All that Anguish about Weekends!

At the beginning of last year we had quite a debate on the site about the merits or otherwise of weekend work with young people. Raising the stakes New Labour ordered the prioritising of the Friday and Saturday night intervention. There was much gnashing of teeth on all sides. And as we start the New Year, lo and behold, what do we hear?!

A survey of almost 2,000 young people has triggered calls for a government rethink on recommendations for more youth service provision on Fridays and Saturdays.

Research conducted by Wiltshire Council and shown to CYP Now, suggests young people would prefer youth clubs to be open between Monday and Thursday evenings. When asked to order each day of the week with a preference from one to seven, 81.4 per cent of the young people had Wednesday as their first, second or third choice, compared to only 37.7 per cent for Saturday.

But councils have been instructed to direct more resources for youth provision on Fridays and Saturdays, based on government research conducted among adults and young people in their communities.

More at  Young People Lukewarm including a response from CHYPS – an unfortunate acronym, methinks.

And here’s a response from back in July, courtesy of God’s Lonely Youth Worker.

“My own perspective is that statutory youth services, as they are currently structured, will not fit in easily with regular weekend work and I suspect many Community/Voluntary organisations will struggle to provide consistent staffing.  There are many, many complicated influences which make this issue yet another nail in the coffin of “effective” youth work.  Again, we’re faced with prescribed outcomes.  National strategy tells me who I work with and why I’m working with them before I even meet them.  And now it tells me when I’m working with them.   My methodology which embraces a needs-led ethos but stays within the context of realistic expectations.  The government on the other hand are talking about a non-negotiable, prescribed weekend provision.  Or more precisely, a strategy for reducing the statistics of weekend anti-social behaviour.  It isn’t that I entirely disagree with the principle of regular weekend services, it’s more that I get that familiar anxiety attack about doing the right thing for the wrong reason and vice versa.  This will be another example of pouring big money in to corporate youth services.   This will be about youth services engaging easy targets to meet their outputs.  This will be about creating bullsh!t initiatives to address a bullsh!t strategy.  We know who the government are trying to target.  The ones who engage in weekend binge drinking.  The ones who are involved in or on the periphery of criminal activities.  How are we going to lure these “difficult” young people into positive activities at the weekend?  Accredited courses in knife crime?  Issue-based youth work?  Time will tell.   As I said (in my previous post), my methodology has to operate within the boundaries of reality.  Weekend work with a group would depend on funding availability, group needs (and sometimes group wants), transport availability, availability of resources/facilities, availability of support staff and – yes – my own availability – because sometimes I need to prioritise work mid-week.

I have the greatest respect for people who are willing to give up their weekends to work with young people.  Do I think the youth service should provide consistent weekend provision.  Hell yes!  Do I think it’s possible with the current structures?  Hell no!  I just like to see things done effectively rather than just making the best out of a bad deal. “

The lad has got a point!!

Published in: on February 2, 2010 at 5:37 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Youth Work research, Youth Justice analysis and Trade Union history

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.

Published in: on May 12, 2009 at 12:37 pm  Leave a Comment  
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