March ‘Mezes’ for the Mind

I keep neglecting the Collective’s Blog because of the demands made by the In Defence of Youth Work Campaign. Fortified by local wine and plates of  bits and pieces, μεζές in Greek, namely octopus, spinach risotto and a mixed salad, I’ll try to pull myself together and leave aside, for now, the growing social and political crisis in Greece.

First off, a contemporary slant on the long-running issue of whether to introduce a form of Community Service for our young lasses and lads

Towards a national civic service, a piece by Andy Mycock, begins:

The Youth Citizenship Commission report published last year highlighted that party politics in the UK often overlooks younger voters and politicians marginalise youth-focused policies in favour of older voters who are seen as more reliable in turning up at the polling booth. At first glance, the forthcoming general election promises a campaign that could prove somewhat different. Concerns over the social and economic impact of youth unemployment and the possibility of another ‘lost’ generation suggest that Labour and the Conservatives are giving greater emphasis to policies that directly relate to young people.

However, though the gloves may not be officially off, there is little to suggest that the election will be defined by a new politics whereby young people are consulted on the policies that will shape their own futures. Instead, political parties appear prepared to outline top-down solutions to provide solutions that seek to placate the concerns of older generations. Youth-focused policies from the two main UK-wide parties reproduce a familiar binary whereby young people are both optimistically lauded as beneficiaries of a new ‘age of aspiration’ and also pilloried as anti-social miscreants who ‘blight’ communities with no fear of ‘real punishments’.

Go to

I’m still chasing the promised second part of this analysis.

Secondly, a few challenging articles from Justin Wyllie, which make sometimes uncomfortable reading.

ISA – The ‘Independent’ Safeguarding Board

The ISA scheme will be beginning to take effect this year. This scheme takes CRB checks to a new level. Interestingly, as far as I can tell the CRB regime was based on a completely false representation of the law. The only people actually required by law to be CRB checked as far as I can tell were childminders and those involved in care where accommodation or health services are provided, and even then that check was only in terms of the banned lists – see following paragraph. (1) The whole notion that ‘you must be CRB checked to work with children’ was basically a foggy delusion. Lots of organisations, especially local authorities, came up with policies which mandated it for certain roles such as youth workers – but it was not a legal requirement.

Go to


Power to the children

This is something I’ve written about before. Under New Labour government tries to reach directly to children, bypassing youth workers, when it comes to the youth work sector. This is an example: the Youth Opportunity fund as managed by South Northants District Council. Young people are invited (using a populist, ‘young’, accessible form of words) to apply directly. There is no mention of youth workers or volunteers, or Trustees – all those people who for a salary of out of community spirit give up their time to put on projects for young people. The government likes to connect directly to young people.

Another government fund – for media projects – made it a condition of application that projects be run by a committee of young people; again displacing the youth workers. This is a good example of how the government takes apparently radical ideas, in this case giving children a ‘voice’ and power, including them in democracy, and mis-uses them in fact to increase the power of government over society. Take this example; in fact the experience offered to children is that of getting a taste of being a local authority budget holder. It isn’t in fact about democracy. That is what is being abolished. Because young people might in fact learn something about democracy – negotiation, discussing, comming to agreements – by being involved in a process of negotiation with their youth workers about how to spend the money. By requiring the youth workers to step aside and giving the young people the experience of being the budget holder they don’t learn about democracy at all. They are in fact disempowered by this: there is no negotiation, no experience of dealing with power and authority and negotiating – which would actually be useful practice for involvement in a real democracy. New Labour mistakes democracy for institutionalised management processes and is either unaware of or wishes to eliminate real democracy.

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As ever criticisms welcomed.

Published in: on March 10, 2010 at 10:41 pm  Leave a Comment  
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