Valuable pieces of research, analysis and history have hit the stands in recent weeks. All of them are significant in their own right, but in addition provide important material for the In Defence of Youth Work debate and campaign.
- Bernard Davies and Brian Merton in partnership with the De Montfort University, Leicester have published ‘Squaring the Circle? Findings of a ‘modest inquiry’ into the state of youth work practice in a changing policy environment’. They begin by stating, one of the starting points for this piece of work has been our personal and professional concern that youth work as a distinctive practice is being written out of the current policy script. They end by pondering , what will the long-term consequences be for youth work of its location in local authority structures focused mainly on prevention and rehabilitation rather than on education and personal and social development? However this is but one conclusion in its closely argued, evidenced and readable pages.
- Hard on its heels we’ve received An Enquiry into the development of a Continuing Professional Development framework for the Youth Work profession, written by Michael McAlinden, the Training Development Officer with the Youth Council for Northern Ireland. This is particularly welcome as it tackles directly the question of whether youth work is a distinctive profession as well as giving us an insight into the Northern Irish situation. He begins, the development of a continuing professional development policy (CPD) is a priority for the youth service in NI and the rest of the UK. The CPD agenda is currently being driven by the sector skills council (SSC) Lifelong Learning UK (LLUK) as part of a project for the whole of the LLUK footprint as laid out in its Sector Qualifications Strategy document. However youth work suffers from a crisis of professional identity. Anecdotal evidence suggests that youth work is at times viewed as something of a ‘pseudo profession’. Fundamental to this belief is the question of professional expertise.
- Continuing the Irish connection we’re pleased to receive Deena Haydon’s thorough and challenging Background Paper to the Include_Youth_Manifesto for Social Justice in Northern Ireland. At the heart of her argument is the clash between ‘justice’ and ‘welfare’ strategies. In a ‘justice’-based approach, children in conflict with the law are defined as ‘children in trouble’ and the responsibility of the criminal justice system. The emphasis is on public protection and prevention or reduction of offending, with decisions made through the due process of the law and administration of punishment to fit the crime committed. In a ‘welfare’-based approach, children in conflict with the law are defined as ‘children in need’ and the responsibility of children’s services (e.g education, health, social care). The emphasis is on care, protection and diversion from the criminal justice system through providing support to children and their families to help them access the services they require and develop strategies to deal with their circumstances.
- Finally Doug Nicholls draws our attention to his new history of the Community and Youth Workers Union, Building Rapport - a specialist trade union that has regularly punched above its weight. On a personal level I look forward eagerly to getting my hands on a copy. I was a member of the union across a turbulent decade in its history, which witnessed its negotiation of a rocky path from CYSA to CYWU; its adoption of a radical constitution, which prompted a failed right-wing coup; and its rejection in late 1988 of a proposal to merge with NALGO. It will be fascinating to read Doug’s version of these events and, of course, the earlier and later happenings in the organisation, which has recently celebrated its 70th birthday.