In Defence of Youth Work

Back in March 2009 we launched with some anxiety a campaign to oppose the transformation of youth work into little more than an agency of behavioural modification. In fact our desire to resist the increasing imposition of prescribed and predictable outcomes upon our practice struck a chord. So much so that on February 11 our first national conference held in Manchester brought together almost 150 students, workers, academics and supporters to explore such issues as the drive towards Integrated Youth Support Services; our increasing incorporation into surveillance and policing; and the insidious undermining of our allegiance to a voluntary relationship with young people. Of course, given the diverse character of Youth Work, we did not always see eye to eye. Nevertheless we did engender a collective and creative commitment to youth work as ‘an association and critical conversation without guarantees’.

Over the next six months we will be focusing on a pre-election strategy of challenging parliamentary candidates to explain how they see young people and youth work; on the reclaiming of National Youth Work Week as a vehicle for a young person-centred practice; and on the necessity of telling our own contradictory tales of our encounters with young people as a qualitative rejoinder to the State’s quantitative obsessions. During this period we also hope to deepen our relationship with the Social Work Action Network at local, regional and national levels.

For more information, see our website here.

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We want to develop a network of service users, practicitioners, academics and students to support radical and progressive social work. We need a social work that is ready to challenge oppressive practice, that means working collectively across the country and internationally to advance Social Work.