A postcard to Westminster

Youth Work Changes Lives Manifesto slide.Updated

This month we sent greetings from Scotland’s youth work sector to those seeking election to Westminster and launched our 5 key aims in a hustings with a difference in Glasgow. 5 politicians, 5 young people, the vibrant and savvy Mac Twins, all in the style of BBC The Voice.

Liam Beattie; Lib Dem Cllr, Robert Brown; Paul Gillespie; Labour's Drew Smith MSP; Hayley MacNaught; Green leader, Patrick Harvie MSP; SNP MSP, Linda Fabiani and Scottish Conservative Deputy, Jackson Carlaw MSP

Liam Beattie; Lib Dem Cllr, Robert Brown; Paul Gillespie; Labour’s Drew Smith MSP; Hayley MacNaught; Green leader, Patrick Harvie MSP; SNP MSP, Linda Fabiani and Scottish Conservative Deputy, Jackson Carlaw MSP

The onset of an election campaign for Westminster has given the Youth Work Sector a welcome opportunity to remind politicians of the importance of supporting our young people in their transition to adulthood in ways not tied to formal schooling. However, it has also brought to the fore the current economic and social plight of our young people, not just in Scotland but right across the UK.

TV presenters, The Mac Twins, keeping the politicians in order

TV presenters, The Mac Twins, keeping the politicians in order

In our Westminster Manifesto we call on the next UK Government to make a few simple changes, which will go some way to offering our young people more equality of opportunity. Age discrimination needs to be removed from the minimum wage, equal pay for equal work. Votes at 16 must become a reality right across the UK for every election.

Deputy Chair of the Scottish Youth Parliament, Terri Smith on Votes at 16

Deputy Chair of the Scottish Youth Parliament, Terri Smith on Votes at 16

In terms of lasting social capital, offer tax breaks for businesses that encourage and facilitate their staff to volunteer. All young people should have access to free wifi in their communities so the opportunities that come with our new digital era do not leave some of them behind. The Youth Work Sector works with over half of all young people in Scotland and the message to not only Holyrood but to Westminster is, ensure sustainable, long-term funding. As politicians you seek a society where all young people have equality, it cannot be achieved without our sector, as youth work is often the way young people change their lives for the better.

YLS Role Model of the Year, Hayley MacNaught on the need for long-term funding for youth work

YLS Role Model of the Year, Hayley MacNaught on the need for long-term funding for youth work

The UK Government still use a deficit model where young people are a problem to be fixed rather than an asset to be developed. Rather than collaborate and work with young people, in many instances they want to do things to them in measured dollops and keep society ‘safe’.

Scottish Conservative Deputy Leader, Jackson Carlaw MSP clearly enjoying YLS The Voice

Scottish Conservative Deputy Leader, Jackson Carlaw MSP clearly enjoying YLS The Voice

With regard to their support for both young people and those who work with them in youth work situations both voluntary and local authority provided, the coalition has been guilty of knowing the ‘cost of everything and the value of nothing’. England, in particular, has become a scene of devastation, with savage cuts, alongside a contract culture based on the false God of short term outcomes. As a result the youth work infrastructure, choice and capacity has crumbled. The losers are young people themselves, who have been demonised, preached at and generally been blamed for many of society’s ills, but in the long-term society loses.

Green MSP, Patrick Harvie on the need for secure funding of youth work

Green MSP, Patrick Harvie on the need for secure funding of youth work

Our Holyrood politicians have gone some way to recognise that Youth Work changes lives and that our sector is a critical part of the equation in helping young people’s transition to adulthood, and especially for those whom formal education has failed them.

The SNP's Linda Fabiani talks about her support for Votes at 16

The SNP’s Linda Fabiani talks about her support for Votes at 16

This election has been dominated by the economic argument around whether to continue down the path of further austerity. I would say one thing to all of those who seek a place at Westminster. We must see change rather than a move towards further austerity. We cannot allow more children and young people to be pushed into poverty. We cannot support council services being cut further. And we cannot support any economic agenda that would, by default, push back our shared ambition for a truly equal society for all our young people, to be able to realise their potential.

Read the manifesto here: http://tinyurl.com/p6ckchz

Jim Sweeney, CEO, YouthLink Scotland, the national agency for youth work    

New research finds great benefit from youth work

Youth work contributes to a range of outcomes. Photo: Girlguiding Scotland

Youth work contributes to a range of outcomes. Photo: Girlguiding Scotland

This week sees the launch of a literature review on the impact of universal youth work. Some would say this is long overdue and some would say that perhaps it is too late – we like to think that it is timely as its focus on universal youth work comes at a time of genuine concern about the future of youth work in Scotland.

Thanks are due to many people and organisations: to The Robertson Trust, YouthLink Scotland, and Youth Scotland for funding; to the University of Edinburgh for hosting and managing the research; to the Edinburgh Youth Work Consortium for initiating and guiding the work (especially Dona Milne chair of the Research Steering Group); to NHS Lothian and NHS Health Scotland for providing in-kind support; and to Dr Callum McGregor for undertaking the research.

Youth work changes young people's lives. Photo: ZAP group, Prestonpans

Youth work changes young people’s lives. Photo: ZAP group, Prestonpans

The publication of the review is timely because the new National Youth Work Strategy 2014 – 19 focuses the attention of young people, practitioners, and policy makers on the importance of youth work to our society and our local communities. The strategy explicitly includes the ambition to ‘explore the potential for commissioning research to demonstrate the role and value of youth work’. It is also timely because Community Learning and Development is under the spotlight, with local CLD strategies and action plans being developed, even as local CLD services face severe cutbacks. And finally, it is timely because the recent referendum has generated an unprecedented engagement amongst young people with the political process and the reality of democratic participation. Youth work has always dreamt of this.

And whilst timely, the findings from this review make slightly uneasy reading as it also presents a number of challenges to us. How do we continue to celebrate the best of youth work practice in an environment where public services are subject to radical surgery? How can we draw on real evidence about the way we work, rather than what we would like to hear? How can we invest time, energy, and resources to help us better understand the long term impact of youth work? Where does universal youth work sit within the National Youth Work Strategy?

Callander Youth Project - Skills

Callander Youth Project – Skills

Evidence presented in the review suggests that universal youth work can generate a range of health and wellbeing outcomes, make a contribution to improving formal educational outcomes, and impact on employability as well as providing safe yet challenging spaces for personal and social development and intercultural learning. These are significant contributions to improving outcomes for young people in Scotland.

The review is a small (but beautifully shaped) pebble in a large pool. We believe that the ripples will be felt by many, and there’s a chance that they create a wave that will shape the way young people experience and benefit from youth work in the years to come.

The next stage in this process has to involve engaging the wider youth work sector, including young people themselves, in identifying the questions that are important for youth work and for young people, and working together to collectively contribute the evidence base for universal youth work.

http://www.morayhouse.me/public/Universal-Youth-Work-Summary-2015.pdf

Join in our discussions on twitter through our hashtag #youthworkworks and tell us what you think of the findings and how we should take this forward in order to strengthen our case to grow community based youth work in Scotland.

Simon Jaquet and Dona Milne, Edinburgh Youth Work Consortium