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About this book

Youth work is a means of promoting learning, equality and inclusion with young people. It is an incredibly rewarding profession; however, state regulation means that youth work students and practitioners must continuously wrestle with the challenges of contemporary practice in environments that are complex and changing.

This book brings together a collection of voices to speak to these concerns. Drawing on the history of the profession, each chapter focuses on a different aspect of policy and practice. Chapters explore the impact of New Labour; the changes that came with the coalition government; youth work in the voluntary sector, and youth work in a digital world. Graham Bright concludes with a powerful reflection on what the future holds for the profession. Each chapter features 'Over to You' activity boxes which invite readers to engage collaboratively in developing and applying ideas, with case studies which link discussion to real life examples.

This is an important book for students, practitioners and lecturers in the field of youth and community work and related practice with children and young people.

Table of Contents

1. The Early History of Youth Work Practice

This chapter seeks to unpack something of the early history of youth and community work, from its beginnings as a grass-roots social movement that sought to address the basic physical and educational needs of poor and working class young people, to a reframing of practice in the latter part of the nineteenth century which increasingly focused on meeting the social and leisure time needs of adolescents. The chapter argues the influence of particular historical and contextual themes in youth work’s emergence, and encourages readers to make connections between these themes and contemporary experience.
Graham Bright

2. State Beneficence or Government Control? Youth Work from Circular 1486 to 1996

This chapter explores the development of English youth work from World War II to the Thatcher-Major era in the mid-1990s. During this period, youth workers attained some recognition as ‘public professionals’, a corpus of both established and newer occupations that became involved in the management and regulation of broad territories of social life: health, education, housing, urban planning and so on. Youth work (and, especially, professional youth work) offers an example of how governmentality (Dean, 2010) has shaped modern liberal and, latterly, neo-liberal Britain.
Simon Bradford

3. In the Service of the State: Youth Work Under New Labour

Youth work, as with many of the liberal professions, generally finds a stronger affinity with social democratic parties. Youth workers’ daily confrontation with the effects of social structures on the lives of energetic and able young people, together with their intimate experience with inequality, frustrated ambition and truncated opportunity, tends to make them look for governments that will attend to those issues. After 18 years of Conservative government, including the relentless ideological and policy storm of the Thatcher years (1979–90), the accession of the Labour Party to power in 1997 was widely welcomed in the social services sector, including among youth workers. But, 10 years later, when I arrived in the UK, youth workers across the board were expressing a deep disillusionment with the Labour Party in general and its current administration in particular (see also Lister, 2001). What happened? What was the promise, and how was it unfulfilled?
Howard Sercombe

4. Volunteers and Entrepreneurs? Youth Work and the Big Society

There are the things you do because it’s your duty. Sometimes unpopular — but you do them because it is in the national interest. And yes, cutting the deficit falls into that camp. But there are the things you do because it’s your passion. The things that fire you up in the morning, that drive you, that you truly believe will make a real difference to the country you love. And my great passion is building the Big Society.
Tania St de Croix

5. Local Authority Youth Work

In many ways, the day-to-day youth work undertaken within a local authority context is the same as practice within a voluntary organization, with both working across a wide range of styles and approaches (centre-based, project-based, detached, targeted, universal and so on). The conversations and interactions follow a similar rhythm. Many of the aspirations, dilemmas and difficulties will be familiar across both streams. However, organizational contexts have a significant impact on practice. For the statutory sector, this relates particularly to the immediacy of government policy to practice in local authority contexts where significant aspects illustrate Smith’s notion of professionalized practice (Smith, 1988). This chapter considers the current features of local authority youth work in England by drawing on professional experience and empirical case studies to map what is happening within different local authorities.
Pat Norris, Carole Pugh

6. Youth Work in the Voluntary Sector

One of the main features of the voluntary sector in Britain — and the voluntary youth sector, in particular — is its diversity and breadth. This diversity manifests itself on a number of different levels:
  • Its size — ranging from small, local neighbourhood projects to large national bodies with international affiliations.
  • Its main functions — for example, delivering direct service, advice, mutual aid and infrastructure functions for affiliated bodies.
  • The way it is managed and resourced.
Equally as diverse are the meanings of ‘voluntary organizations’; the term is often used interchangeably with ‘not-for-profit organizations’, charitable organizations, the Voluntary and Community Sector (VCS), or the ‘Third Sector’ (as it became known and re-branded under New Labour). The Third Sector, thus redefined, incorporates a wide range of different organizations, including social enterprises. Some would argue that the term ‘Third Sector’ does not capture the breadth of what voluntary organizations contribute to civil society as it disproportionately focusses on larger organizations that deliver services, at the expense of smaller organizations that are ‘owned by [their] members’ (Open letter to Lisa Nandy, July 2014).
Ilona Buchroth, Marc Husband

