With further reductions in Youth Services I continue to be intrigued by the concept of Big Society and how this is portrayed by some as the panacea to all the financial reductions. Now – don’t get me wrong, I’m all for contributing and volunteering in your local community and believe voluntary youth services are particularly strong. It’s just that basing policy and services on the assumption that people who volunteer will want to do more, with little to no funding and do what we would like them to do has the potential to be either the most amazing idea ever or one that is fundamentally flawed. I tend to err towards the later.
As we move to Targeted Services due to funding reductions we are withdrawing from the universal delivery of generic youth clubs in the more affluent areas of the county. This affects many of our rural villages. With this in mind I am one of probably many who is working with volunteers within local villages to see how they can take on the running of the local youth club. The meeting the other evening was a great example of what individuals are prepared and not prepared to do. The group are really keen to ensure that the club in their village remains open. They want to do as much as they can to do this and want us to work with them to find youth workers. However they are also really clear that they can’t do this without support and involvement from ‘professionals’ who know about systems, policies and how to work with young people. We are able (at the moment) to offer advice, guidance and support and have also pointed them in the direction of voluntary organisations working in this field. However whilst they are happy to volunteer they don’t want to have to take on responsibility for employing staff, health and safety both on and off site….and the list goes on. Members however are equally clear that we can no longer employ staff to undertake youth work in these areas and that all the work is the responsibility of the volunteer groups. Impasse!
In some of the areas under discussion there are small groups of young people who have quite challenging behaviors. The group are aware of their limitations and can’t understand why we are looking to them as volunteers to deliver what they believe is an essential service for young people that should be delivered by those qualified to do so. This resonates for me with what Nick Wilkie wrote last September:-
“Nobody has suggested that our banks, for example, should be led into recovery by armies of well-intentioned volunteers. So surely we don’t think that equally complex social ills can be remedied entirely without professional expertise and full-time commitment?” (See full post here)
Local communities know this, volunteers know this, we know this and yet still we march towards the dismantling of universal services regardless of the potential damage this may cause. In the meantime the local communities and I are still meeting to see what we can create in spite of policy, the Big Society, and other good (?) intentions because we all know that at the end of the day the ones who are going to miss out are those most in need of support, encouragement and opportunities – young people!
Happy 2009! I hope that you had a good break and enjoyed whatever festivities you took part in. Here’s to a great 2009 with lots of new and exciting adventures in youth work!
Following on from my random posts before Christmas I thought I would keep giving a round up of how things are progressing down here in the South. I had a really successful meeting before Christmas (for me success was measured in the short time it took, the participation of members, and the amount of work done!) concerning the development of our LGBTU strategy. We have split the group into sub groups which are going to focus on Events / Social activities, PR and writing the actual strategy. This has been helpful in that it has really focused the work and enabled a group of us to start moving forward on developing different aspects. We’ve an update meeting at the beginning of February which I think will be very positive especially as there are some practical aspects within the strategy that we are developing that we can move on quickly.
As an aside for those of you that don’t know and might be interested February is LGBT History month which gives us a great opportunity to encourage youth workers to explore LGBT issues, homophobic bullying etc and look at ways in which they can challenge stereotypes, promote equality and work to prevent discrimination. There are a number of resources available as follows:-
For those based involved in school based youth work (although there are good links to other material) http://www.schools-out.org.uk/
For more general resources there is:- http://www.lgbthistorymonth.org.uk/resources/books.htm
And another site for more information:- No Outsiders
As I was driving in to work today I was listening to the Today programme on Radio Four where there was a discussion about how the public condemn all children and young people. The discussion was centred on the release of Barnardo’s Children in Trouble Campaign which includes a provocative video clip .
As well as using language that has been used in the press about young people on the video the campaign includes a survey that was undertaken to check out these expressions. In one instance more than a third of the adults questioned agreed with the statement that the streets were “infested” with children.
What I found intriguing about the interview / discussion was the blanket view of David Fraser, a senior probabtion officer, who feels that perception doesn’t matter compared to evidence in the real world and continued to talk about young people being a ‘problem’. I was very surprised at this however being prepared to be challenged, I wondered whether we do make too much of an issue about the image of young people? Are we really making too big a deal out of perceptions? Are there examples where postive impressions of young people have made a difference to the community?
Personally I believe that perception is an issue. Frequently I come across areas where young people are viewed negatively and are perceived to be the cause of all the problems a community is facing. When you drill down it transpires that it is a few young people who are causing a few of the problems, not all of them. Young people and children are often represented negatively in meetings I attend in a way which wouldn’t be allowed when discussing the elderly or other groups of individuals. So – what do you think? Should we or shouldn’t we worry about perceptions?
For those of you who haven’t picked it up yet Hazel Blears is blogging this week here on Communities and Local Government. An interesting exercise where she is looking for information and feedback on the Communities in Control, real people, real power (white paper).
I’ve been very interested to see the white paper and in particular to note what has been written concerning young people. There is an element that I am confused by in the statement in 4.19 where it states that
“The Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) has provided discrete funding for young people to control – the Youth Opportunity Fund and the Youth Capital Fund. These funds will enable local authorities to develop new approaches to strategic investment in youth activities and facilities, particularly in deprived areas.”
As a local authority managing the YOF & YCF we have worked extremely hard to ensure that the funding has gone to grassroots level and engages with as many young people as possible. To this extent we have 24 young people led forums which are true to the nature of the fund where young people have the responsibility for bidding into and allocating such funding. What I am confused by is the second part of the statement concerning the use of such funds to strategically invest in youth activities and facilities? This leads to some interesting conversations concerning who has control of such funding and how we involve young people in making decisions that are truely theirs or token only? Or indeed how do we influence and encourage them to make strategic decisions? It just leads me to wonder whether there is a true and clear understanding of how these funds are managed across the country.
I was also interested in the section about Empowering Young People . It (more…)