Youth Work in England: An Uncertain Future?

Wednesday, July 16, 2014: 8:50 AM
Room: F204
Oral Presentation
Helen JONES , Education and Professional Development, University of Huddersfield, Huddersfield, United Kingdom
It is easy to paint an pessimistic picture of how young people are affected by the current economic situation. In Britain, almost 20% of 16-24 year olds are ‘NEET’, the acronym for young people who are not in education, training or employment. The Education Maintenance Allowance, paid to 16-18 year olds to encourage them to stay in education by paying them a small weekly grant to help with fares and other overheads, was removed in 2011.

Perhaps it is not surprising that UNICEF (2007) found the UK’s children and young people to be the unhappiest out of those living in 21 developed countries. Aspects contributing to the result included attitudes to education, personal well-being, home and family life and general satisfaction with their lives. The OECD (2013) has found that young people are most likely to suffer from governmental austerity packages; they suffer most from cuts. 

Youth workers have always tended to look back to a golden age. Currently, the period when government funding was channeled into work with young people via local authorities and third sector / voluntary organizations provides the touchstone.  In April 2013, the UK’s magazine Children and Young People Now published an article entitled, ‘Youth sector on a “knife-edge” as third of organizations at risk’. It presented a depressing overview of reductions in expenditure and a pessimistic prediction of the future. Youth services have been subject to swingeing cuts accompanied by amalgamation with targeted and acute services.

This paper identifies the aspects of young people’s lives which have been affected by different cuts and other policy changes. Where possible, examples of innovative practice will be discussed. These present exciting ideas which have potential to be replicated if funds are found: although the future is uncertain, we owe the country’s young people a more optimistic future.