Youth Work Week 2015


This year, Youth Work Week has given me a chance to reflect and take stock on our profession, on its past, present and future.

Youth Work has a rich history, dating back well over 100 years and its endurance is not only testament to those people who have kept the torch burning over the years but also to its necessity as an educational practice.  Often misunderstood and misrepresented, Youth Work only gained solid professional footing following the Albemarle Report in 1960 which led to new youth club buildings, mass professional training programmes and the foundation for local authority-run Youth Services up and down the land.

Successive neglectful social policy decisions and a lack of purchase to statutory duties is what many would agree has meant that through this drastic programme of austerity Youth Work has suffered. However, some amazing developments have come out of this adversity; publications on Valuing Youth Work from the NYA, the Benefits of Youth Work from Unite the Union, the Youth Manifesto from Choose Youth and ‘This is Youth Work: Stories from Practice’ by In Defence of Youth Work, and more recently, ‘A Real and Present Danger: The Youth Service Crisis’ by Pete Sims, to name a few.  We’ve also seen huge lobbies of parliament and London Rallies organised through Choose Youth.  We’ve attempted to make the necessary changes to legislation through the tabling of an Early Day Motion that was supported by 66 MPs, an online petition that gathered over 6 and a half thousand signatures and even proposed a Youth Services Bill.  We now also have a Centre for Youth Impact, initially funded by the Cabinet Office in order to help the youth sector shout loud and proud about who we are and what we do.

In the middle of these difficult times we also started a national Institute for Youth Work, a membership body for those who use Youth Work in their work or volunteering or simply support Youth Work and want to contribute their knowledge and experience to the professional discussions surrounding the profession.  Some said this would be the worst time to start such a body because so many youth workers are losing their jobs.  Others said this is exactly why it’s the best time to launch an Institute for Youth Work – to show solidarity, galvanise our identity and organise!

As a membership body the IYW needs its members to be the driving force behind discussions and action – it is currently run by an elected Council from the membership who are all volunteering their time and energy for the benefit of the wider members.  It is in this spirit that we ask Youth Workers around the country (and indeed the world!) to take up the challenge that is spreading the word about who we are and what we are doing in spite of our challenges.  It is using the #YWW15 hashtag, posting films and writing blogs that help us to assert our worth to the rest of the world.  We can’t forget the desperate needs of those in our society that are underdogs and need our support to achieve all that they can with their lives.  We need to remember the first youth workers we may have met as youths ourselves and talk about what they did for us; we need to hold up best practice and shout about successes.

It is a time to remember that youth work was born out of social action and that inside of all great Youth Workers is a rebel that is ready to get radical if needs be in order to protect a profession that they know is needed.  We need to create the future for ourselves.

With that, do enjoy your Youth Work Week 2015 but please, please use your Youth Work Week 2015!


Adam Muirhead

Vice Chair

Institute for Youth Work


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