7. Uniformed Youth Work

In April 2013, Durham District Scouts opened a new Group in Coxhoe. As local authority youth centres across the North East of England closed and paid workers were made redundant, a 105-year-old organization was attracting young people and their families to wear an orange and blue neckerchief, and the Scout badges.
Jonathan Roberts

8. Youth Work and the Church

Faith-based organizations — and, churches in particular — have a long and rich history in youth and community work that represents a significant kernel from which other practice has grown. Indeed, research by Brierley (2003) and Green (2006) suggests that churches and other Christian organizations have long employed more youth workers than other sectors. The current climate of austerity that has attempted to decimate many treasured public services, including youth work, has led to a renewed interest in and reliance on faith-based practices (Stanton, 2012, 2013). The relative political independence that Christian youth work enjoys continues to harbour many of youth work’s core values from the policy initiatives that have attempted to erode the profession’s traditional practices, which are founded on relational principles that seek to promote learning, democracy, justice and action. The New Labour settlement which funded youth work to act as a faceded plaything of social engineering did much to undermine truly relational ways of working. Since the late 1990s, language regarding society in general, and young people in particular, has become sometimes subtly, and more often overtly, rhetorically discoursed: a theme that has become increasingly cutting in Cameron’s ‘broken Britain’. The young in general, and those from disadvantaged and marginalized backgrounds in particular, have been castigated as ‘socially excluded’.
Graham Bright, Dave Bailey

9. Questioning ‘Muslim Youth’: Categorization and Marginalization

This chapter counters contemporaneous academic and professional commentators, who have mirrored the Western media, in effectively depicting Muslim youth as folk devils. Militancy, extremism and terrorism have been themes underwritten by narratives relating to violence, cultural conflict, generational confusion and religious fundamentalism. These can range from being largely implicit to more or less explicit premises. Hence, the ‘young Muslim’ is the product of a range of social forces and, generally, a complex mythology; a caricature of the reality of the actual experience of young Muslims. This group has thus become a constructed ‘other’; collectively, a social object made into an archetype by the remote gaze of the analyst.
Brian Belton

10. Re-Locating Detached Youth Work

Street-based Detached Youth Work is often referred to as either the primary, or the only form of Detached Youth Work practice. Undoubtedly, street-based Detached Youth Work remains the dominant form of Detached Work practice in the UK and will, therefore, be a central focus of discussions within this chapter. However, a broader vision, and definition, of Detached Youth Work will be proposed within which street-based Detached Youth Work may be viewed as one of a number of approaches.
Michael Whelan

11. Youth Work in Schools

This chapter will consider the inherent possibilities and problems in conceptualizing youth work in schools. It will examine potential synergies between a curriculum for educational youth work and contemporary curricula in school education, drawing on the emerging Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) as a potentially useful means of facilitating social change. The chapter will explore some of the ‘hidden knowns’ that youth workers routinely apply in practice encounters including school settings. This exploration suggests that while these ‘knowns’ contribute to practice, they can also limit perspectives on whether youth work can be authentically conceptualized in a school setting. Current changes in policy direction for formal schooling across the UK bring into focus different ideas such as free or home schooling, and identifies new roles and possibilities for youth workers in schools.
Annette Coburn, Sinéad Gormally

12. Youth Work in Digital Spaces

This chapter will use Bronfenbrenner’s model of ecological environments (1979, 1994) to explore how the idea of ‘digital spaces’ impacts on traditional notions of youth work practice, presenting questions and challenges for both youth work and youth workers in relation to engaging with young people in the ‘digital age’.
Jane Melvin

13. In Search of Soul: Where Now for Youth and Community Work?

Batsleer (2010: 153) argues that youth work presently ‘occupies an ambivalent space’ in which its very essence as a discrete emancipatory educational practice is threatened. The struggle for youth work’s future, however, must be understood, debated and framed within wider critical analyses concerning the realities and direction of contemporary society on national and global levels (Davies, 2013). Contributors to this text have skilfully outlined the nature and development of youth work by drawing on both the richness of its history and the diversity of its contemporary practices. In doing so, they have articulated something of the necessity and value of youth and community work to a society increasingly experiencing the tensions of present-day flux, in which uncertainty, excessive individualism and isolation are the by-products of a postmodern reality, where neo-liberally framed ideologue appears an unstoppable and unchallengeable force (Sallah, 2014; Winlow and Hall, 2013). It is a power so unchecked that it challenges the very fabric of our society, and weakens both social bonds and the very basis of the democracy we treasure. Traditional forms of democracy are undoubtedly floundering (della Porta, 2013). Differences between major political parties are so wafer thin that conspiracists might legitimately have a field day. Governments have limited sway over what happens within their own borders; but, where it still can, the state utilizes its various apparatus to govern more punitively while presenting an illusion of individual freedom wrapped up in an agenda of diligent responsibilization.
Graham Bright
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