outcomes and objectives, they are often delivered by people who try in the main to do a good job, despite circumstances, who have livelihoods, and who are doing what they can despite this to help young people. So, on the record, its not the persons who deliver or work for it that are in any way the problem.

Theres a long standing tradition also, for youth workers, teachers, social workers to be critical of government policies, funding and strategies that dictate the nature of, or termination of their work with young people. And so, in the spirit of trying to provide a balance, of criticism which is easy, and praise in the current circumstances, which might be more difficult. I put out on social media earlier, the following question:

How has this government in the last 7 years have improved life & opportunities for young people in the UK. Are there any examples? 

It comes in a week, when there might be many children who have parents who are 6 weeks without income due to universal credit, children who have had their exam grades all changed in the most recent GCSEs, young people who are waiting 18 months for mental health appointments and assessment and the rest, removal of EMA, restriction on housing benefit, increase in youth homelessness…, But what about the good things this government has done for young people?

These were the responses via social media;

  1. ‘Increase in the personal tax allowance. So yes, if young people have a low paid job, they can keep a bit more before tax. ‘
  2. Apprenticeships are better.
  3. ‘im struggling to think of any… NCS?

It is not a scientific survey i realise, but in 3 hours this is all the responses i have had, and NCS was one.

When I thought about it earlier today, NCS was the only thing I could think of.

It gives young people and their parents a 6 week course for £50. It might be easy to say that the tories have rescued the economy, to help young people in the long term with jobs/housing/health but they actually havent, an admission that Theresa May is making continuously, as if she wasnt part of the last 6 years. There may be a few other policies, practices or interventions that have been good for young people that have gone under the radar, but with every service for young people subject to targetted outcomes and inspection, its only young people who lose out, outcomes become the focus, ask every teacher, social worker, youth worker.

NCS is a metaphor in itself of the way in which the government views young people, an economic entity that can be fixed in 6 weeks. Then it reveals much. That NCS is deemed the best thing that this government has done for young people in the UK is an ironic indictment of how forgotten young people are in society. The government is about to wash its hands of NCS and hand it over to local government. Not wanting to be responsible when the ship sinks, currently it stinks.

Maybe the only good thing this government has done for young people, has enraged them. Whisper it quietly, but political youth culture is making a comeback.


Mourning the expected death of NCS

We should be getting ready for the tragic and solemn occasion of the end of the NCS programme, probably by the end of 2018. For, now that the governments flagship programme for young people has been subject to ‘efficiency savings’ in the last three months, been requested that the narked off voluntary sector support it and signpost young people to it. Today it has been announced that the drastically underfunded local councils are being asked to support it, in again directing young people to it. So, council youth workers, who have had to scrimp and scrap to find work since the governments decimation of youth services ( via local funding under allocation of funding), now are now tasked with inheriting a responsibility for a government programme that was initiated as a replacement for youth services in the first place.

The details are here: https://www.cypnow.co.uk/cyp/news/2004389/government-calls-on-councils-to-take-on-ncs-role

I guess it is only one step away from local council having to directly fund the NCS programme. Thats local councils who are happy to plead to national government for rebates for social and elderly care. But do that for provision for young people. Unlikely. And Im not sure there’s a great energy in the country to invest in young people via local council funding, weekly bin collections might be at risk. (A daily mail recurrence). Theyve already had extra, any for NCS might be extra. But oh look, NCS might be in the ‘statutory’ funding category. As important as schools? – really?

So, if local councils have no funding for youth work, and are now not far off taking on NCS, ‘the governments flagship, expensive, £50 per student, 2 week ‘confidence building experience’ for young people- programme’. Then start booking the halls, medals and services for the sad ending of NCS. For anything that overpriced, that under subscribed, that badly organised, that in need of sales staff to recruit young people (still being recruited here: https://www.vonne.org.uk/jobs/customer-service-advisers-3727, if you want a job selling a programme on commission to young people) that subjected to efficiency savings. Is about to have its plug pulled. If we as youthworkers dont commemorate its closure, then its fairly likely that its 4 year tenure is barely going to register in national significance for national mourning. Save a few young people who enjoyed and had a fun time, a few communities that had a few projects start, and a few parents who paod £50 for their kids to have a cheap holiday. But no national outcry, no pleas or marches. No, another neo liberal project that commodified and targetted young people by politicians who have no idea about young people, youth work or community education, young peoples needs, gifts or possibilities – a project with only enforced take up, and limited results, ending without whimper.

Now i may be wrong on this, and theres time for a dramatic comeback. But theres a hammer already starting to knock in the nails to the coffin that is NCS. Its time was never here, before it was already over. Next time government, and local government, treasure what you already had, invest in it, believe that youth workers might know how to help young people flourish, not programmes, but spaces of interaction, and where young people are the focus, not the boxes that other people tick that try and ‘show progression’ or outcomes.

There might be a few hundred young people with fond memories of being on NCS, though in the future most of them can d a programme at the local YMCA, princes trust, or something else. Private charities already provide this thing. The pending downfall of NCS, might it is hoped cause government and local government to prioritise the youthwork provision that once was. Much of which helped with many of the issues that young people are showing in greater abundance than before, such as mental health, exercise and social interaction – all helped by being involved in local community groups and social groups, and being involved in voluntary play and activity and learning.

Its a long shot, and less certain than the pending termination of NCS. Going but not forgotten. Not forgotten by those whose jobs and careers it brought to an end. Not forgotten by the many who see it as a flagship of neo liberal and economic capability that directs youth work provision by successive governments. Many who are in the ‘we told you so’ camp. Sound the last call, and the final trumpet. The smell of death is stenching around NCS.

 A follow up to this post, ‘we shouldnt knock ncs, its the best thing this government has done for young people’ is at the following : click here