In November 2001,
the Community and Youth Worker's Union (CYWU) held its annual conference
for students. Whilst the attendance was low, the feelings and views
amongst the participants were high - particularly on the issue of field
The reality of
under-funding and sub-standard recognition for youth work comes to
different people at different times. Its hard enough for those who
advocate professional youth work to always answer "No, we're not
social workers", but to be relegated to the backbench by their own
employers (i.e. the Government) is an insult that hurts more. The feeling
amongst many students is that youth work is just seen as an add on to
education, or leisure or social services. This is confirmed by its loose
statutory base and from the previous, continuous cuts throughout the
Thankfully, some of
these attitudes are being rethought with the Labour administration.
Principally, the arrival of Connexions shows a commitment (albeit filled
with conditions) to the role of youth workers in shaping modern
citizenship. The efforts of those who engage with 'socially excluded'
young people in schools is also given a name - "mentoring" is
threading throughout educational institutions.
So, with all these
exciting, new money initiatives (lets not forget Sure Start, New Deal,
etc...), one would think that with it comes a new regard for youth
workers? The previous lifelong learning ministers have, in their own ways,
spoken about the value of youth work. For sure, these are great ego
boosters for a profession that was maligned by Thatcher and co. to the
point of death. But an issue that is currently causing concern is the
inadequate support for students undertaking their professional training.
Currently, youth work
training is overwritten by the JNC (Joint Negotiating Committee for Youth
and Community Workers), with NYA (National Youth Agency) and CYWU
(Community and Youth Workers Union) approval. So, those who gain their professional
qualification (available to those who undertake an academic degree or
diploma) will have received a set of recognised standards. This, sometimes
referred to as the 'license to practice', underpins professional youth
work. What students at the CYWU conference debated, is the issue of
financial recognition from the government. A CYWU student charter states
that "youth work placements should be on a par with those for social
workers and teachers". This, many would agree, is laughable. For
example, social work placements in a voluntary agency can attract a 2000
GBP lump sum to ensure that the environment is well supervised and
resourced for social workers to train effectively. In contrast, voluntary
agencies that take on Leicester De Montfort youth work students can apply
for a sum in the region of 100 GBP. This money comes directly from student
tuition fees, thus reducing the amount available for other course
So motivated were
students at the CYWU conference for change that they have decided to form
an active campaign. They are not alone in their determination, with the
CYWU and this website also joining their cause. A petition is being
prepared and circulated to students in the near future calling on the
government to reassess the overall funding for youth work studies. After
all, if the government really places such faith in the promise of
Connexions and other services, it will require qualified, professional
staff to deliver its word.
information about the fair placement campaign, get in touch with the CYWU
who are preparing a petition.
(Clockwise) Leigh McGough, Doug Nicholls, Lisa
Campbell & Abida Hussain debate placements.